You know, before I gave birth everyone told me that when you're in labor you lose all modesty. That made sense to me, and I was expecting it. And it definitely happened.
But what I didn't realize is that after the labor, your modesty doesn't come back, exactly.
I mean, it's back now, for the most part. I'm not about to whip off my shirt entirely when I nurse in public. I don't have any photos of my placenta or anything, and if I did I certainly wouldn't be showing them in public. I wouldn't answer the door naked or anything like that.
But we were in the hospital for two days after Callum was born, and during that time, I did not get dressed.
Maybe this is just me? I honestly don't know because I haven't heard anyone else discuss this. But when I was in the hospital with Callum I pretty much spent the whole time just wearing those awesome mesh panties they give you. I also had a hospital gown, which I wore from time to time, for photos, and certainly whenever I had to leave my room. But we were having nursing issues, and also focused on bonding, and one of the ways to address both of those is skin on skin time, and you know what gets in the way of skin on skin time? A hospital gown.
So for the vast majority of those two days, I was in the my hospital bed, sitting on a disposable protective sheet, wearing only mesh underwear, as people came in and out of the room.
Not visitors. I mean, if friends or family had come to visit us in the hospital, I would have gotten dressed, or at least put on my hospital gown. I didn't lose my modesty to THAT extent.
But I also didn't realize how many non-visitor people would come into the room during those two days. There were the nurses, of course. There were also the other people who would come in regularly to check my vital signs or Callum's. (These were checked at separate times by separate people. I don't know if they were nurses or medical assistants or residents or what. But since the baby and I did not get checked at the same time, it felt like they were there a lot.)
Then there was the pediatric resident who came in a couple times to get Callum for his routine exams. And the pediatrician who came in several times to discuss his jaundice treatment. And the med student who came in offering a free massage. And the different lactation consultants who came in to help us at several different points. And the volunteer who came to do Callum's hearing test. And the room service people who brought us our meals. And the housekeeping staff who cleaned the room. And the maintenance guy who fixed our broken clock. And so on and so forth.
Other than the maintenance guy (for whom I did cover up... because he knocked!), all of these people saw me in my mesh-undied glory. And none of them blinked an eye about it. And what can I say? If they had blinked an eye, I would have blamed them... because they didn't knock before they came in the room. So I can only assume that they were expecting to see me in a state of near-undress.
Of course nothing was quite as awesome as the nurses who would stroll into the room and casually pull aside the mesh undies to check on my bleeding level. Is this normal? Again, I don't know, because I haven't heard anyone discuss this situation in much detail. Maybe they did it more often in my case because I passed a very large blood clot a few hours after delivery and they wanted to make sure I wasn't having bleeding issues after that. Or maybe it's standard for all postpartum women. But either way, I definitely got used to having people I'd never seen before, or only seen once or twice, look in my underwear. And then push really hard on my uterus for good measure, to make sure it was tight and small the way it was supposed to be. (It always was. But that didn't stop them from checking again the next time.)
And the thing is... writing this is making me cringe a little bit. Like maybe I really am the only one who had this experience? Maybe all the nurses were sitting at the nurses' station being like, "Oh my god have you seen the woman in room 506? The naked one? What is she thinking?" and playing rock, paper, scissors on who had to come check on me and who got to go take care of all the other post-partum women who were fully dressed and beautifully made up.
I'm guessing not, somehow (and when I mentioned this to one friend from our Bradley class she told me that she also hung out in her room in just the mesh undies til she was discharged, so at least I know I'm not TOTALLY alone), but my point is that while in retrospect this makes me cringe? At the time, it didn't. It just felt normal. Everyone acted like it was normal, I got used to people poking around in my underwear, it was fine. I guess I took my cue from the nurses, and they very much acted like it was normal.
Also, you know, I HAD just pushed a baby out while squatting on the floor and grunting in front of a midwife, a nurse, and a med student while wearing only a sports bra. Then several other nurses had shown up and cleaned the blood off the floor and watched me have a very private area stitched back together. Then ANOTHER nurse had shown me how to use the peri bottle to avoid wanting to die every time I had to pee. So, you know, before I even got to the recovery room there were already quite a few people who had seen me quite intimately, and I guess that changes your standards a little bit.
So yeah. I'm glad to be home now, wearing clothes and not having people barge in on me naked all the time and grab my underwear to see what's going on down there.
I tend to get sick of people saying that nobody ever told them X or Y about pregnancy, because I feel like in general, and especially online, people really do talk about most pregnancy things, including the very un-glamorous stuff, and thanks to that openness, I didn't encounter many surprises in labor and delivery. But this one genuinely caught me off guard, I really had never heard people talk about this before, and therefore I'm writing about it even though it's making me cringe.
So please, please, please: tell me I'm not alone.
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