I remember the first time I was desperate for a shower. Sure, there were many times before that day when I wanted a shower, or even needed one. But the day that I gave birth to my first child was, fittingly, the first time I can remember being absolutely desperate for a shower. That day was the beginning of many things, including a years-long struggle to stay clean.
On February 3rd, 2005, I woke up around 6AM, showered without realizing the luxury I was rushing through, and headed off to work at the bookstore. As I left at the end of my shift, I told a coworker that if I didn't show up the next day it would be because I was having a baby. I had noticed some signs that I was in early labor and, on the drive home, I experienced my first contraction. When I got back to our little apartment, I messaged Justin at work to tell him that labor had begun. Then I gathered up a small snack, a notebook, and a pen to track contractions, and I settled down to relax on the couch for a few hours. As the contractions grew closer together and more regular, I decided to take a shower. I thought the warm water would be soothing, and I didn't know when my next chance would be. The warm water was, indeed, soothing. I barely felt the contractions while I was in the shower. I wondered how soon I'd be able to see my feet again without a huge pregnant belly blocking my view. I awkwardly shaved my legs and wished I had gotten a pedicure. Soon after I was out and dressed, I told Justin it was time to go. It was around 8:30PM.
I think that, from time to time, we all realize what an amazing thing a hot shower is. But most of time time, we take it for granted. It's not until an extended camping trip leaves us overly grungy, or a bout of illness keeps us abed for several days, too weak to stand long enough to shower, that we are reminded how lucky we are. Remember Giselle in Enchanted? "This is a magical room." How about Lori, Rick, and the gang in The Walking Dead when they got to the CDC and heard there were showers? There's a reason that at least one reward in every season of Survivor involves a shower. Let's face it: showers rock.
I experienced a very difficult delivery with Alexander. The epidural didn't work. The nurse was mean. I had to push for FOUR HOURS. I was put on oxygen. They threatened a C-section. The nurse told me I wasn't doing a good job. Eventually they had to vacuum-extract him. All 9 pounds, 4 ounces of him. They put him on my chest and all I could see through my tears was a big batch of wild, black hair. I thought all the regular new Mommy thoughts. He's perfect. That was awful. I wish I could see him. I think he might fall off of me. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. When will they clean him? No, don't take him yet.
Within minutes, I also realized how desperate I was. I absolutely HAD to get in the shower, and I needed to eat at least half my weight in high-calorie food. Immediately. I would eat in the shower if necessary. Unfortunately, as anyone who's ever given birth in a hospital probably knows, you don't just get up after giving birth. First of all, you're still attached to at least three different things. You've got your IV, the baby/Mommy monitor on your belly, the blood pressure cuff, and maybe a few extras like an oxygen mask. Even once most of those things were removed, my nurses have (every time) decided to leave my IV in, in case I should need anything via IV. So there I was, having come in contact with just about every bodily fluid there is (I don't think anyone vomited), unable to take a shower. Tears, sweat, amniotic fluid, lots and lots of blood.... and all they did was wipe me off.
If I'm being honest, it's pretty unlikely that I would have been able to stand up long enough to take a shower at that point. I felt like a truck had hit me. Or maybe a bus. Most likely, a truck and a bus. And all I wanted was a goddamn shower. I got my food soon enough, but I didn't get my shower until the next day, more than 24 hours later, when they finally agreed to take my IV line out. It was a pitiful shower, unable as I was to stand up for more than 3 or 4 minutes or to lift my arms above chest level. But it was a shower, and it was awesome.
Ten days later I was back in the hospital with a blood clot. I lamented, as they stuck various monitors and lines to my body, that I had only just finally been able to scrub the last bits of adhesive from my body. Like I said, it was a rough delivery and it took quite a long time for me to recover physically. As a result, showers were really just quick rinse-offs. I didn't have the strength, energy, or time to scrub the heck out of my back. With that second stay in the hospital, it was probably two and a half weeks after having Alexander that I finally was able to remove the last bits of adhesive from my back. That stuff means business.
And thus started my years-long struggle to manage a shower. In those early days, I told my dad, "The baby won't let me take a shower." He replied, "What? Does he crawl out of his crib and turn off the water?" The answer was no, of course not. But he did insist on eating every 45 minutes and crying whenever he wasn't being held. I brought him into this world, I thought, and it was my responsibility to tend to his every need. Who was I to need something? Something as trivial as a shower?
Over the past eight years, I have showered with a baby in my arms many times. It makes it pretty awkward to wash my hair or shave my armpits, but it keeps the baby from crying and it's better than nothing. I've showered with a baby in a chair outside the shower, and played peek-a-boo to keep them calm. I've abandoned showers halfway though, with only one leg shaved, because I heard my baby crying so desperately in his crib. I've taken showers with a toddler sitting in the end of the tub, gnawing on a rubber-ducky. I've taken showers with older toddlers who insist they love showers, until they get in it. Every time. I've taken showers with my toddler screaming outside the bathroom door because he wanted so badly to be with me. I've been surprised in the shower by a toddler who sneakily joined me. I've taken showers late at night after they're all finally in bed, hoping I wouldn't wake them with the sound of the water. I've gotten out of the shower to find that my three-year-old had discovered he could open the front door and walk out.
Just the other day, again desperate for a shower, I set the older kids up with a show to watch so that they wouldn't be tempted to get into trouble (or escape). I put Noah in his rocking chair in the bathroom and hoped that the bar of dangling toys would entertain him long enough for me to get clean. One minute into my shower, Jack entered the bathroom. "Can I have some crackers?" Two minutes in, Kai came in. "I want milk." Three minutes in, Noah started to fuss. When I looked out to check on him, he had somehow managed to lean forward and escape the straps of the chair and was crawling across the bathroom toward the open door. I abandoned yet another shower, hair unwashed.
Every time I get to the point where even the youngest of my kids is old enough to mostly be entertained by a snack, some crayons, or a show long enough for me to take a daily shower, the next baby is born and I start from scratch. Dirty, dirty scratch.
I hope I don't stink too bad. I just can't manage a shower every day. But with Justin as my witness, Noah is my last baby. Because someday, someday, I will take daily showers once again. Not even the realization that three boys easily fit in one bedroom, leaving room for a fifth kid, or the fact that there are seven seats in my van, or that fact that I still don't have a little girl will persuade me to change my mind. All for the love of a shower.
I'd go take one now, but Noah just woke up from his nap.