The moment I heard I was pregnant, I zeroed in on the Do’s and Don’t’s list provided by my doctor’s office. I memorized all the foods I wasn’t supposed to eat and bid farewell to sushi, lunchmeat, fancy cheeses and caffeine. Oh and that giant slab of swordfish I typically ate on Tuesdays for lunch. Buh-bye. I also studied the list of activities that I was supposed to curtail for the following nine months—the rigorous exercise, super-hot showers, heavy lifting. I was ready and willing to do absolutely anything to ensure a healthy environment for my baby.
I’m a good mama!
The first two trimesters were easy. While I missed long runs and hard spinning classes, I had my eyes on the prize who was going to be sleeping in that new bedroom we had just decorated. The food part wasn’t that hard either—my cravings for mac and cheese and Twix bars kept me too busy to miss nigiri and sliced turkey. I also had a near-spiritual experience with a jumbo-sized bag of Frito’s, so I wasn’t complaining.
One week into that third trimester, though, it hit me. A craving for raw fish and an overwhelming desire to stand for hours in the hottest shower possible. I wanted it like Gwyneth P. wants free-range brussel sprouts cooked on 1,000-count Egyptian sheets. As the weeks peeled by at a pace slower than the service at a Cheesecake Factory on a Friday night, I could almost taste the salmon roe I’d begged my husband to bring me in the hospital. At 39 weeks, I finalized his marching orders: as soon as we have an Apgar score, fetch me sushi from our favorite place, frozen yogurt from Costco, and a giant bottle of Gatorade 2 (grape).
But the birth was about a zillion times more intense than I’d planned. There was the last-minute C-section and the challenges of breast-feeding that I never expected. While I was overjoyed to have my baby in my arms, the only other thing I was craving was privacy so I could cry alone. A big, fat, ugly cry.
I’ll be a great mama soon as I can get this cry out.
I was too scared to ask for it. What kind of a new mother just wants to be alone to cry?
I could hardly remember that woman who thought her biggest obstacle in the hospital would be having to say no if someone asked for a bite of her yogurt or a piece of her sushi. That woman was gone and in her place was a terrified woman who was so afraid of her incision and her baby’s poor latch to even care what her next meal was.
When, by chance, I finally found myself alone in my hospital room, I started to release the tears like hostages from a hijacked airplane. Then a nurse walked in and told me that she saw “the cry thing” all the time with older mothers. “You’re so used to being in control– running companies or lawsuits or non-profit corporations that you don’t know what to do when your baby won’t wake up to nurse.”
Wow. Maybe I am an okay mother. (Did she just call me old?)
After the wise old (if she can say it, I can too) nurse gave me my meds, I cried some more. It felt better than gorging myself on dragon rolls during a spin class. I needed to cry for the joy and fear I felt too tired to process, and for the changes to my life that seemed to be suddenly etched on my abdomen. I didn’t need sushi or sweet treats; Gatorade 2 couldn’t begin to scratch the itch deep within me. I’d changed so much that I didn’t know what I needed or craved or desperately wanted, but the cry was a very good start.