When I was first told during a late-pregnancy ultrasound that Brooke was breech and that I’d need a C-section were she to remain so, I actually found myself to be quite relieved. I was never one of those people who felt like they needed to go through the experience of “natural” childbirth in order to embrace my womanhood. In fact, I had been running from my second X chromosome for as long as I could remember. Honestly, who actually liked being a girl? I just didn’t understand. So when the news broke, I was surprisingly at ease, and the audible sigh of relief from my husband did not go unheard. It was the unmistakable sound of a man who was not going to lose his wife’s lady parts to the horrors of childbirth. Up until then, I got the distinct feeling that he saw my vajayjay as a virtual dead man walking, and now, she had just been given a last minute stay of execution. Justice had been served. So while others were putting bags of frozen peas at the top of their bellies in an attempt to encourage their little ones to move further south, I had that same bag of frozen peas perched happily above my fine china. I was sending a message to Brooke that was loud and clear (read: cold and uncomfortable): stay where you are.
You see, having never had surgery before, I was wholly unprepared for what was in store. I simply saw a planned procedure that involved no labor and no stitches where stitches were not meant to be. At a time that was marked by a plethora of unknowns, I appreciated the finality and conclusiveness of it all. I finally had my expiration date. So when I unexpectedly went into labor prior to my scheduled C-section, I was unconcerned. My contractions would never progress to the point of severe pain and I would have my baby before day’s end. I knew exactly what was ahead.
Or did I?
The surgery itself was uneventful. In the minutes before, my husband donned his surgical spacesuit and I had a nurse shave my nether regions. Just your typical Thursday afternoon. After, they wheeled me into the operating room, where things continued to go rather smoothly. The staff was exceedingly friendly, and when my OBGYN put on the Pitbull Pandora station, my good decision to use her was all but confirmed. Sure, I nearly murdered my anesthesiologist upon the insertion of my spinal tap, but that would have been a minor casualty, and within the hour, I emerged felony-free and with a beautiful baby girl (covered in some really gross stuff that I was pretending not to see).
The few hours immediately following the surgery were misleadingly uncomplicated and I was silently applauding myself for making it through everything so well. I mean, there were some seriously narcissistic thoughts going on inside my head. And then, as if the labor and delivery Gods had come down to humble me, it hit me. The gas pains. They didn’t come all at once, but rather, crept up unsuspectingly, building slowly over time. Their attack was akin to the girl in a relationship who is waiting on a proposal from her boyfriend and begins seeing post after post on Facebook celebrating the engagements of friends. Each one slowly tears away at her heart, until finally, her best friend gets engaged, breaking the camel’s proverbial back. She scrutinizes the picture of the ring, taking in its carat size, color, and clarity; obsessively reads every congratulatory comment; and before long, her boyfriend comes home to an enraged significant other and a bunny boiling on the stove. In this case, the gas pains were the mounting engagements, and my digestive system, the poor, unsuspecting rabbit. They proceeded to overtake my body with an unadulterated furor, until I was convinced I’d require the assistance of a priest and an emergency exorcism. In the end, after all other methods failed, I found myself getting an enema from my husband in an effort to encourage a bowel movement and coax out the gas. And they say romance is dead.
Eventually it came time to leave the hospital, and while the scenery changed, the circumstances did not. Eight days passed before I had my first bowel movement; an experience that was exactly what I’d imagine giving birth feels like. After all of the bags of frozen peas, ensuring my C-section would remain a C-section, I was forced to labor anyway, only without an epidural and out of an end that does not dilate as required. It was irony’s cruelest joke and I could hear Alanis Morrissette’s voice taunting me as I wept on the toilet. After about an hour, the deed was done, and my husband came in to wipe me (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my C-section scar prevented me from doing so myself). I stood up, thinking the worst was behind me (literally and figuratively), and then I heard it. Splat. My eyes darted first to my husband before slowly venturing down towards the ground, where I made my horrifying discovery. I had had my first encounter with fecal incontinence, with my husband there to bear witness. Hello low point, my name is Jen. Luckily, my amazing husband sent me on my way while he cleaned up, and I returned to the couch a little lighter, down a bit of poop and a lot of dignity.
Each day thereafter posed a new kind of challenge. If I thought my pregnancy hormones were bad, the postpartum hormones were even worse. I cried at everything. I cried, because Sam Smith’s performance during the VMAs was just too beautiful. I cried, because 50 Cent was being mean to Floyd Mayweather. I cried during cut day on Hard Knocks (okay fine, that episode makes me cry every year). And who could forget the blood clot I passed that very closely resembled a small alien? Still, each day got a little easier, and today, I’m finally feeling like myself again.
When I look back on it all, while I appreciate my pre-surgery naiveté to a certain extent, as it spared me a good deal of fear and apprehension, I wish someone had been honest with me about all of the struggles that lay ahead, as I feel that half the battle in conquering a challenge is bringing realistic expectations to the table. So I submit to you the sordid tale of my recovery, hoping that, through reading it, you’ll realize that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that this too shall pass. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have a husband that not only wipes for you after your first bowel movement (brought on by the enema he personally administered), but will tell you how he’s never found you more beautiful in the aftermath.
Never have I so greatly appreciated his ability to lie.