An Afterbirth Story

 
afterbirth story pic.jpg
 

Snapshots of the afterbirth stories nobody photographs:

“At our hospital, babies are only kept in the nursery for medical needs, such as circumcisions.”

“I had a girl.”

“She’s beautiful!”

But like, obviously not in need of a circumcision. I labored for six hours through a migraine, and after that I forcibly expelled a literal human being from my body. I did not eat for twelve hours. I received stitches in the last place anyone wants to receive stitches. And for the first 36 hours after that, I don’t sleep for longer than thirty minutes at a time. Sometime around 2 AM during my second night there, I pull the “my husband is home with my autistic five year old, who is currently projectile vomiting” card, and a kind nurse takes pity on my soul, wheeling the wailing basinet away to the nurses’ station.

But my five year old autistic son actually is at home projectile vomiting, so I mostly just (figuratively) toss and turn—figuratively, because 800 mg of Motrin every eight hours doesn’t actually do much for the pain.

***

A purple can of Lysol sits on the corner of my TV stand. Every morning, by soft blue fledgling light, I systematically spray down every surface in the house. Images of a sick, waning baby intrude into my thoughts compulsively—a ham fisted tyrant nobody looks in the eye, and that purple can of Lysol is my unlikely hero.

***

Stretched and marred skin hangs over the rim of my pre-pregnancy jeans. Breastfeeding does not “melt the weight right off.” A small surge of pride courses through me when I think of what this body did. Facebook ads and summer body stereotypes attempt to infect that pride. I pack away my size eights. It doesn’t even hurt.

***

The stomach bug rings out like a gunshot at 3 AM. My husband hangs over the toilet while my daughter sits in a bouncer only a few feet away. There is not enough Lysol in the world to ease the overwhelming panic that crashes over me for the next few hours. I don’t sleep. Morning is a reprieve because I’m not alone with my panic. I’m humming with nerves as I flit from one room to the next, gathering the things I need for a lactation consultation I’ll be attending alone, now. Declan needs cereal and the correct Hulk cartoon. I pretend to know what Jemma needs, but in truth I’m throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks.

***

My daughter cries every time I’m near. She smells my milk and the instinct to eat takes her over, whether she really needs to or not. I am indifferent at best toward breastfeeding. It isn’t the beautiful bonding experience countless pamphlets and internet activists promised me. It’s not particularly difficult for me, and I don’t suffer any supply issues, so my distaste for the whole thing makes me feel guilty.

***

A friend comes over to shoot some newborn pictures. Jemma cries intermittently the whole time. Declan can’t control his body, and he moves like a pinball flung here and there by some nameless hand we are slaves to. Our friend sends the finished products on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Even though I’m anxious to see, I ignore the waiting link for a few stolen minutes of videogames with my boy. When I get around to looking, there is my imperfect family perfectly captured. Light comes through the window just right. You can see the mural my husband lovingly, tirelessly painted on the nursery walls. I happened to be wearing the soft yellow cardigan I labored in, and it warms me to look at.

***

Jemma is displeased, to say the least, when the car stops, making an elementary school pick-up line the last place on earth I want to be. I let a steady stream of curses fly under my breath as the SUV in front of me takes too long to go. When my boy opens the door to clamber in I smile and ask how his day was.

***

Sunlight beats down on the rain soaked ground for the first time in recent memory. I dig out my running shoes, pack up the diaper bag, and drive down to the Huckleberry Trail. The purple Graco is awkward to run with. The wheels don’t lock and I struggle to point it in a straight line as I go, but every time my worn shoes beat the pavement I come a little more alive. Jemma sleeps the whole time plus some. It becomes our new ritual, every morning after drop off. The skeleton of who I was fills out with every God given, burning step. I become an individual again, me and her together.

***