The Ugly Truth about Pregnancy...not to mention the other things the books won't tell you


Tonight at 10:00 marks the fifteenth anniversary of my labor pains becoming strong enough for me to waddle out to the family room and announce I’d reconsidered…the pain was unbearable and I needed to get to the place that promised me drugs to make it stop. 

It had been exactly one week since I saw the fateful ER episode where Dr. Mark Green completely missed a preeclampsia diagnosis and as a result a pregnant first time mother delivered a baby and died by the end of the episode.  That was the night I decided I wasn’t going to deliver this child, no matter how bad labor pains got ~ nope, this baby could hang on inside forever, I’d grown accustomed to eating for two ~ get comfortable kid, you’re never coming out.  I had come to terms with my growing caboose–shoot, I’d stay pregnant forever.

March 23, 1995 started out as a completely miserably cold, rainy day.  I headed to my doctor’s appointment where he assured me I was no where near ready…suggested I get comfortable…said nothing would happen over the weekend…make an appointment for next week on my way out.  Liar.  Heading to the hospital a bit before midnight with contractions two minutes apart (yeah, I’d probably waited a bit too long) meant this kid was more than likely coming on the 24th come hell or high water…whoosh, there it was running down my leg onto the car floor–the water broke–yep, it’s about to be official.

Until the week before and the Thursday must-see-TV ER episode, I thought I was ready to become a mother.  I’m an “all-about-the-paper” type person.  I have to hold the pages in my grubby hands and read it in black and white for it to sink in to my stubborn skull.  Most pregnant mothers’ first purchases might include a blanket or stuffed animal for their future off-spring.  Not me.  I headed to Crown Books and bought a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.  This popular book had recently hit the shelves and was a must read for all of us first time pregnant 20-somethings.   I read each chapter word for word…and believed it.  I knew what to expect, sometimes, months before it even occurred. 

And, until hours before delivery, the book was spot on regarding just about everything with exception to the ER episode and of course the all expectant mothers are glowing part (unless they meant the greasy, sweaty skin I had adopted since the previous January was what glowing meant).

A few minutes after I delivered my 7 pound 8 ounce bundle of joy…I delivered the remains of my Checker’s lunch along with the Polish Sausage and Sauerkraut dinner my mother-in-law prepared and I had wolfed down the night before.  Uh-oh, I think that book left this part out.  Thanks to the epidural I had complete loss of feeling from my neck down–never even knew what was coming…I wish the book would have at least warned me of the pungent smell–I’d have brought nose plugs.  The assorted doctors and nurses assembled near my feet didn’t seem bothered~maybe the AMA or hospital provided a book of what they should expect.  

That poor doc.  I’m sure he could have used some nose plugs while he finished up the 40+ stitches to the episiotomy site.  The simple fact he had a front row seat to the subsequent stink fest left me mortified.  I can only imagine the conversation in the break room following the “dual delivery”…”not sure what she named the human delivery, but she should consider naming the second one Stinky Stapinsky”…yuk, yuk, yuk.  This was obviously a chapter I missed while reading my tips for becoming a mother.  One thing was certain, in the column of milestones necessary for every mother’s hospital discharge; bowel movement following delivery was checked.  Yep, the pipes were clear and in working order.  Check. Exclamation point.  

A half hour later the epidural began to wear off in recovery and this time there was no mistaking the warning signals my bowels provided…I asked the nurse who had cleaned my mess thirty minutes prior if was okay if I could be excused to use the bathroom on my own.  Once I returned-albeit a bit wobbly, she happily checked off walks independently on the discharge check list.  Thank God the kid had to wait until morning to see the visiting pediatrician or we’d have been sprung directly from recovery.

Illinois Law in 1995 required a mother only stay in the hospital for 24 hours.  I headed up to my suite at noon and that’s when the clock began ticking.  I was assigned a bed and issued a latex glove filled with ice for the swelling and pain screaming from my tender lady parts thanks to the stitches. My bed and open-in-the-back hospital gown overlooked the parking garage.  Sadly, I had no shame left…I didn’t have the strength to pull a blanket over the moon casting a shadow on any visitor using the garage elevator…to hell with it…I let it all hang out.  I needed a nap I hadn’t slept since checking into labor and delivery at midnight.  No one, and even more importantly, no book I read ever told me to expect this.

You know what else I didn’t read about in that lousy book?  The part where the nurse left this kid in the room with me while I was trying to sleep.  I thought that was what that large nursery complete with crib after crib they wheeled me past on the way to room 221 was built for. 

