I need to check your vitals, hon,” she explained. It had been several hours since I’d given birth. I guess this was the routine.
She felt my pulse, palpated my legs, asked if I had pain anywhere, and lightly pressed on my abdomen, the whole while making sure I wasn’t showing signs of a blockage or a blood clot, a fever or a hemorrhage. I stared dreamily at Marlboro Man, who gave me a wink or two. I hoped he would, in time, be able to see past the vomit.
The nurse then began a battery of questions.
“So, no pain?”
“Nope. I feel fine now.”
“Not at all.”
“Have you been able to pass gas in the past few hours?”
*Insert awkward ten-second pause*
I couldn’t have heard her right. “What?” I asked, staring at her.
“Have you been able to pass gas lightly?”
*Another awkward pause*
What kind of question is this? “Wait…,” I asked. “What?”
“Sweetie, have you been able to pass gas today?”
I stared at her blankly. “I don’t…”
“…Pass gas? You? Today?” She was unrelenting. I continued my blank, desperate stare, completely incapable of registering her question.
Throughout the entire course of my pregnancy, I’d gone to great lengths to maintain a certain level of glamour and vanity. Even during labor, I’d attempted to remain the ever-fresh and vibrant new wife, going so far as to reapply tinted lip balm before the epidural so I wouldn’t look pale. I’d also restrained myself during the pushing stage, afraid I’d lose control of my bowels, which would have been the kiss of death upon my pride and my marriage; I would have had to just divorce my husband and start fresh with someone else.
I had never once so much as passed gas in front of Marlboro Man. As far as he was concerned, my body lacked this function altogether.
So why was I being forced to answer these questions now? I hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I’m sorry…,” I stammered. “I don’t understand the question…”
The nurse began again, seemingly unconcerned with my lack of comprehension skills. “Have you…”
Marlboro Man, lovingly holding our baby and patiently listening all this time from across the room, couldn’t take it anymore. “Honey! She wants to know if you’ve been able to fart today!”
The nurse giggled. “Okay, well maybe that’s a little more clear.”
I pulled the covers over my head.
I was not having this discussion.