Just One Pi-Vacy

Once you have children, using the restroom becomes a spectator sport. Sure, you could lock the door in a futile attempt to get a little bit of alone time, but then, you risk either:

1. Your child shrieking, “MOMMY COME BACK MOMMY WHERE ARE YOU MOMMY OPEN THE DOOR MOMMY MOMMY MOOOOOOMMMMMYYYYY” over and over again – making it virtually impossible to concentrate on doing your business


2. Your child being so unnaturally quiet that all you can imagine is that they must have somehow learned to operate the oven and stuck their whole body in there – making it virtually impossible to concentrate on doing your business.

So…open door policy it is.

The only time I do lock the door is when it is that time of the month for me. I open the cabinet underneath my sink and I discreetly grab a tampon from my stockpile (seriously, if we had a nuclear holocaust, I’d be using tampons as my black market currency). Then, I tell Katie, “Katie, Mommy needs some privacy.” I lock the door to our bathroom and do what needs to be done while Katie sobs in the room next door.

Well, one morning a few months back, I noticed that the house was eerily quiet- a sure sign that something was amiss in the house of Reichert. A search for Katie found her in front of my bathroom cabinet with a virtual rainbow of tampons splayed out before her: the green super absorbent, the yellow mediums, and the purple lites. Kind of Mardi Gras-ish, if you think about it. She gleefully announced, “Mama- Katie has pi-vacy too! I like pi-vacy! More pi-vacy!” as she continued to dump box after box of tampons onto the floor. Rather than correct her faulty vocabulary (I mean, do you really want to introduce the word “tampon” to a toddler?), I scooped her up and restocked my hoard.

Since then, Katie and I have been sporadically toying with potty training. Sometimes she’s cooperative, sometimes she’s not. One afternoon, I could tell she really needed to poop. She’s farting like a dog who ate a casserole of baked beans and then chased it with a big head of cabbage. I place her on her little potty and wait. And wait. And wait. She sits there and chatters on and on. Once in a while, she gets up to check and see if any progress has been made (no). Finally, I think, well, perhaps she’s uncomfortable with me as an audience? She was in a pretty vulnerable position: naked from the waist down with me towering over her with a frenzied look in my eye, chanting over and over again, “Just try to do a poopy. You can do it, Katie. ” I mean, some people can’t perform under pressure, right? So I ask her, “Katie, do you need some privacy?”

A big smile comes on her face and her eyes light up. She yells, “YES! I NEED PI-VACY!” and begins to sprint bare bottomed to my bathroom. Perplexed at first, it finally dawns on me- she’s after my stash. I chase after her and do a full body tackle to keep her from wreaking havoc on my feminine hygiene products. I pick her up and she starts thrashing and kicking me over and over again. With the fury and despair of a young Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, she bellows, “PI-VACY!!! PI-VACY!!!!!! JUST…..ONE……PI-VACY!!!!!!”

I am so ready for menopause.


Them Pearly Whites

When Sarah was 10 months old, we enrolled in a Mommy and Me type class at our local community center. This class was, for me, a lifeline in many ways as I was trying to figure out the ins and outs of being a new stay at home mom. I met several “co-workers” and ultimately, both Sarah and I forged some wonderful, lasting friendships.

During the class, we moms would have some playtime with our children with a teacher who led us in some group play activities. Then, we would leave the children with their teacher and retreat to a classroom of our own where a parent educator would facilitate a discussion on various topics related to raising children: discipline, sleep issues, nutrition, etc. We tried not to let it degenerate into a bitch session about our spouses but I have to admit, we all got in a few zingers as well about our beloved partners.

