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.

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