I Can’t Fit into My Size 4 Jeans
After Having Just Given Birth…
Dear Readers, all of us mothers have certainly come across that urban myth about the friend, of the friend, of an acquaintance who went to high school with the so-and-so who used to know our sister, but having left the country under dubious circumstances, cannot be located at this time, for further testimony. And that so-and-so we are referring to is that lucky girl who, gasp, after just having given birth two 11-pound twins, that’s 11 pounds each, was still able to perform the Herculean task of leaving the hospital in her pre-pregnancy size 2 jeans. And, of course, the reason this girl must have left the country under ‘dubious circumstances’ is she was fleeing the rest of us women, angered enough to burn our jeans at the mere thought of such an atrocity, that she had to relocate and change her identity as the pressure was indeed too high.
In every society, it seems, body image is a touchy subject. In France, women subsist on a diet of cigarettes and espresso to remain thin. But, if you go to Arabic countries, a large belly and a pleasingly plump form, was a sign that a woman was highly desirable. There, a size 16 is revered as a sex Goddess. And, all the better for those women, because they don’t have to subsist on a diet of cigarettes and espresso.
I gained 60 pounds with my second pregnancy and I started showing at 8 weeks. The irony was that I vomited up all and anything I took in, including water. My body was indeed conspiring against me. At week 16, I gained a total of ten pounds in one week. Yes, this is true, and as much as I would like to blame it on late night ice cream binges, I cannot blame it on those. Grilled cheese sandwiches topped with a lot of ketchup were my forbidden delicacy that week.
I had my baby shower about a week before I gave birth. My aunt hadn’t seen me in months, and she gasped,
“Oh my God, you look like such a huge, bubbly whale!!”
She announced this before saying hello. Fortunately, the women at the baby shower were kind enough to overlook the fact that I had gained 60 pounds. My aunt, meanwhile, was the self-appointed photographer for the event, and she made an extra effort to photograph my double chins– all four of them.
I had to be induced at 37 weeks because I had pre-clampsia. When I went into labor, the three nurses caring for me decided I was dehydrated and they wanted to start an IV fluid line. They decided they wanted to put it on top of my hand, even though I asked to have it on my wrist. An IV in the top of your hand HURTS. To make it worse, between the three of them, they couldn’t locate a vein. So, they kept inserting the IV, and then having to remove it. Each time I pleaded for them to put it in my wrist. They just kept trying. Finally, I demanded mercy, and they went and got the charge nurse, who was finally able to get the IV in the top of my hand. OUCH. But at least it was in. They reassured me that it wouldn’t hurt as much as labor. Uh, did they need to remind me?– after all, I had been through it once before.
I promptly asked for the epidural, and the anesthesiologist was called in. His presence was reassuring, especially since he was wearing a scarf tied on his head that depicted baby chicks hatching from eggs. And it wasn’t even Easter, or near Easter for that matter.
He assured me that he was good at placing the needle and that he hadn’t paralyzed anyone yet. He said, “Okay, here comes Mr. Pokey! Smile!” I was not smiling. I was trying hard to contort my body into a C shape, which I assure you is not easy, when you are trying to work around a belly as large as your grandfather’s houndstooth recliner. Okay, it was in. But, Mr. Pokey made my feet numb. The doctor was using a different numbing agent than I had before, with my first son. And whatever he was using, it was not good. I announced I was going to vomit, and my husband brought a bed pan. I vomited, couldn’t breathe, and then vomited some more.
Just then, there was a shift change with the nurses, and Miss Bubbly nurse entered the room, and seeing that I vomited in the bed pan announced, “Ohh now, now, that’s not where we vomit. Take a lookey-loo here, these nice little plastic bags are our friends and they are made for oopsies like these.” She handed me these strange blue bags with hard blue circular rims. Then she asked, “Do you think you’d like to go number one before the contractions start?” Sure. My husband helped me to the bathroom. After I got up, the nurse saw me and announced, “Oh my gawd, you are so much taller than you looked laying there on the bed. I thought you were shorter! You’re like, taller than me!” I sneered, “Yes, and I used to be a size 4 before I got pregnant”. She cupped her hands over her mouth and said, “Really?!! Are you serious!! No, you used to be a size 4?! This is EXACTLY why I don’t want to have kids!!” Then she helped me back to the bed. I was VERY unhappy.
