When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I was put on modified bed rest. My little drama queen had already attempted the great escape twice, and the doctors wanted me to keep her in for at least another two weeks. Since my bed rest coincided with Christmas and only lasted three weeks before my daughter was born, I remember very little from that time except that I sucked at bed rest (I took sanity trips to Target daily under my husband’s watchful and disapproving eye) and I became obsessed with Homeland.
I do, however, remember a phone conversation I had with one of my best friends. I was complaining about how much I hated bed rest (I know, what was I thinking? The grass is always greener though), and this very wise friend told me to take lots of long showers because I would miss them when the baby was born.
At first I thought she was crazy. Tired I was expecting. Milk machine I was prepared for. But not showering? I love showers. Especially really hot ones that leave my skin all red and splotchy. And being clean is important. Why would having a baby make me become savage and uncivilized? Oh, how I wish I could tell my pregnant self a thing or two.
My sister told me that when my water broke, I would have plenty of time to get to the hospital, so I should definitely shower first because I didn’t know how long I would be in labor. I thought this was great advice. It would keep my mind off what was about to happen to my poor body, and I would be all ready to meet my daughter.
It didn’t go down like that. At 35 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night sweating and feeling sick. I threw up, called the doctor, woke up my husband, and we left for the hospital. No shower. It turns out I had preeclampsia and needed to be induced. For anyone who was preeclamptic, the words “magnesium sulfate” probably still make you shudder. They are the drugs I got after I delivered my baby, but I didn’t even remember that I had given birth because of said drugs. Which is probably a good thing because my daughter was apparently whisked away to the NICU. At least that’s what they tell me.
Two days after I gave birth, I started to come out of my drug-induced state. I had to be carried to the bathroom by my husband and had to pee with the door open so someone could keep an eye on me at all times. Not really showering conditions. Then I got discharged, but my baby had to stay in the hospital for a few more days. Since I was technically no longer a patient, we were moved into a “courtesy room” that was the size of Harry Potter’s under the stairs room and had no windows. Still not showering conditions.
On Monday, five days after we had arrived at the hospital, my husband convinced me to go home for one hour to shower and get fresh clothes. What he didn’t say, because he is really nice and I was very fragile, was that I stunk. Like the boys from Lord of the Flies before they were rescued stunk.
So, after much coaxing, I went home. I showered. And I felt like a new person. Being clean physically cleansed me emotionally and I was able to return to the hospital and make it through two more excruciatingly long, worrisome, scary days.
My friend was right. A lot of days I don’t have time to shower. But I make it a priority. Not only is it a kindness I pay to my husband and others who are forced to be around me, but it rejuvenates me. It makes me feel alive and human. I recognize the person I see in the mirror afterwards. I am refreshed and ready to face whatever the day holds. And even though I am usually covered in drool and spit up and crusty milk within ten minutes, for those ten minutes I get to be me.
Showers have additional benefits. For one, the shower drowns out whatever noises are coming from the rest of the house. Which is why I usually take them right after I put my daughter down for a nap. That means no screaming, no crying, just the sound of my own thoughts. My husband likes that I take showers so much too. Once I get in there, I don’t want to come out, and my legs have never been smoother.
Maybe you don’t have the same need for showers as I do. But you do have a need to be refreshed, to be alone, to collect yourself. Whatever helps you do that, (showers, walking, reading), find time for it. Make it a priority. Make it sacred. I’m a better mom when I’m showered.