Well, for one such discussion, a hygienist from a local dentist office came to do a presentation on taking care of our children’s teeth. I remember our roundtable of first time moms recoiling in horror as the dental hygienist presented poster board sized pictures of the open mouths of various two to four year old patients. Their poor little teeth were riddled with tooth decay, fillings, and crowns. Some even had pulled teeth. As if to drive the point home, she specifically said, “These are all children from YOUR community.” So not random children from the mountains of Appalachia with, perhaps, no access to dental expertise. But rather, children of parents who live in our fairly well-off and well-educated suburb. Despite this commonality, I do remember thinking with much judgement and righteousness: what kind monsters/morons are these parents? Are they giving their kids Mountain Dew in a bottle? Seriously, some people are just not fit to parent.

Do I have to connect the dots for you or can you figure out where this is going for yourself?

Fast forward 2.5 years. Sarah bites into a pickle and howls in pain, “MY TOOTH! MY TOOTH!! MY TOOTH HUUUUUURRRTS!!!!!” A trip to our dentist revealed that Sarah had a massive cavity on her very back molar. The dentist’s first approach was to give Sarah some laughing gas and then, treat the cavity. This path was quickly abandoned when it became apparent that the entire office would need to assist in holding a terrified and screaming Sarah down so that the dentist could do her work.

So Plan B: go to an ambulatory surgery center where Sarah would be put under general anesthesia. The dentist would then go in and fix the cavity while an anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, numerous dental assistants, nurses, and other support staff would assist. We’d go in at 6:30 in the morning and hopefully, be out by noon or so.

I don’t want to overdramatize what happened because I am painfully aware of parents who have children who are seriously ill. This was a simple cavity and it was an easy fix. But having Sarah put under general anesthesia was one of the worst things I’ve experienced as a parent. We all have those days, as a stay at home mom, when you just wish on all that is holy that your child could be still for 10 minutes so you can get whatever task you are working on completed. But when I cradled Sarah in my arms as she slumped into unconsciousness in a matter of seconds, I was terrified. She was so still and so quiet. I’ll never forget that awful feeling and the guilt I had knowing we had only ourselves to blame for the situation at hand.

Luckily, everything went well. Though instead of the filling that the dentist was hoping to do, Sarah ended up having a root canal and a crown…I know, what kind of mom am I??!?!! A three year old with a root canal? The mind reels.

But wait…there’s more! In addition to the pain and duress we caused our daughter, all told, this procedure ended up costing us thousands of dollars. Chris and I had deliberately decided earlier that year not to enroll Sarah in our dental plan. The premiums were so high, as was the deductible. With the hubris conferred to us by our combined masters degrees from a fairly reputable business school backing us up, we felt that we would be better off just paying for the usual two check ups out of our own pockets. In our misguided effort to beat the system, we ended up paying for our dentist’s time, her staff, the anesthesiologist and his staff, the supplies and equipment needed for the procedure, as well as the facility fees for the surgery center. So not only were we negligent parents from an oral health perspective, we weren’t too bright fiscally either.

So, moral of the story: Sarah never had a cavity again and we signed her up for dental insurance right away. Ha ha! Guess again, suckers!!! Never overestimate our skills as responsible parents or as rational decision makers. No, in fact, her recent check up revealed that Sarah has ANOTHER cavity. And….wait for it….we never enrolled her in our dental plan! I mean, what were the chances it would happen twice, right?

Again, the doctor hopes to treat her in the office under laughing gas. If this does not go well, we will have to go to the University of Minnesota for a consult and then, the procedure. I have been preparing Sarah since our appointment about how imperative it is that she allow the dentist to do this in the office. With the theory that knowledge is power, I’ve told her exactly what will happen, the instruments that will be used, that it will be uncomfortable, and that things will smell, taste, sound, and look funny. It might even be a little scary but she needs to let the dentist do her work. Sarah has solemnly sworn her full cooperation.

But Chris’s approach may be more effective. When he found out about the need for yet another procedure, his response was, “Promise to buy her many, many things if she can get through it.” What a dynamic duo we are.

Party Post-Mortem

For the record, let it be noted that on January 21st at 4:31PM, a mere 4.5 hours after her 6th birthday party had ended, Sarah turned to me and, in a brisk, business-like tone, asked, “Now…can we talk about my 7th birthday party?”  I am 100% sure it would have been even sooner but she was occupied with ski school for about 2.5 hours immediately after her party.  This girl is formidable.

