Keep calm and…

For Mother’s Day this year at my gentle behest, my husband booked me a massage. It was my first massage in years, and the experience was so much more relaxing than I’d expected, right up until the point that the massage therapist held up the blanket that was covering me so I could flip over. Perhaps it was the monumental peculiarity involved in the fact that the only scrap of cloth on my body was covering my mouth and nose (that sensation–of wearing a mask and nothing else–was a brand-new one), but I was suddenly self-conscious despite the fact that she was looking away, and the blanket was mere inches off my skin so she wouldn’t have been able to glimpse anything below my neck regardless. It was a strange feeling because I’m not overly modest, nor am I ashamed of my shape, so I was surprised to even encounter that unfamiliar twinge of cringe, yet it only lasted for a second because my mind immediately went to a time when I was in a much more exposed situation.

The day was June 4th, 2015, the day I went to the hospital to deliver my third child. The obstetrics practice overseeing my pregnancy consisted of about eight different doctors, one of whom had recently joined rank after moving back to town. This doctor happened to be the one on duty that day, and she also happened to be an acquaintance of mine; she’d been a year ahead of me in school from elementary days all the way through until her graduation, one year before mine. She and I hadn’t been friends in school; in fact, we’d been rather tepid to one another throughout the years. Back then, she was always one of the smartest kids in her grade, and she was also beautiful and ultra-athletic and popular among both girls and boys, so she was basically one of those “full package” kind of kids that others sometimes secretly (or not-so-secretly) resent for being so uncommonly stacked in favorable attributes that it seems just a bit unfair.

Of course, I had prepared myself for this possibility (I mean, there was a “one in eight” chance that this would happen, so it probably would), rationalizing over my initial resistance with the knowledge that, until recently, she and I hadn’t seen each other for twenty years and were practically different people now than we were as kids in school. I also reminded myself of how smart she is (a much sought-after quality in a doctor) and that she was a professional, so this was just another day at the office for her. I’d also seen her for a routine appointment a few months earlier, so I knew that her bedside manner was canny enough that she wouldn’t start asking after my siblings or something while I was mid-contraction. She was also a woman and a mother herself, and having had my first two children delivered by men, it might be nice to have two x-chromosomes at the helm this time since, well, it takes one to know one in some basic biological ways. So what if the guy I’d been casually seeing during my junior year, who I fully expected would take me to his senior prom, had asked her instead of me? I got over that years ago (almost completely)!

Anyway, you know you’re really grown up when you come to terms with having a woman who used to be the girl who hung on the arm of guy who’d publicly snubbed you in high school (he did apologize, I should add, though it was much later) deliver your baby. Though childbirth is miraculous in so many ways, there are aspects of the process that can also feel pretty darn undignified while they’re happening, as I knew from experience. I won’t go into any details, but lying there on that massage table, I remembered all of them, pulling out each one like photographs from an album, moments captured as snapshots and filed away unbidden until some reminder pulls the book off the shelf. As my mind paged through those memories of having babies, I suddenly remembered that I was mid-massage and almost laughed at the irony: there I was, ostensibly enjoying my Mother’s Day gift while my brain was humming with some of the least relaxing thoughts possible, including angsty high school social drama and labor and delivery.

Next year maybe I’ll ask for something equally as rejuvenating as a massage but without all of that unoccupied mental time devoted to a rabbit hole of childbirth stories. To that end, I’m going to take a screenshot of that hand vacuum for the car I’ve been eyeing and text it to my husband on May 1st. I know he’ll understand.

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