Archive for April, 2009

Straight from the Cabbage Patch

You know, I’m thinking that I should have been a doctor, since I play one here in my real life as a mother. What follows is a list of medical and psychological lessons that I have learned about motherhood through the years. If you are contemplating motherhood this is a must read for you. For those of you who have already experienced the joy, please feel free to add to it, I’m sure you all will have some pearls of wisdom for me.

First of all, never stop breastfeeding cold turkey. I learned this the hard way and it was pivotal in my development as a Mom. See, I am not opposed to breastfeeding; in fact I nursed my first two children for several months. I get credit for that and no one can take it away from me, so there! However, child number #3 was difficult and by the time she came around I was just so dang tired that I lowered my standards and decided that she would survive without it. Heck, I had already dropped child #2 on her head on concrete at that point, #3 could certainly survive on Enfamil.

If you are contemplating nursing, I’d like to give a word to the wise: those hospital lactation consultants, whom I called Lactation Nazis, had one goal in life: to make you feel guilty if you stop nursing. They weren’t about nutrition, don’t let them fool you: they were all about motherhood guilt. These Nazis would have you nurse until the kid started her first day of kindergarten. If you stop nursing, or chose not to nurse, you were destined to take the Chutes and Ladders Slide of Death into Motherhood Hell.

Additionally, I think that there is a rule about who is allowed to stop nursing in their Lactation Nazi Manifesto; they didn’t want me out of the program early. It doesn’t matter to them that your child, who has sprouted teeth, has decided to violently use your nipple as a chew toy, shaking her head back and forth like a small puppy after a rawhide bone. They just see lactation as a way to bond with your child. I advise you that you will be “bonding” with your child for at least the next 18 years; get over it and move on. Nursing or bottle-feeding, and the guilt that comes with it, is overrated.

Part two of the problem of stopping cold turkey is that if you choose to stop you are going to need to use cabbage. Don’t ask me what kind of cabbage or who came up with such an idea. This idea is so screwed up I hesitate to pass it on to you girls who are contemplating motherhood and breastfeeding. I mean, if you are engorged and want to stop nursing who would have ever thought to experiment by wrapping your breasts in say, bacon, as a way to feel relief? So now please explain to me why cabbage is better and more logical??

Anyway, I personally used green cabbage, but knock yourselves out with red cabbage, Napa cabbage or even Bok Choy – here’s what you do: take two cold cabbage leaves and place one over each engorged breast. Then sit there and feel the wonder of cabbage and how it supposedly eases the pain of immediate cessation. Mostly what it did for me was to create an insatiable need for coleslaw, a big, slurpy dill pickle, a Black Forest ham sandwich with Lorraine Swiss cheese on pumpernickel rye, and an icy cold beer.

Sitting in your living room with your breasts covered in cabbage leaves is especially great when your seven-year-old son walks in and yells, “WHAT are you doing now?” This is all a lot to comprehend! From his perspective the facts of life were creepy enough to him: “You and Dad did what???!!! Now take it a step further and imagine that that cabbage you have been trying to get him to eat for dinner doubles as a balm for your big girls. This is almost too weird to believe. But hey, there is a plus side: with any leftover cabbage just add Marzetti coleslaw dressing and you are set for dinner. This will be a relief- you will be wiped out from motherhood and you won’t want to think about what’s for dinner. But relax; it’s on your breasts!

Don’t be afraid to admit to your friends that you suffer from hemorrhoids, it is freeing and your friends will all confide in you that they have them, too! I read that over half of all Americans aged 30 and older will or have suffered from hemorrhoids. Why are hemorrhoids a taboo topic if many of us have had them and just want some dang relief and understanding?? I had the worse case ever of them during the pregnancy of child #2 who shall remain nameless- no self-respecting teenager wants to see her name and the word hemorrhoid linked in the same sentence.

I had a checkup with the physician’s assistant and he entered the exam room trailing a medical student behind. I was quite embarrassed but I said, “Ummm, I’m sorry to bother you, but I have very bad hemorrhoids.” The P.A. said to me in a condescending tone, “Yes, well, many of our pregnant patients have them, but I have found that in my experience, and with just a little bit of home treatment…..”. At this point I had shinnied my hiney down to the end of the table so he could have a good look-see under the sheet and I heard him gasp, “Whoooooaaaaa Nellie!!!” and “We need to call the doctor in on this one. “ He pushed that little emergency button on the wall and I knew right then that I was in trouble. What comes next after they push the button is never going to be good.

The doctor, who coincidently also had a medical student with him, entered the room and they joined the crowd gathered around my bottom. I didn’t really care anymore; I just wanted one of them to make my bottom feel better. But really! How awkward! Shouldn’t you be sociable and say something when you have a gaggle of medical folks contemplating your backside? So, I did the obvious and offered them sandwiches. Well! Medical folks have to eat, too! (True story by the way)

Several years ago a friend of mine was due to give birth. She felt sorry for me that I had never experienced birth in the “regular” way (all three of my children were hatched from eggs), so she invited me in to watch the birth of her child. This friend is amazing- not only was she concerned that I experience a vaginal birth, but she decided to do it for me without the benefit of any drugs.

Let me just tell you now that I think that she was insane. See, for me pregnancy started off with a glass of wine as a prelude to sex and ended with some sort of an I.V. drip that caused me to have a stream of spittle running down my chin. I am not against mind-numbing substances; sometimes you have to use them well after the birth and even into the kids’ seventeenth year of life. I think that we’ve all learned that you do what you need to do when you are a mother.

However, my friend would have no part of drugs of any kind. She proceeded to give birth to a 10 lb. baby boy whose head was as big as a Halloween pumpkin. She was fine, but I was back at the doctor again for the new hemorrhoids I popped from straining as she pushed. Medical professionals don’t often mention this, but childbirth can be risky and dangerous for the mother, and for the mother’s friend. Watch a birth at your own risk.