So yes, number 6 has come and gone and now, we have number 7 to negotiate (even as I write this, I am mumbling, “I am stronger than Sarah. She is not the boss of me.”).  And I have to say, the party yesterday was not the 8th circle of hell that I was anticipating.  In fact, I found myself actually, dare I say it, enjoying it…without the aid of mood enhancing drugs!  I had time in the middle of it all to witness and appreciate the joy on my daughter’s face.  Chris and I even had a moment where we locked eyes across the room and smiled with pride and joy!  And reflect!  And savor!  Yes! <Insert fist pump here>  Of course, this was before we had to pay the bill which was equivalent to more than double my monthly car payment back in grad school, but believe me when I say, up till that moment, I felt giddy and flush with parenting success.

Which brings us to this post.  What made this year’s party different than the last three parties?  Maybe it was because I knew that this would be the last such circus we’d ever host (for Sarah anyway….God help us with Katie).  Or maybe it was because the folks at Way Cool Cooking School could NOT have been better (seriously, Chef Jeff was amazing with the girls).  Or maybe I finally have learned to loosen my Type A++ personality into a much more go with the flow Type A- personality.  While all these may be contributing factors to the successful party, I think I know what the answer is to a happy, almost stress free children’s birthday.  Lean in closer and let me share my newfound wisdom with you.

All these years, I have been under the misguided assumption that a child’s birthday party requires children running amok.  Allow me to present Exhibits A, B, and C.

Exhibit A- Three year olds running amok at Little Gym:

Exhibit B-  Four year olds running amok at Pump It Up (please note that Sarah has actually landed on her head):

Exhibit C- Five year olds running amok at Kiddywampus:

But in reality, what you need is a party where the the principal activity requires the children to be seated!  What an A-HA moment this was for me!  I had 20 girls with their rears parked for almost 2 hours while they prepped, cooked, and consumed their pizzas, muffins, and pancake sundaes.  I was not in a flop sweat chasing after party goers who seemed more like rabid animals rather than the human beings they were purported to be.  There was no chance of kids hurtling their bodies at one another in a what can only be described as some misguided attempt to dance.  No possibility that an errant paint brush would poke another kid in his/her eye, blinding them for life.  No fear that I was just one tug of the fire alarm away from a lawsuit!  No!!  I present to you Exhibit D- Six year olds NOT running amok at Way Cool Cooking School:

Even Katie at  two years of age stayed on her butt for the majority of the time.  It was a birthday party miracle.

And now, my mind is racing.  This could be a major paradigm shift in children’s parties and party locations.  Birthday parties at spinning classes!  Chair factories! City buses!  Casinos!!!  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

So go forth, my fellow parents, and plan your own children’s festivities armed with this knowledge.  If I can just help one other mom or dad in this otherwise painful rite of passage, I feel like the past three years of suffering will not have been in vain.

Party Pooper

God I loved this show. Sing it with me, "The Looooove Boooat!"

One of the many hats I wear as a stay at home mom is to act as my children’s (and let’s be honest, my husband’s) social events coordinator. Short of organizing limbo parties on the Lido Deck, Julie McCoy has nothing on me. I coordinate play dates, schedule sleepovers, sign up for various recreational and sporting activities, plan excursions to museums and theme parks, respond to invitations to parties, and follow up with thank you notes on behalf of my children to our hosts. But perhaps the Number-One-Biggest-Do-Not-Screw-This-Up-Or-I-Will-Be-Scarred-For-The-Rest-Of-My-Life-And-Perhaps-Turn-To-Narcotics-To-Cope social responsibility in my daughter’s young eyes is the planning and successful execution of her birthday party.

