That Appointment, Wrists, and Woman-Strength Galore
I went to the doctor today for my postpartum checkup, that apparently is routine in the gynecological care, and I only got my weight checked before I got sent back out to the lobby to make another appointment. When I called the doctor’s office, right after Toby’s birth, I just told the girl I spoke with that I wanted to schedule a postpartum visit and worked with the dates that she offered me. But the nurse today told me, “It’s only been three weeks; you’re not fully healed. I don’t even want to look at you until at least six weeks has passed.”
I’m growing even as I’m healing. I look in the mirror and my face, on more than one day, has more depth. It looks a little older, a little more experienced, more womanly. I’m going to guess that it reflects onto my entire body–yes, I have a deflated balloon in my middle, but my wrists aren’t quite so bony. Of course, my face could just be tired and the rest of my body could just look more filled out because I have an extra twenty pounds since before I was pregnant. Unlike most women, I’m not complaining; the extra weight seems to compliment me.
I should be grateful, I think. I am grateful–none of my hair has fallen out. Instead, it looks like I’ve dyed it when I haven’t and have no intention of doing so. It’s as thick as ever, but there’s that line where the color changes suddenly to a brighter, more intense red. Strange, but I’ll take it.
That extra boost of womanhood could easily come indirectly from my mom’s stay here. I’ve discovered that there’s this tradition of mothers coming to stay with their daughters who have just given birth. There’s the practical side: mom does cooking and cleaning and caring for other little ones while daughter feeds and burps and changes a newborn every few hours and naps when she isn’t doing any of that.
(I’ve had plenty of people tell me to nap when Toby does, but what do I do with him when he’s awake but doesn’t need to be changed or fed or burped?)
Then there’s the hidden side that I discovered when my own mommy came for a week, just by herself. Are you ready? It’s this powerful woman-strength that comes through stories of experience and empathy. My mommy remembered an instance where someone told her that I was skinny and why didn’t she feed her baby? My mommy smiled, then went home and cried her eyes out because all she did was feed me. That story made me laugh through my tears of baby blues, through that frustration that comes from repetitive feedings, from a baby who can’t make up his mind whether he’s hungry or not.
Newborns are hard work, and it’s a daunting idea to come to terms with: that first day when the man who loves you goes to work and your mommy leaves you. She also leaves your kitchen clean and well-stocked with easy meal ingredients. She passes confidence and good tools on, like prefolded cloth diapers to use as all-purpose mop-ups because all those burp cloths they made for you aren’t very absorbent. She holds your baby, coos to him, rocks him, and reminds you that you’re allowed to kiss him on the head. She also hugs you and uses the term, “Men Just Don’t Understand” when you’re crying and you don’t really know why; your mommy knows that it’s just harmless hormones that need hugging out.
She also knows that all her experience and all her stories and love are there to be passed on in pure woman tradition. Because women need other women to teach them how to be strong and how to do their job. And birth is the perfect occasion to pass that on.