I was literally praying to my higher power that I would get through this night. I was saying, “Hello God, it’s me, Sarah. When you gave my my period when I was 12, and I didn’t know about it until my jeans were sopping wet and I had walked through a small town in England, now that was mean.” I continued, “I know you say in Genesis that we’re supposed to bear children in pain for whatever Eve did, and okay, the MDs fixed that by inventing our friend the epidural. I mean really, we all have to be punished for Eve? I don’t think so.” Then, I turned to pleading, “Okay, God, you know labor is like the scariest thing for me. I am BEGGING you to help me get through this night. Labor is bad enough, but I do not know HOW I am going to get through this night without dumping the barfy bed pan on this nurse’s bleached hair. Please forgive my sin in advance. I promise I will double my contribution the next time they pass the collection plate.” I must have ticked my higher power off, because the nurse just got more obnoxious.
Every time I closed my eyes to sleep, the nurse would come in and say, “Okey-dokey, how we feeling, you really need to get some sleep you know! You have a marathon to run, girlie!!” I would thank her, and she’d mill around my bed, make small talk with my husband, and then leave. I would be relieved, and drifting off to sleep again, and then, OUCH! The nurse just checked to see how far I had dilated without warning me first. Okay, God, you are really punishing me now. “Oh no, you’re only 5 centimeters. Better get some sleep, honey!”
When I hit ten centimeters, I told my husband I was going to throw up again, and he scrambled for the blue-ringed bag. And I barfed, and barfed, and then my airways closed up, and I couldn’t breathe. I started choking, and just about passed out. My husband frantically called the nurse and told her I couldn’t breathe. She came in and looked at the bag and said, “Oh good Girl! You barfed in the blue bag. I’ll go get the doctor”. He informed me I was ready to start pushing. The nurse came to my side and pulled my right leg behind my head. Then she informed my husband to do the same with my left leg. Double OUCH.
Suddenly, four strange women entered the room. The nurse announced that the baby had a high heart rate and fever and these women were there to monitor for complications. Okay, at that moment, I decided that no matter what happened from that moment forward, I could no longer experience anything as humiliating as this moment. Here I am, spread-eagle, while four women I don’t know take a good look at my parts down there while picking at their nails and looking exceedingly bored. Sometimes they’d whisper, and take another look, and then look even more bored, or sneer.
Finally, Daniel was born, and he was blue and wasn’t breathing. They whisked him off and started working on him. The nurse announced, “OH, everything is so much better now! You look like you never even had a baby!! Yippee!!” Okay, this was an attempt at making me feel better? First, off, it wasn’t true. I was carrying 50 extra pounds, my baby isn’t breathing, and she’s telling me I look like I never had a baby. The women announce they’re bring Daniel to the ICU and I don’t even get a chance to hold him.
Another nurse comes in, and they lift me off the table and put me in a wheel chair and take me off to my room. It’s 5:15 in the morning. I am drained, and no one is telling me exactly what is going on with Daniel.
My husband rushes off to the ICU with Daniel, and the nurses bring me to a room. I was administered so much medication in the epidural, I couldn’t move my legs. They left me alone there and I couldn’t even reach the phone. Another nurse comes in and announces she’ll be looking after my recovery. She hands me a bed pan and says, “You need to fill this with pee in the next 45 minutes or I’m going to catheterize you”. I explained, “But I have had nothing to drink in the past 24 hours, so please tell me how I am supposed to pee. In addition, my legs are paralyzed, so how am I supposed to get from here to the bathroom”. She rolled her eyes and said, “Look lady, the rule is you have to pee within 45 minutes, and if you don’t I will catheterize you, and I don’t use local anesthesia, either”. I’m thinking, “Wow, with nurses like this, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?” I reply, “Well, if you want me to pee, you had better get me a gallon of cranberry juice, and get it now so it actually has time to work through my system”. She rolled her eyes again and went and returned with 6 bottles of cranberry juice, cups of ice, and pointed at the bed pan while leaving the room. I swear the bed pan was sneering at me too. I drank, and drank, and drank. This was worse than a college chugging contest because at least at a college chugging contest there was that light-headed feeling at the end. I drank until I was bloated. I took the bed pan and I crawled to the bathroom. Yes, I crawled. I did actually pee, and of course other bodily fluids came with the pee too. And I saved it”. Totalitarian nurse returned and sniffed when she saw the bed pan. She gave me one of those icy stares and said, “You dumped cranberry juice in there, didn’t you”. I said, “No, I DRANK the cranberry juice and you can send my precious liquid to the lab to confirm it in urine and blood”. She picked up the bed pan and left. Finally, my husband returned and I was in an exhausted daze. He got me a bathroom and helped me walk to the ICU. I went and saw Daniel for the first time. His was TINY, and red, and hooked up to tubes and monitors. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. I burst into tears and barely heard the explanations of the ICU nurses. He had an abnormal heartbeat, he has aspirated meconium in the womb, he had a high fever during the labor, he was having trouble breathing. I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I couldn’t speak. I only cried. My hair was disheveled and crazy and I just cried, and cried. My husband took me back to my room and he returned to the ICU.