And I have to say, this year, I was weak…so, so weak. I let Sarah’s 6th birthday plans spiral out of control into a place that I have been dreading to go for many months now. Why months? Well, to say that Sarah likes to plan is like saying Charlie Sheen likes cocaine. She already has #7 and #8 mapped out. She had tomorrow’s upcoming birthday #6 set in stone sometime in early spring 2011. So basically, she has been wearing me down with party plans for about 10 months. Can you blame me for crumbling? I was utterly powerless against the strength of her determination, conviction, and organizational prowess.

Sarah at Little Gym for Birthday #3

It’s not that I begrudge anyone a party for their children. We are happy to celebrate with friends to mark the anniversary of their birth. But for the past three years, Sarah has had the big party with a dozen or so friends at various local institutions whose sole mission seems to be to create such a frenzy among the 5 and under set, that it basically turns your child into a social pariah if they too do not host a large and lavish party at said location. And as much as I love my child and her friends, I also love order, quiet, and sanity: not words often associated with a child’s birthday party. While some parents can revel and embrace the chaos, this is not a strength of mine as a mother. I’d almost rather be a contestant on Fear Factor than face a mob of children doped up on adrenaline and cake who will kick you in the shins if their demands for more ice cream, lemonade, pizza, or sugar are not met.

So this year, I wanted something different. I had pictured her 6th party as an intimate affair with 2-3 close friends. We could potentially host a movie night at our house or take a field trip to some other location, such as American Girl doll, and have a mellow, yet enjoyable, time ringing my daughter into her 6th year. It would be tasteful. A time of reflection, yes, but also spirited conversation and witty banter…a few knock knock jokes peppered with some discreet potty humor. My husband and I would gaze at our daughter lovingly and then, our eyes would lock with a mix of pride and joy. And most important of all, the party would not have me wishing I had brought a flask or taken a pre-emptive valium, which is what I am usually doing during our daughter’s past parties.

But as I said, I was weak. There will be no intimate soiree. No witty banter. No pride and joy. Instead, horror at the spectacle that I have no one to blame but myself for creating. Guest list? Too big. Budget? Definitely out the window. Potential for a massive migraine? Absolutely.

Now, my loving and supportive husband, whenever we need to discuss the party, always tacks on the phrase “I told you not to do this” to the end of his sentence. For example, “How many girls are coming…I told you not to do this.” “Will we have to wear pajamas too…I told you not to do this.” “How big of a cake will we need….I told you not to do this.”

So I am counting down till noon tomorrow, Central Standard Time. By then, all of this will be over. Sarah’s Pajama Party Brunch Extravaganza with twenty girls preparing and cooking their own meals (hot open surfaces and children…really, what was I thinking!?) will have come and gone and hopefully, I will remain standing and sober. And, I will recite over and over again between now and January 21, 2013, “I am stronger than Sarah. She is not the boss of me.” Perhaps if I say it enough, it will come true.

Mommy Has Left the Building

Rule #1 of Stay at Home Moms: if you have the opportunity to have a true vacation, take it. Take it take it take it take it take it. And I’m not talking about a “trip” with your family during spring break, no matter how Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous the destination and accommodations may be. That is not a “vacation.” It is a “trip,” merely a relocation from Point A to Point B. Same work, different office. You still have your children with you and on a trip, things like this still happen:

A vacation, however, is when you leave your children behind and have a complete release of all parental (and servant) duties. There is no possibility of being awakened in the middle of the night by high-pitched screams for Mommy or the interruption of whatever you are doing to change a feces filled diaper (unless you and your partner are into that sort of thing). No, no, no. You are absolutely and completely free. It is with such a nirvana in mind that Chris and I dropped off the girls in Texas with my family and hightailed it out of Dallas for two nights away to Florida. Of course it goes without saying that I loved having that quality time with my husband, but also, so many other “little” things:

1. Every time I made a request to the hotel staff, I was answered with “Of course, my pleasure.” This was a welcome departure from what I am accustomed to from my daughters. At best, an eye roll from Sarah but more often than not, a “NO!” screamed from my 2 year old followed by a high-speed chase which ends with a full body tackle to stop her from whatever disastrous act she was about to commit. In fact, I found myself making random requests to the staff just so I could hear it all over again: Of course, my pleasure. It was sweet, sweet music to my ears. And the kicker was, I only had to ask once! I didn’t not have to follow up the request with threats of no dessert, cancelled play dates, confiscated toys, or time outs. No, just one time and they immediately replied in hushed reverent tones: Of course, my pleasure. THIS is what the civilized world is like…I miss it so.

