I’m not great with dates. I can never remember minutiae like Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November or that New Years Day is exactly one week after Christmas. The individuals who know when Harvest Moons and Daylight Saving Time occur must be calendar makers or descendants of Nostradamus. If it weren’t for computerized alerts, I’d never be aware of birthdays, anniversaries, or the days Oprah is giving away gold-coated Maytags and half-sisters. The one date I can always remember – after three pregnancies in as many years – is the one that falls six weeks after delivery: The six week postpartum checkup.
It’s the appointment in which the OB will stare at your nethers under the glare of a strobe light mounted to a hardhat as she asks leading questions to discern how many times you’ve fallen down the stairs in a fit of delirium and how closely you identify with the movie The Omen. As you gently hint at the likelihood of getting a script for Tylenol PM for Infants, your doctor will smile at you, offer congratulations for your bundle of colic, and will utter the one sentence you are – no matter what her speculum says – entirely unprepared to hear:
You can resume sexual activity now.
Your Gone Fishin’ sign was just yanked right off your vagina. Mayan Year 2010 hit your private parts. If this visit follows the birth of your first baby, your husband is likely standing beside the table as this news is delivered. The grin to spread across his face will outstretch the one you saw when he was first handed his newborn child. The smile fades as he witnesses your descent through The Five Stages of Grief, all of which occur in dramatic flair with your knees still touching opposite coastlines.
Denial. “I think you have the wrong file. I just delivered a baby. A human. See, that’s her right there. That was inside of my body until she tore her way through it, like a goddamn Trojan Horse. Are you certain you went to medical school?”
Anger. “Why did you ask me here? I was told by a woman I work with that you were going to give me happy pills at this appointment, not tell me I need to be having sex with… (unsubtle head tilt in partner’s direction). And I would like my underwear back now.”
Bargaining. “Listen, I may have overreacted. Let’s find some middle ground. You pop a couple of those episiotomy stitches down there and I’ll tell all of my friends with yeast infections to come see you. Deal?”
Depression. The utterance of words during the passage through this phase ceases altogether as you consider that the only moments your day permits for a shower and a status update on Facebook have been stolen.
Acceptance. You nod slowly, shifting your eyes from the doctor, to the baby, to your husband, understanding that all are working in chorus to destroy your personal anatomy and your DVR queue.
You exit the physician’s office, quite possibly still wearing the oversized Maxi pads you absconded with from the hospital, with a slow and wearied gate. Dead Vagina Walking. Your husband, on the other hand, has a buoyancy to his step and is already suggestively whistling something by Marvin Gaye.
This is when the calendar floats into your consciousness again. Whatever day this 6 week postpartum check falls on – a Tuesday, a Friday, May, December – is the day that will be listed on your tombstone. This is the day you’re going to die. Your friends and family will eulogize your life with somber nods, “She endured too much. Sleeplessness, poor oral hygiene, elasticized waistbands, a diet of fistfuls of cereal. Despite this, her doctor told her she was ready for exercise and sex. It was too much to bear.”
Too much is exactly what it is. A nurse once whispered in my ear, upon walking out the door with my firstborn child, to be wary of the six week post-delivery time as this is the period babies present colic, when postpartum depression rears its vicious head, and – tragically – when the help and casseroles from those around you disappear. The weight of these stressors only compounds when your husband starts in with the bedroom eyes. It’s not that you don’t appreciate those eyes. May God grant Sainthood to the man who can see beyond the facade of sagging skin and stretch marks to the woman he was attracted to once before. It’s not that you don’t love your husband. It has very little to do with him actually. Your body has been hijacked by hormones, your erogenous zones assassinated by nursing, and your ability to lay prone in the dark without falling comatose has been lost. And you’re a bit terrified because your lady innards still feel a lot like Hiroshima must have looked after the A-bomb.
However, he will start dry humping your leg like an un-neutered Jack Russell Terrier if you continue to cite ‘funky stuff you don’t want to even know about down there’ as your reason for celibacy. He will start to suspect you’re stretching the truth when you say you’re considering a Divine calling to join a Roman convent. Even you understand, with the small portion of brain matter you’ve got left, that reuniting may make you begin to feel more like your old self. You’ve weathered pregnancy and delivery together without any casualties, thus there must be hope for the same outcome in the bedroom. After all, isn’t marriage about compromise and leaps of faith?
But it’s completely fair to say you’re not taking your sweatpants off.