I head back to work on Monday.  In some ways, it seems like I’ve been gone a long time.  In other ways, it’s like I just blinked and maternity leave was over.

In light of the impending adjustment – juggling a full time job with full time motherhood – I thought this might be the only opportunity I have to share what I’ve learned during my time off.  Considering the number of friends who are with child, I hope to impart some wisdom:

On birth:

  • If your water breaks in the middle of the night, your half-asleep husband may question if you’ve got this wrong (as in maybe you just wet yourself a little).  Tell him to go look at the bed.  When he says, “Well, either your water broke or you’re the most disgusting person I’ve ever met”, don’t take it personally.  He’s freaked out, too.
  • Your husband may be much more involved in the birthing process that he expected to be.  Check in with him once in awhile, even though you’re preoccupied.  When he’s holding your leg up and his eyes are the size of saucers, nudge him until he focuses on your face and give him a wink.  Tell him it’s a magic trick – like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, except with a baby and your vagina.  He will appreciate your humor.  (Note: it’s easier to have a sense of humor if you’ve had an epidural).
  • Get the epidural.  You will be in plenty of pain when it wears off to know that you’ve “experienced childbirth”.  There’s no reason you should be feeling what you can see reflected on your husband’s mortified face.
  • Don’t get a mirror to “see what’s going on.”  Really?  Your focus needs to be on getting this baby OUT, not worrying about how you’re going to finance vaginal reconstructive surgery.
  • For God’s sake, don’t videotape it!  This is not the sort of thing you share at the family reunion over Aunt Shirley’s blackberry cobbler.
  • When you’re in the after-the-epidural-wears-off pain, keep in mind that the human body is an amazing thing that bounces back from trauma quickly.  You will be able to walk like a normal person – without tears streaming down your cheeks – in a few days time.  I gave birth on Monday afternoon.  By Friday afternoon, I was shopping at Target.  (For a much-needed breast pump – see below).
  • They will tell you not to drive or have sex until after your six-week check up.  Ignore them about driving.  Trust them on the sex thing.
  • When your doctor says “nothing in your vagina for the next six weeks” the day after you give birth, you may throw up a little.  The thought of anything in or near your vagina right now will convince you that you will be abstinent the rest of your life.  Your husband will be so traumatized by what he just witnessed that he won’t even object.

On baby purchases:

  • If you are considering breastfeeding, buy or rent a breast pump before your milk comes in.  Don’t dilly dally on this.  Your boobs will swell up to the point of obscuring your vision.  While this may sound appealing to those of us who have never been voluptuous, it’s really morbidly uncomfortable.  Your nipples will already be bruised and beaten from the baby learning to nurse and will hurt like a mother for the first week; there’s no need to add insult to injury.  Have the breast pump ready.  It will bring you much needed relief.
  • Get some breast pads.  Your breasts will leak.  If they become over-full, they will spray like a hose. Try not to hose your baby down in the face.  This tends to distress them.
  • You don’t need the $30 battery-powered nasal aspirator.  Get one of the cheap little blue nose pumps – they may even give you one in the hospital.  The $30 battery-powered nasal aspirator isn’t needed unless your child is made up of 95% mucus.
  • You don’t need the $30 ear thermometer.  Your baby’s ear canals are too small to get a reading with this, and your doctor will request a rectal temperature anyway.  This will make you cringe – you are not alone.  We all think we’re defiling our baby when we stick a thermometer up their butt.  That the Dr. tells you to use a little KY Jelly or Astroglide doesn’t make it feel any less dirty.  Your child is fine and doesn’t feel violated.  But the thermometer may stimulate a big poopfest, so be prepared.  (I’m using the ear thermometer on the cats for the time being – to get my money’s worth).
  • Get a vibrating bouncer chair or a separate vibrating device that can attach to the crib, car seat, or rocker.  The baby will find this soothing.  However, try to refrain from referring to this as a “vibrator” – as in “Where is Lola’s vibrator?”  Dads don’t think this is funny…
  • If the nursery is upstairs and your bedroom is downstairs, get a pack n’ play with an attached changing table and cradle to keep the little one in your room for the first few months.  This will save you from tumbling down the stairs and breaking your neck in a sleep-deprived stupor after the 3 a.m. feeding.
  • If the upstairs/downstairs scenario applies to you, get a second “diaper wonder” pail of your choice for your bedroom.  (Use the money you saved on the $30 nasal aspirator).  Make it easy on yourself – the baby isn’t going to.
  • Glider chair + glider ottoman = a little slice of heaven in an uncertain world.  Do it.
  • Don’t get too many newborn outfits, as they will outgrow these at warp speed.  For the most part, stick with onesies, no matter how tempting that newborn faux fur coat is.  If you take the baby to the opera, the ballet or the theater, you will be shunned by polite society.  And possibly shot.
  • Get disposable changing pads for the changing tables – they can be placed over your fabric pads.  This will keep you from washing a fabric changing pad every other day and save you much-needed time while you’re washing off the poo that was sprayed on you.
  • Your baby will ooze more stuff than you could ever imagine coming out of something so small.  Be prepared.  Have lots of burp cloths, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer at the ready.  Wear clothes that are non-sentimental and won’t bother you if they can’t be rescued. (Hint: It’s probably not a good idea to do a Mommy/Baby photo shoot in your wedding dress.  And – if you can fit in your wedding dress at this point – I hope your baby sh*ts all over you.)
  • Contrary to belief, most babies sleep.  A LOT.  It’s just not when you sleep.  The innate connection you have from them growing inside you is like the tide – they can tell when you’re horizontal and relaxed.  And they don’t like it.
  • Same goes for sex (after your Dr. clears this).  The baby knows when Mommy and Daddy are up to no good and is already grossed out by this.  He or she will object – loudly – at the most inopportune moment.  This may be a form of pre-sibling rivalry.
  • Be sure to give a few extra treats to the pets.  They will be suffering from attention deprivation for awhile.
  • Be sure to give a few extra treats to your husband.  He will be suffering from attention deprivation for awhile.

This is truly a beautiful time in your life.  Savor it.