Babies, Bed Pans and the Seventh Sense
by Jenna Reedy

I didn't know a thing about babies. I had never fulfilled that teenage rite of passage of babysitting and I certainly didn't have any interest in it as an adult. Diaper change? What on earth were all those tabby things for? Needless to say, when I successfully became pregnant, I was in a bit of a panic. Wiping gook out of infant eyes and suctioning tiny noses was new territory to me. So my husband and I decided to take a class, and then another and another. I was devouring books, not ice cream and felt like I was fast-tracking through a new master's topic. Lamaze, baby care, infant CPR, you name the class and we showed up, heating pad and pencil in tow.

In the midst of all this information gathering, I was also an exercising fiend. "But you were pregnant," you may ponder/query/confirm with raised eyebrows. Yes, and the thought that I HAD to put on at least 25 pounds nearly killed me. I am a very short woman and there is no room for extra weight to go up, so it simply goes out.  Being overweight as a child, I prided myself on finally achieving a trim figure in my adult life - which hadn't come easy. So, no stranger to discipline, I set out on my merry doctor-approved path of walking and yoga. I walked when it rained, I walked when it snowed, I walked all winter long, much to my doggie's delight. With the yoga, I learned strange new poses to relieve tension and relax the muscles, and I must admit, I wouldn't mind using a few of those today at the office.

Finally, my exercise paid off and my little tyke decided to come six days early. I had all but jiggled him out of there. In fact, I was in mid-yoga pose, ironically called "row the boat" when my water broke. So off to the hospital we went, right after we stopped to get gas; but after checking in, a new piece of information was dropped in my expanded lap.

"You can't move around," was the mandate that came from a very terse nurse.

"What do you mean?" I asked immediately.

"Your water broke. You can't move around because that could cause infection. No walking."

Huh? No poses, no nothing. Did I miss that part of the lecture during my cracker crunching?

And then, what was to be one of the ultimate highlights of the experience happened. I was handed a bed pan.

"And you certainly can't get up to use the bathroom," came the final blow from Terse Nurse.

I would like to know why, oh why, at some point during my dozen classes, lectures, handouts etc. that everyone failed to mention the fact that at some point, you might have to use a bed pan. If I had needed to prepare for anything, it was for that. Well, let me tell you, having contractions while trying to figure out how to use a bed pan is some serious drama; and with that, I decided it was time to call for the drugs. I was most certainly pro-pain management and my IV tech didn't let me down.

At last the final moment arrived and again, I was confronted by another stern figure barking out instructions.

"Okay, you're going to hold your breath and push for ten seconds."

"What do you mean, hold my breath?" I asked, wide-eyed and surprised once more.

"Hold your breath during the pushing."

I now realized that everyone had also failed to mention the fact that I should have been training for a medal in swimming instead of birthing.

I won't go into the details of the rest of that experience, but my son finally appeared with his mouth wide open and looking for food. And when that moment arrived, I can only say that no class, no book, no words of wisdom could ever have prepared me for those first few chaotic moments. Or weeks for that matter. Our beautiful son was quite special, and we were quite terrified of him.

Because I was more than a little overwhelmed, I decided to "supplement" feeding immediately with a bottle. This is usually the cardinal sin, but to me, it was the most rational choice. The nursing situation was a whole another issue, and the lactation consultant even conceded, "He's more of a chomper, than a sucker." Great. But he stared up at me with bright blue eyes and a funny little gurgle, claiming the first slice of my heart.

Then I started having panic attacks, while my husband happily wheeled our little bundle up and down the hallway, making car noises. We left the hospital after they cut off part of his you-know-what and made it home at last. As we tried to settle in, severe post-partum depression was the next caller to visit, despite all of my daily exercising and vitamin consumption.

I struggled through some dark days and learned to practice all of the care techniques I had been taught, when I wasn't knocking people over with my new appendage of a diaper bag. I still hadn't quite mastered the diaper change though, and screamed a shrill "help" when I accidentally let our dear boy pee all over himself. I was finding my feet with my little man, who was already teething and wanted to stand, not crawl.

Before too long we were ready for the first real date night sans baby. I was so happy to be out of the house and my husband was so happy to see me showered and dressed nicely. And while we mused over the dessert, the realization came to us: how much sweeter the flavor of life had become. We appreciated things, many things, so much more. The mousse cake was that much more decadent, the red wine fuller, the company spectacular, and we lingered over moments that would have otherwise been ignored. It was a greater sense of perception, a seventh sense. Why "seventh," you may ask? Well, seven is the heavenly number and a sweet creature like this could only be courtesy of the Divine. That, and the fact that the sixth sense is something about seeing dead people.

Each week, I had even begun to plan part of a day out for myself. Time that I typically wasted on the couch or watching TV was instead devoted to my passions. I found myself attending lectures, visiting with friends and writing more than I had for the past five years. I had traded listlessness for direction.

So alas, I survive -- thrive even -- with my newfound focus and x-ray vision for life. And I am truly grateful for the extra and unexpected gift that my son provided - my seventh sense. I would gladly use a bed pan again for him any day.

Jenna currently works as a marketing director for an independent public television station serving the Washington, DC metro region. When she’s not writing promotional copy, she chips away at various works of fiction. You can find her wobbling daily on the tight rope of life as she balances between being a full-time professional, aspiring writer and new mommy

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