Society lied to me about the bloodbath involved in pulling a person out of another person. First of all they use frothy emotional phrases like “giving birth,” which sounds more like you’re merely handing something over, as opposed to being sawed open and having an alien removed. But I persevered and now I’m responsible for keeping a person alive.
There was no downtime between horrific surgery and parenting. A weekend would have been nice. Regardless, I have a child now and she is doing just fine. I, however, continue to suffer physical symptoms I didn’t even know existed, proving once again that pregnancy is a hideous process and not the pink-bonnet-party-bus it’s often described as. Those symptoms don’t end after delivery/womb-opening. Ladies, run for your life.
After three days of changing my own diaper, I was ready to leave the hospital. I was tired of being yelled at by nurses and was eager to return home where I could relax in the comfort of being yelled at by my family members instead. It’s safe to say that once Perfect Daughter was ripped from my loins, she only needed me for one thing—breastfeeding. I’m fairly certain this is the only reason Husband hasn’t left me yet. I’m his daughter’s major food supply, so he’s incentivized to keep me around.
I had intended to breastfeed merely because I knew it was free (turns out formula is expensive AF), and I heard it led to dramatic weight-loss. Beyond that, I was indifferent. But when I was in the hospital, the nurses kept commending me on my breastfeeding abilities and I started to feel pretty good about myself. I am historically bad at everything and after enduring the horrific procedure known as creating life, I felt elated by the revelation that I was a BREASTFEEDING CHAMPION!!! I finally started to relax, knowing that I was literally better than everyone. And then I left the hospital. And all hell broke loose.
I don’t have a good track record where wellness is concerned. Conversely, every time I turn around—oh wait, I can’t turn around because my entire spine is fused together. The point is it was foolish to believe I was excelling at something. I should have known that a moment of high self-esteem would end in some sort of debilitating illness.
It all started with my vagina. Over the course of my life, it’s safe to say that most of my problems started there. When I went to see the doctor for my 8 week postpartum visit, I was convinced that I had chlamydia. I didn’t have an explanation as to how I would have contracted such a thing, but if there’s one thing I know about STDs, it’s that they creep up on you when you least expect it.
My doctor seemed uninterested as I tried to convince her that I was potentially dying. She instructed me to take off my pants and get in the stirrups. There was a time in my life that this would have sounded like a great time, but it means something different when it’s coming from your gynecologist and not a strange man with a mustache that you just met at a bar. ANYWAY, I climbed in and awaited the bad news. But instead of gasping, my doctor started laughing. She got me naked, peered into my vagina, and lost her shit laughing at my cootch. I was distraught.
Me: Um…what’s so funny?
Dr.: Alison, I don’t know how you do it.
Me: I mean…I’m not trying to do anything. As a matter of fact, I specifically had a C-section in order to avoid future experiences where people are laughing at my vagina.
Dr.: You have Atrophic Vaginitis.
Me: What is that and why is it funny? Also, I don’t know a ton about doctoring but it feels like you should have attended at least one course entitled, “whatever happens, don’t laugh at a person’s vagina.”
Dr.: Basically all the estrogen in your body is moving to your breasts in order to create milk…
Dr.: As a result, there is no estrogen left to keep your vagina moist and supple…
Me: I’m literally throwing up in my mouth right now.
Dr.: So basically the pain you’re feeling that you’ve decided is chlamydia, is actually a multitude of cuts all over the walls of your now paper-thin vagina.
Me: OMG, PLEASE STOP TALKING!
Dr.: This is typically found in postmenopausal women.
Dr.: I’m going to give you a cream that needs to be administered via syringe into your vagina.
Me: This can’t be happening.
Dr.: It is. Good luck.
Me: Again, didn’t you have to take some sort of bedside-manner class?
This entire experience forced me to believe in God because only some sort of supreme being could have worked so masterfully in my life. Over the course of my existence, I have gone to great lengths to avoid syringes and have instead sought out chemicals that could be ingested via nostril. Yet here I am, shooting estrogen cream into my wilted flower like a 70-year-old widow who’s headed to a church picnic. In addition, I actively had a baby ripped out of me in order to preserve my vagina but somehow my vagina has atrophied… ATROPHIED!!! DOES ANYONE THINK THAT’S WEIRD?!
It’s obvious that I’m being punished. God forbid I have one thing…just one thing that I’m good at. I experienced high self-esteem for like five minutes when I thought I was good at breastfeeding. But it’s hard to feel good about yourself with the knowledge that each time you feed your child is another moment you won’t be having sex with your husband BECAUSE YOUR ENTIRE VAGINA DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE AND YOU’RE TOO BUSY SHOOTING CREAM UP YOUR PIE HOLE TO FOCUS ON SEX ANYWAY.
I had to regroup. I had intended to breastfeed Perfect Daughter for a year and my doctor informed me that the old baby maker would doubtfully repair itself before then. I dusted myself off and started to reassess the situation. Sure my coin slot had shut down and my perfect apricot had been replaced with sandpaper and hay. But this was the cross I had to bear. I was doing my best to give myself a pep talk but it was slightly difficult due to the fact that my arms and legs were itching like crazy. I was confused. Surely lack of estrogen didn’t make your entire body itch…did it? I decided to ignore these symptoms and try to focus on caring for the child I had created. That night, I woke up and was convinced I had poison oak. Again, it’s probably good that I’m not a doctor because I’m not great with initial diagnoses.
I wasn’t about to visit my quack doctor again so I decided to roll into Walgreens. At the very least, I was confident they wouldn’t ask to see and then laugh at my vagina, and that felt like a win.
Me: Hi. I think I have Poison Oak.
Walgreens Person: Have you been near the wilderness?
Me: I mean…I live in Glendale and we have squirrels there. Does that count?
Me: Listen, you’re being mean. I just had a baby and am clearly dying of some sort of flesh-eating bacteria.
WP: Oh, so it’s possible that this is postpartum. Are you stressed at all?
Me: IS THAT A JOKE, LADY? A SMALL PERSON HAS BEEN LEFT IN MY CARE FOR LITERALLY THE REST OF MY LIFE. MY VAGINA HAS BEEN COMPLETELY SHATTERED AND HUSBAND IS BOUND TO LEAVE ME AT ANY MOMENT. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO BE A SINGLE MOM WITHOUT A VAGINA?! ANSWER ME!
WP: You have postpartum hives.
Me: No, thank you.
WP: Just wipe Benadryl cream all over your arms and legs until it feels better.
Me: Well I’d love to but I’m a little busy shooting it up my vagina right now.
WP: Excuse me?
Me: YOU’RE NOT A REAL DOCTOR!
Honestly, I don’t have anything else to say. After two months of parenting I had gone from wearing a diaper to blasting my vag with lotion, covering my body with oatmeal to help the hive itching, lathering the Frankenstein scar above my vagina with some exorbitantly expensive plastic surgery cream which…let’s be honest, there’s really no need to keep my vagina looking good WHEN IT HAS LITERALLY ATROPHIED AND I WILL NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN!
For a brief moment, when I was doing a good job at breastfeeding, I thought it was possible that my body was actually made for mothering. The systematic breakdown of my physical body since then indicates that perhaps I should have adopted or at the very least should be switching to formula. But I have dreams. And I have goals. And if there’s one thing I know about breastfeeding, it’s that it burns a lot of calories. And Goddamnit I want to wear pants someday.