2. On most days, I am just one spritz of dry shampoo and a swipe of Lady Speedstick away from smelling like a homeless person. But oh, on vacation….I took a bath AND a shower in ONE day. I shaved whatever hairy parts had accumulated over the course of the winter. I dried my hair completely and then, straightened it, leaving it silky smooth like a Pantene commercial. I exfoliated! And I had no little people clutching my knees, begging for a snack. Having almost unlimited time to devote to personal hygiene: a true luxury.

3. At each meal, I got up approximately one time: to use the ladies’ room. My average at home is probably about 6.8. Requests for more water, more napkins, more milk, a different fork, a different spoon, a different plate, a different dinner all together– that is my average meal. To be able to sit down and have a meal that I had no hand in the preparation of and would not participate in the cleaning up of: heaven.

2.5 days of my time off was enough to rejuvenate me. I missed our girls and felt ready to tackle my job with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. My ardor was somewhat tempered by the fact that my parents, although well-intentioned, allowed my daughters to rule with an iron fist. Katie refused all naps and would not deign to go to sleep till 10:30pm. Sarah had a virtual candy store at her disposal. The word “no” is not in my parents’ vocabulary when it comes to their only grandchildren. Chris and I returned to interrupt 60 hours of unbridled grandparent spoilage….which brings us to Rule #2 of Stay at Home Moms: payback is always a bitch.

Flying the Friendly Skies

My preferred mental state when I fly is to be unconscious.  I am terrified of flying and in order to cope with what is a necessary evil in this modern age, I turn to the world of pharmaceuticals.  I pop a couple of Xanax, down a glass of wine, turn on my iPod (which has a carefully selected playlist of songs that do not mention death, dying, or fire-filled fuselage and debris ), and drift away to la-la land.  I awake to the sensation of a flight attendant jabbing me in the shoulder, saying in a voice slightly tinged with panic, “Ma’am, wake up.  Can you hear me? Wake up please!  We are here!!”  Groggily, I wipe the drool from my chin and stumble out of the plane to my final destination, blissfully unaware of everything that transpired at 36,000 feet.

Of course, with children, this scenario is not an option- not unless you want child protective services to greet you at touchdown.  Air travel with kids….sigh. Where to begin?  Flying without kids, at best, can be an exercise in humiliation (TSA pat down, anyone?), frustration (seriously people, how can you NOT know the 3 ounce rule by now?), and stamina (15 minutes to sprint to your connecting flight with 2 carry-ons and no food in the past 3 hours!).  With kids, however, I find it difficult to even articulate what air travel is like.  The words “soul-sucking” come to mind; as do “hell on earth” and “we must have been bat-shit crazy to do this.”

This past week, we experienced all these joyous sensations afresh with a trip to Texas with our girls.  We flew out of Minneapolis last Wednesday and I saw this vending machine near our gate:

While I applaud the good people of the Minneapolis-St Paul airport for attempting to help parents in need, what they really needed to stock it with were these for some hands-free liquid courage:

And possibly some individually wrapped cyanide pills in case you need to make a graceful mid-air exit.  Or maybe some pre-printed cards stating you are a deaf-mute and unable to hear the screams and howls emanating from your offspring.  Just a thought.

My last flight with the girls to Texas ended with Sarah dry-heaving into an air sick bag, Katie screaming at decibels that required Bose-headphones to drown out, and me sweating copious amounts of perspiration from my armpits, forehead, and upper lip.  I was by myself and I distinctly remember the twenty-something men behind me wondering aloud if I was a single mother or perhaps heading to a funeral…why else would I voluntarily choose to fly alone with two demon children?

