Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Fades Away

The night I gave birth to the Snood, my friend Mindy came to visit me in the hospital. As she sat off to one side cradling my tiny Snoodish pea-pod, I lay curled up on my hospital bed in the midst of the below described phenomenon: (note to mom's-to-be: the following passage is likely to reveal a post-pregnancy reality of which you are currently unaware. If you'd like to remain in your current state of blissful ignorance, skip the next paragraph. In fact, skip this whole entry ladies - YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW.)


...following the delivery, most moms can expect to feel "after pains," which are brought on by the uterus contracting back to its original size..uncomfortable as they may be [these pains] are perfectly normal.

Well, they may well have been perfectly normal folks, but let me assure you - they sucked ridiculously. As I lay there clutching my innards, begging the World's Meanest Nurse (tm) for more Motrin...

...Mindy looked over at me and said in all sincerity,

"Huh, I'd totally forgotten about that part."

OK, Mindy's kids were THREE and FIVE at the time, it's not like they were FORTY. I simply could not fathom HOW could she have forgotten an experience this terrible in that short an amount of time. I was genuinely perplexed.
UNTIL, I remembered "The Cracking".

Let me back up for a moment. Last year, before I was pregnant with Doodle 2, I got a really bad headache.

It felt like my skull was splitting open and it reminded me that there had been a period of my life where I was constantly complaining to David that I was 'Cracking' or had 'The Cracking'. I remembered saying it quite often, in fact, but I could not for the life of me remember to what it was in reference. Maybe a headache? But that didn't seem quite right. So I asked my dear husband.

"Hey honey, remember when I used to say all the time that I was 'cracking'?"

He nodded yes.

"Was it because I had a headache?"

David shrugged, saying he couldn't remember either (thus helping not at all, but providing further evidence of my burgeoning theory that my husband may not listen every time I talk - but perhaps that's a topic best left for another entry entirely).

So it was that 'The Cracking' remained a mystery. Until last month, right about the time I hit the 33-week pregnant mark and SUDDENLY REMEMBERED EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT BY 'THE CRACKING'.

'The Cracking', as it turned out, referred to a sensation that begins around the eighth month of pregnancy, when the baby gets big enough to be up under your ribcage and it feels as if your ribs are being CRACKED OPEN FROM THE INSIDE. Yes, in spite of having actually NAMED this phenomenon the last time I was pregnant, I'd managed to completely block the sensation from my memory banks until it started to occur anew this time around.

Perhaps this skill is hereditary. The first week when I was home with the Snood, my mother was staying with us and I would regularly ask her things like,

"Did I cry a lot when I was first born?"

"When did I first start getting teeth?"

My mother, for whom I was the third child in as many years, would inevitably respond to all such queries,

"Oh, God, I have NO idea. I've blocked that whole time out of my memory."

When she first said this, I remember being somewhat offended by the idea that my own mother would acknowledge mentally purging large sections of my infancy from her memory banks, but wow - do I ever get it now.

Like other trauma sufferers before us, my mother, Mindy, and I have developed an incredibly necessary skill - the ability to block out painful events entirely. For me, 'The Cracking; for Mindy, uterine cramping; and for my mother, large swaths of my and my siblings' collective childhoods! Hey, whatever gets you through it, I say.

There's actually a great deal of comfort in knowing that our brains are in the business of protecting us from our own bad memories. Now that I acknowledge it, I really like the fact that my brain, like a protective older sibling, is constantly looking out for me.

"Nah, you'd be better off not having access to that particular memory - believe me, it's for your own good!"

Thanks, brain!

The only thing about this revelation that gives me any pause is the fact that, with a second baby arriving one month from now, it sometimes occurs to me to wonder - what else is my brain hiding from me? What other horrors has my helpful brain hidden away from me for my own sake? What unforeseen disasters am I going to be subjected to that I've completely blocked out in the 18-months since the Snood first arrived on the scene?

You know what? Maybe it's best not to think about it.