I lay on the hospital bed numb, and the totalitarian nurse came in and out, with crossed arms, each time. I wasn’t rational, as I was running on 36 hours of no sleep. I hadn’t eaten anything for about 48 hours. I felt myself crumbling. The sun started to rise.
It was the early morning of October 27th, 2008. I wasn’t sure Daniel was going to live. My rational mind knew he was in good hands, but I had just been through a deeply emotional experience. Normally in October in Seattle, it is rainy and dark. I looked out my window to see a bright sunrise and deep orange sky. I decided to hobble down the hall towards the ICU.
The hospital I was staying in was built in the 60’s and had these enormous oval windows in the hallways. They were like picture frames of nature. The sun always rises behind Mt. Rainier. There are many pictures of Mt. Rainier, but I never realized the emotional impact this mountain could evoke until I moved to Seattle and saw Mt. Rainier from a distance for the first time. People out here refer to it as ‘the mountain’.
As I passed one of the large, oval windows, there was Mt. Rainier, an enormous, blue figure dominating the entire horizon, standing against a brilliant orange sky. A few deep purple clouds wafted around the top of Mt. Rainer. I was awe-struck. I had seen Mt. Rainer at sunrise many times, but never from this vantage point. I had never seen it turn deep purple and I had never seen it against such a primal, fiery sky. I didn’t know the sky could be quite that color. I said to God, “I see you in that mountain, I see you in that sunrise, I feel you all around me. God, I know this is a sign Daniel is going to be alright, because I have never seen this. I thank you and I am going to write this story so I can tell it to him on his wedding day. I am going to tell him what a blessing and miracle he is to my life, and that each life is so precious and cannot be taken for granted. God, I thank you.” I am having a hard time finding the words for the beautiful and extremely humbling experience I had seeing the mountain that morning. I have always seen God in nature, but this was something I had never seen before. This was something that said, “I am something so much bigger, something so much more loving, and something so infinite you cannot put me into words. But, you can tangibly feel my power and my great Love for you”. I walked in to the ICU, I sat down in the old, wood rocking chair in front of Daniel’s bed. The nurses told me he had tremors all morning and they couldn’t calm the shaking. They weren’t sure what was wrong. I reached out and I firmly put my hand on him. I could feel the love in his body. I sent loving thoughts to him, and he stopped shaking and resumed a normal breathing pattern. His pulse dropped, and he relaxed.
One of the nurses said, “That’s curious, we have been trying to figure this out all morning and now he has stopped shaking just from your touch”. I took my hand away, and the tremors started again. I put my hand back, and he stopped shaking. The nurse said, “That’s amazing, it’s like he intuitively knows you’re his mother and that all is well in your presence”. I stayed there, with my hand on him, for about an hour. After I left, he started getting dramatically better. The heart problem that they heard resolved. He started breathing normally, and a healthy skin color was returning to him.
I returned to my room, and I fell into deeply philosophical thoughts. I looked out over the industry of the city– the burnt orange cranes on the water front, the large ships arriving from China, the smoke arising from the paper mills. It was so big, and yet so small. My son was so small, and yet so large. The love I felt for him was larger than my heart. The love I felt for him seemed to stretch to infinity. My husband returned and said things were going a lot better. But they were still holding him for observation, just to make sure everything was alright. He was held for a total of three days, and those three days were stressful. But, I kept thinking about the morning he was born, and that powerful sunrise over Mt. Rainier. I often regret I didn’t have a camera. But, even a camera could not have captured the raw emotion of that moment, and its significance in time.
I felt that the morning of Daniel’s birth, something has changed. And this change went so much deeper than the fact that I had bore my second child. There had been a shift and deep as the universe itself– and universe that I hold within me. And, my relationship with nature was deepened even more, and the spirituality I saw in nature was and is being furthered explored. And God is speaking to all of us through these primal, rust colored sunrises, and through the blowing of the wind in the trees, and through the very stars that shine upon us.