So it was with much trepidation that I embarked on this flight.  We boarded the plane and as always, I stared longingly at those passengers seated in first class.  Back when I was a “career gal,” I too had titanium-rock-star status and would get upgraded to first class.  Pre-flight drink in hand, I remember watching families board with undisguised disgust on my face- as if they were lepers during biblical times.  Couldn’t these people and their mucous-dripping, poopy-smelling, howler-monkey children stay at home??  Ten years later and yes, now I have become what I once mocked.  That, my friends, is called the “circle of life.”

My husband and I herd our children to the very back row the plane. My walk to the last row is littered with apologies for bonking people in the head with my diaper bag or because one of my daughters has chosen to wipe snot on someone’s seat.  We settle Sarah, Katie, and their entourage of stuffed animals into our oh-so-comfy chairs and let the stink of stale air, day old coffee, and urine soak into our clothes.  And then, the countdown begins.  How fast can we make it to 10,000 feet so I can turn on iPads, iPhones, DVD players, and any other electrical gadget to keep Sarah and, hopefully, Katie occupied?  And I am ecstatic to report that at long last, we have reached a major milestone with Katie:

Notice that she is NOT attempting to climb over the seat in front of her nor is she slapping me across the face or biting my outstretched hand, but is instead, watching the DVD player AND has commandeered my iPhone.  Not that I minded– anything in the name of appeasement.  At this point, if she had asked for a shot of Jack Daniels, I probably would have just asked, “Straight or on the rocks?” and gone back to the galley to pour it for her.

And at the end of the flight….another milestone. No longer are Chris and I pack mules for our children and their gear.  They are earning their keep!

So yes, my husband and I are hopeful that we are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe one day soon, I can again lovingly pull out my bottle of Xanax, bid my children good night, and have them jab me in the shoulder and wake me up when we land.

The Miracle of Birth

Both of our girls were born in January and as their birthdays approach, it’s a time for me to look back and think about what I was doing almost 2 and 6 years ago, respectively. Our younger daughter’s birth was pretty uneventful. My mind and body knew what to expect and although it was no day at Canyon Ranch, it wasn’t quite the epic, traumatic beat down that the birth of our first daughter was. If there’s one major turning point that transformed me into a “servant” to my girls, it was my first pregnancy and subsequent labor and delivery. The scars, stretch marks, and deflated breasts after childbirth forever branded me as Sarah’s, and later, Katie’s slave for life.

I don’t remember much about my first pregnancy. The nine months were a blur of OB appointments and many, many trips to the bathroom. As a side note, for all of you ladies who let me cut in line so I could pee first, God bless you. I do remember getting bigger and bigger. I remember shoveling food in my face with joyful abandon. And I remember being sober. Very, very sober. Especially through all the holiday parties, which I suffered through buzz free with both pregnancies. Eight months pregnant, and I was surrounded by drunkards (one of which was my own dear husband), trying to pretend that the story they were telling me at midnight was still as funny as when they first told it to me at 7 o’clock. And it probably would have been hysterical if I had been doing keg stands like the rest of the crew instead of guzzling yet another glass of sparkling water with a sad little lime as a garnish. But really, that was about the extent of my pregnancy pain. All in all, my pregnancy was very non-eventful and stress-free.

Heading to the hospital to deliver Katie

On the night of January 20th, 2006, I started to have contractions. Chris was out, and I was at home by myself. I noticed some regular pains in my abdominal area and at first, attributed it to my smorgasbord of sloppy joes, potato chips, kimchee, and jalapenos. But as the pains grew more regular and frequent, I realized I was in labor. We called the doctor who advised us to wait till the contractions were closer together. I tried to distract myself with a shower, reading, and a little television. As the night wore on, I even tried to sleep, which was virtually impossible. My husband snored with the gusto of a high school marching band while I laid next to him, heart racing, counting my contractions. Finally, around 4 in the morning on the 21st, we called the doctor again and were told to come in to the hospital. I quickly made myself a turkey sandwich (in times of crisis, I turn to the sandwich), and off we went.

