I'm in the shower, hot water streaming over me as I stand wrapped in the heat and bliss of my ten-minute escape. Then I hear the bathroom door open. Through the fog of steam, I catch sight of a smallish figure waddling my way. I wipe away the condensation to see my 3-year-old son, Rollie, his nose flattened against the glass shower door, staring directly at my...um...privates. So much for my escape.
"What do you need, sweetheart?" I ask, hoping to divert his attention to something, anything, else.
"Where's your penis, Momma?"
"I don't have one, Buddy. Remember?" Oh God, still staring.
He gives a slight nod and, just before finally turning away, says, "Your not-penis is furry."
It's times like this when I'm reminded that my days of crippling modesty are so over. Before I had kids, I was self-conscious to the point that I didn't even like my dog to see me naked, and my husband would tease me about wearing more clothes than a nun. At the gym, I perfected the art of undressing while keeping at least three articles of clothing on to ensure that my flaws -- short legs, slight paunch, small boobs -- were out of sight.
But when I had kids everything changed -- big-time -- starting with the day Rollie was born. I lay on the hospital bed, legs splayed, writhing and panting as I shoved my son out into the world, bodily fluids and all. Funny how immense pain and heightened euphoria can make a person oblivious to the fact that she's exposing herself to a hospital's entire day shift.
That six-hour labor set the tone for motherhood as I know it. The first time I brought Rollie out in public he was just over a week old and not the happiest baby. After ten minutes of his crying and my being unable to soothe him, I thought back to a wise breastfeeding adage my mother once told me: "When in doubt, whip it out." Sure, we were surrounded by strangers. Sure, the idea of pulling up my sweater, postpartum belly wobbling like Jell-O, was about as appealing as an episiotomy, but at that point I no longer cared. I whipped it out and I haven't looked back since.