In case you’re wondering, I’d also decided against the breast feeding route the book gave the two big thumbs up to.  After they left me alone to watch a video tape with step by step instructions, my decision was final.  I couldn’t get past the African-American woman (starring in the episode) she had breasts the size of watermelons with nipples the size of dinner plates.  Thank God 1995 was pre-HD days…can you even begin to imagine that picture on the screen?  I can.  How that baby on the video did not suffocate baffled me. 

 Clearly the girls I brought to the table were not big enough to produce what those things on screen were capable of.  I made an executive decision–the boy would be a bottle fed baby–take him away.  But Nurse Nasty did not comply.  Instead she made the first of many notes in my chart–yikes.  I was obviously not the cooperative mommy she read about in her “What to expect when becoming an RN book”.

The boy and I settled in for a peaceful slumber anticipating our big day ahead.  For better or for worse, Jonathan Michael was mine and we were heading home in the morning.  My sleep was interrupted by the other child in my life…the boy’s father.  Seems his mother was having some issues with the munchkin’s name.  Jonathan was hard for her to pronounce.  She thought Jonathan was difficult to pronounce??…I countered with the new last name the kid was inheriting …Lenkiewicz…not the easiest name for me to pronounce, but knowing this was how it was going to be I learned.  

My in-laws had all arrived in America in 1967 and spoke very little English.  Jonathan just didn’t roll off the Polish tongue.  The nurse taking my blood pressure knew I was pissed…people getting off the elevator in the garage knew I was pissed…it didn’t take long for the clown on the other end of the phone line to know it as well.  Once I heard the magic words “Do whatever you want”…I hung up the phone…music to my ears.  Nurse Rachet made a few more notes in my chart, gave me my horse pill of vicodin while I asked her to have the gal in charge of birth certificates to be sure to check with me first thing in the morning, I turned off the lights and called it a night.

Morning came early and abruptly.  I woke up to “Doogie Houser” shaking me awake while a pack of other interns (ah, the joy of delivering in a “teaching hospital”) gathered nearby.  Doogie had a chart and a pen and had a few questions for me.  He ended the interview with a question that made me think I was in the middle of a nightmare.  He was curious about my plans for birth control.  Poor Dr. Doogie–there wasn’t a class on his schedule let alone a text book on his shelf that could have prepared him for the wrath about to be delivered.  I asked Doogie to take a gander at me…don’t be shy, son, take a good long look…I had not showered since Thursday–I was wearing mesh underwear that complimented my new frame–eighty pounds were added during my pregnancy and since delivery I’d dropped a whole 7lbs 8 oz–I motioned to the munchkin shrieking in the crib next to me–I had forty some stitches in a place no one should have to have stitches–not to mention a latex glove filled with ice chips was bringing me pleasure I never thought I could have.  Don’t worry, Doogie–no one is coming anywhere near this anytime soon.  Trust me.

Once he made the necessary notes and left, I skimmed the table of contents of my book for an entry on dealing with idiot interns as well as a chapter regarding non-English speaking in laws when naming your newborn–guess what…no such chapters.  Finally, I met with Shirley–the birth certificate lady.  With a stroke of a pen my little Jonathan Michael became Michael Patrick–accent on the Patrick–from this day forward he’d always be a little bit Irish before the Polish last name kicked in.  I signed on the dotted line before anyone had the chance to dispute the pronunciation of Patrick.

I was checking out the last chapter in my book while I waited for my final discharge papers.  The girl in the bed next to me got up to go to the bathroom.  As she limped across the room, leaving her latex ice-chip-filled glove on the bed and grabbing a pair of mesh underwear from the drawer she left a trail of blood droplets behind.  About a half hour later she emerged victorious and climbed back in bed with her new latex glove. Completely exhausted, she sighed as she motioned to the book I was reading–“Hey, does that book mention anything about leaving blood trails to the bathroom?”…”Keep looking–it probably follows the Now-that-I’m-a-new- mom, I-sure-feel-beautiful-chapter”…

I signed the papers to spring me from the place, bundled up the boy in his new car seat while my father-in-law combed the room for anything that wasn’t nailed down (who knew a pink wash basin could hold such promise when reused at home) after he shook the nurse down for extra pairs of socks with the grips on them she was more than happy to wheel me to the elevator.  As the doors closed I realized this kid was mine for the next eighteen years.  Oh how I wished directions were delivered along with my bundle of joy.  As we pulled away from the hospital and headed home without a clue what was in store for us I thought to myself…someone ought to write a book.  Based on the last fifteen years of experience, I could write volumes.




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