I had never stayed in a hospital before and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I was not expecting, however, was the bullet-proof glass or having to be buzzed in by the front door security person after showing proof of identification- as if my screams and beach ball sized stomach were not enough of an indication that I needed a doctor STAT! This was not how I imagined my blessed journey into motherhood would begin. At this point though, my contractions were fairly intense so I could have cared less if the Unabomber himself had checked me in. Anything to get closer to the drugs.

Ahhhh, those drugs. To borrow from Martha, they were a good thing. Maybe too much of a good thing since after getting them, I lost any and all feeling to the lower half of my body. This included the ability to move my legs. And they stopped my contractions completely. By 9 am, I found myself hooked up to all manner of monitors, needles, and tubes, but with no baby wanting to leave the comfort of her womb. A little Petocin kick-started things again but it wasn’t till 3pm that I was ready to push.

3pm. It had been almost 12 hours since I had last eaten. I was acutely aware of the fact that my last turkey sandwich had, although satisfying at the time, failed to sustain me after about 8am. If you know me at all, you know that I am an eater. If I miss a meal, I get what my sister-in-law calls, “angry hungry.” I will take you out for a Slim Jim and a gummy bear. And this is when I am NOT in labor. I wanted an uzi every time the nurses offered me a cup of ice chips. And, I should also mention that in the basement of my bullet-proof, heavily guarded urban hospital was a McDonald’s. Yes, a McDonald’s. In a hospital. And we wonder why we have a national healthcare crisis. But that’s neither here nor there. What is relevant is that my loving husband slunk away sometime around 11am (hour 6 without food for his laboring wife) to have lunch at the Golden Arches. He slithered back in, looking as though I had just caught him being serviced by a cheap prostitute, and reeking of Eau de French Fries. Apparently, our marriage vows to be there in good times and bad lasted sometime after the first missed meal but before the second.

So 3pm, starving, partially paralyzed, and ready to birth me a baby. I push and push and push. And push and push and push. My overly successful epidural combined with my small hips and the large head of my baby girl resulted in a virtual stalemate in my uterus. Chris, expecting to be more of a non-participating observer, found himself supporting one of my useless legs and spending the majority of the time averting his eyes.

A mere 3.5 hours later, our baby girl is born. Those first emotions after your baby is laid on your chest are indescribable. There is, of course, overwhelming love. I loved this little bean instantly. She was a tiny elfin version of me and Chris, so helpless and so sweet. Both he and I cried tears as we met our little Alison/Sarah/Samantha (our top three names for the shrimp) for the first time.

After the overwhelming love is a panoply of emotions, all competing for attention. Joy, gratitude, pride, awe, relief, pain, exhaustion, hunger. I wasn’t sure which to address first. Well, yes I was. I promptly requested a PB&J and damn, it was good. I don’t think the realization that we had brought a new life into the world hit me at that point. The panic came later, after we left the confines of the hospital. But for those 48 hours in the hospital, we reveled in our newfound three-ness.

Not that everything was all kittens, rainbows, and ice cream cones. What I knew of childbirth came from the movies and the birthing classes. Yes, I knew there was the possibility of hemorrhoids and I was pretty sure I’d end up having a episiotomy, but these seemed like such intangible concepts like nuclear fission or how Kim Kardashian got famous. Sure, you might yell obscenities at your husband and rant and rave, but afterwards, you are ok, right? So, so wrong.

Right after being admitted and clueless about what the next 14 hours would hold

Where to begin? First there is the sheer exhaustion. I am a sloth when it comes to exercise. My idea of an aerobic workout is speed-walking through the Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale and whipping out my credit card at lightning speed. As this is only an annual event, I remain steadfastly sedentary the other 364 days of the year. I was woefully unprepared for the beating that labor and delivery put my body through. In a society filled with hyperbole, surely we can think of a better term than “labor” for what women have to endure.