I think it’s best to mention that one should also consider mental health as a factor when contemplating motherhood. Be prepared to leave all pride behind. To explain what I mean, here is the text of an actual phone conversation that I had with Will when he was a five year old kindergartener:

Me: “Hello, Gries Residence”
Will: “Mommy, this is Will… your son?”

At this point I mentally lost it. Will was supposed to be at kindergarten and he had never used the phone without me before.

Me: “Will! Where are you?? Are you safe? Why are you calling me?”
Will: “Mommy! Calm down! I am at school. You took me here this morning, remember? I am calling you because I had a juicy toot in my pants and I need you to bring me a new pair of underwear to school.”
Me: “Where are you calling me from?”
Will: “I am in the principal’s office, calling you from Mrs. Janssen’s phone.”
Me: Oh my gosh, I wanted to die from embarrassment. “Are you alone? Does anyone hear you calling me?”
Will: “Oh yes, all the office ladies are in here: Mrs. Janssen, Mrs. Steinbeck, and Mrs. Green. Please bring me fresh drawers, I don’t want to wear the grimy underwear from the Lost and Found Box.” Yeah, it was great to breeze into the office after that little phone call.

Well, that about stitches it up. These are a few of the little gems that I have learned through the years; motherhood has been the most humbling yet medically enriching of experiences for me.

On reflection of my son’s imminent graduation, I recently told a friend of mine that I alternate between the fact that it is killing me that he is going to leave soon, and that daily I want to kill him because he is driving me so crazy. Maybe I’ll pack him a head of cabbage for good luck and send him on is way.

Underneath It All


I have insufficient underwear. What I mean to say is that my underwear is sub-standard, they are not all that I had hoped and dreamed that they would be. Not that I dream often about underwear, but I had thought at this stage in my life my knickers would be, well, different.

Where I go wrong in this story is to admit to you that I wear underwear at all; after all, who likes to think about what kind of skivvies your friends wear? I prefer to think of my friends dressed in their outer clothes, not walking around in their britches. No, it’s better to not mention my underwear, so that you will never think about me wearing them- but I do wear them, so let’s talk business.

I spent a good portion of the day Saturday watching an infomercial about a garment called the Body Slimmer, or some such thing. The Body Slimmer can take a woman who is 40 pounds over weight and transform her into her ideal body shape. I know, I saw it on TV so it must be true. No diets or surgery needed, just two easy payments of $39.99 and you too can have a smooth back, trim stomach and improved posture due to the criss cross back strap design.

Oh my gosh! I’d do anything to get rid of my back fat and my pregnancy belly!! I have been meaning to get rid of this flabby stomach, but 11 years ago I had a c-section and I really hate to do sit-ups for fear mid sit up I am going to blow my scar and my guts are going to burst everywhere. I’ve been thinking about this for the last 11 years and I think I’ve come to the sensible conclusion.

Therefore, I am relying on my foundation garments to give me the help and support that I need. Have you tried Spanx? I love them but they cause my ankles to be obese- all my fat is just shifted and packed downwards. And for you girls out there, why is there a slit in the panty section of the crotch? I don’t understand this. To me it is just a fault in the design, all of the fat that is being packed in and shoved down has an opening to squeeze through. It really is not a smart design. Are you supposed to pull them down to use the restroom or just potty through the slit? Inquiring minds want to know. If you don’t believe me, ask your best girlfriends and you will get all kinds of answers about what the protocol is. Who knew that it would take a gang of women to decide how the Spanx should be worn?

I am famous for dressing for an event at the last minute. At my sister-in-law’s graduation I reached quickly into my drawer and grabbed a pair of control top panty hose. After the commencement, and when the crowd was milling around congratulating the graduates, I felt a strange sensation. I guess it would be sort of the equivalent of what happened when the tectonic plates shifted in the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. What actually happened was that the panty hose were so old that the elastic in the control top just gave way and crumbled. It was such a cataclysmic event that the panty section started to migrate downwards to my knees; by the time I waddled out to the car the crotch of the panty hose had slid past my knee caps. At some point I just walked out of the suckers and pretended that some ill-bred girl had flung off her garments during a disreputable tryst and I had just discovered them at my feet.

Another tragedic thing that happens is when you have a pair of low-rise underwear and the waist band goes bad. What is likely to happen is a burble of belly rolls the underwear down further into your pants. This usually occurs when you are at church talking to the minister about the upcoming pancake breakfast. What I am saying is that you just can’t reach your hand down your pants to right the wrong, you have to just stand there and enjoy your belly fat undulating downwards.

It’s not just actual panties that cause the problem either. How many of you ladies out there have been somewhere important and the underwire in your bra snaps in half? If you are bigger busted this is a major catastrophy; you are counting on that reinforced steel to keep all things in the northern hemisphere. That very sharp wire is now poking you somewhere quite tender and you are obliged to pretend that all is well with the world. This is not easy when you are being skewered.

I am an equal opportunity underwear-er. I own briefs, mid rise, low rise, bikins, boy shorts, big girl high top panties and the ever menacing thongs. I was talked into buying a thong by a skinny friend, she had no idea that I could potentially be mistaken for Japan’s Junior Miss Sumo 2009; she just thought that they were liberating and would give me that seamless look. How does a sumo wrestler get that seamless look?

My underwear is disappointing because none of my styles are able to wrangle this bulbous body into a smooth and svelte chicky. I think I am going to order me the Body Slimmer, I bet I would look good 40 pounds lighter. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am in the middle of an underwear crisis. I wonder how fast they can get it to me?