Hello out there! I've had a pretty quiet internet presence this month, and it isn't all due to sleep deprivation and being too busy with the new baby. Those have been challenging, but there is another barrier to polite conversation that comes along with birth: the TMI factor.
My entire life these days consists of nursing and diaper changing, with rare naps stolen here and there to slow the postpartum bleeding. When visitors come over, I struggle to hold blankets over my shoulders as I feed my ravenous child, and then I rush to change her diaper before anyone gets grossed out. When people ask how I am feeling, I can't honestly answer them without referencing my bathing suit areas. I had a complicated delivery which left me with extreme swelling and countless stitches in a very uncomfortable place--uncomfortable physically and conversationally, especially when family members are here--and if you don't know what "lochia" is, I'll let you Google it--and above the waist, I have become my daughter's personal dairy farm.
I can talk to my mom about these things, but most other people really don't want to know the details. And many of them are completely oblivious to what goes on with childbirth and the weeks following, like the man who kindly asked three weeks after the main event if I was "all recovered" yet and the friends who want to know if I can go out for an evening.
If anyone else is wondering, I am not recovered. I am not allowed to lift more than 12 pounds, go on a long car trip, do any household chores, work out, or really do anything except heal and feed my baby. Even eating lunch at a restaurant is physically exhausting. I am at risk of hemorrhaging if I do too much. The nerves in my whole pelvic region are still reconnecting. And to add insult to injury, the dehydration caused by my thirsty, thirsty child led to a urinary tract infection last week.
When my mom told my dad, she accidentally said, "She has a TMI." I laughed, because that pretty much summed it up.
The moral of this story? If you are squeamish, don't ever ask a woman who has just given birth how she feels or how she has been doing. You're either going to get a lie or TMI. If you can't listen without making a loud, awkward comment like, "Ooh, I did not want to know that!" then just assume her whole lower chakra has blown up like a pipe bomb, her breasts feel like bursting udders, and she hasn't had a single REM cycle in weeks. Then offer to help with chores instead of asking questions.
One cool thing about the TMI factor is how it can make you feel closer to certain people. My husband and mother stayed by my side through my whole labor and birth. They bonded with each other at the same time they were supporting me and the baby. After witnessing everything I went through, my husband has been incredibly kind, supportive, helpful, and respectful. And the Baked Chef has been great as well. He never asks about the gory details, and he quietly turns away without commenting when it's time to nurse. Days after the birth, while I was taking a nap, he asked if he could help us out in any way. Mr. G handed him our shopping list--which included maxi pads. He not only picked up a package, he found a woman with a little baby in the store and asked her which kind to buy! Now that's a good friend. And, of course, he has been feeding me like fat medieval royalty.
Mmmm, deep fried calories.
Other benefits of living in the TMI zone include empathizing on a much deeper level with other women who have had children, like my mom and grandmother, and learning a lot more detail about childbirth for writing about new mothers in fiction. My WIP, Briars and Black Hellebore, has several characters who have babies, and they're about to get a lot more real.
If there is one thing that doesn't help a lady feel better when she's exhausted, in pain, and leaking fluids from various parts of her anatomy, it's people giving her nauseous looks. So now when people without kids ask me how I'm doing, I just say "Very tired" and leave it at that. Any more honesty would be TMI.