Beyond being a bone-tired wreck, my body had also been torn up, sewed up, and puffed up. It was not pretty, folks. Yes, I had hemorrhoids. Yes, I had an episiotomy. But, there was so much more. After three and a half hours of pushing, my poor v-jay-jay was stretched and distorted beyond recognition. The nurses would come in to change my padding and would all gasp and say, “I’m so sorry, hon.” It felt and looked like I had a penis. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?!? Where was the literature on postpartum ginormous clitoritis?!? I felt I was doomed to live the rest of my life with the Elephant Man living in my pants (for the record, I was not). Would my body ever be normal again?!

I also naively believed that after I had delivered the baby, I would be able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I even packed a pair of my cute 7 jeans to wear for when I would jauntily skip out of the hospital, swinging my newborn in a baby basket. Imagine my utter despair and misery when I discovered, despite having delivered a 7 and a 1/2 pound baby, I still looked about 8 and a 1/2 months pregnant. And thanks to the super-epidural, I had yet to recover movement in my legs. Finally, add to this lovely train wreck of a sceneario, if you will, a catheter for the majority of my hospital stay. I saw a future doomed with cases of Depends, vats of Preparation H, closets full of maternity wear and granny underwear, and walkers with neon pink tennis balls for flair.

So, obviously, I had some major problems to contend with. When I ask my husband what he remembers about this time, he bitterly recalls the fold out chair he had to sleep on for two nights. Yes, clearly, that was the worst part of the experience. Isn’t perspective an amazing thing?

Despite all of the above, in retrospect, my hospital stay was a blessing. It was a buffer between me and the real world. Here was a place where you had trained professionals looking after you and your newborn. If you needed sleep, they would whisk away your baby so that you could sleep uninterrupted. They showed you how to nurse your baby, how to bathe your baby, how to diaper your baby, and how to swaddle your baby into something not unlike a Chipotle burrito. They brought you meals, helped you shower, and made sure you were regular. And, when you asked them to bring you an inflatable seat cushion ring (which immediately became my new BFF and I lovingly called my “Donut”) because sitting on your bottom was about as comfortable as being perched on a stack of Ginsu knives, they didn’t bat an eyelash. God, I loved Donut. I took Donut home with me and it was my constant companion until it popped a hole and deflated with a sad little whimper about a week later. I was inconsolable.

So yes, physically, I was not in what you would call “peak form.” Mentally and emotionally, I was in a daze. I had spent the nine months prior to January 21st poring over countless baby books, manuals, diagrams, websites, advice columns, and magazines. I consulted doctors, other mothers, my own mother, and one or two random astrology websites, to ascertain what to expect after the birth of our baby. Like the good Asian student I was, I immersed myself in research, study, and late night cram sessions. I familiarized myself with previously foreign subject matter such as harvesting cord blood, Ferberizing, and perhaps one of mankind’s most insidious of inventions, the breast pump. Engrossing myself in all things pregnancy and baby, I felt like I was in control.

I look back on those days and have to laugh at Jane, circa 2005. You poor, poor, naive nincompoop. There is no way to prepare yourself for how radically different your life will be after you have a baby. You can lull yourself into thinking you are prepared, but no, you really are not. Let me say that again, you REALLY are not. Sure, go ahead and buy the Baby Bjorn, the BPA-free baby bottles, and the McLaren stroller. I am not saying that these are not good, reputable products but buy them knowing what they really are: props. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and the safety announcements tell you that in case of an emergency water landing, your seat cushion can act as a flotation device. It’s just not adequate. A 14×14 square of foam is supposed to save you if the gigantic metal tube you are flying in 6 miles above the earth’s surface hurtles nose-down into the Pacific? Who are we kidding? We are all food for sharks and we know it. But yes, let’s just all nod and smile, and pretend that we can save ourselves.