We Don't Show Our Penis To The Neighbors.

When I was in 6th grade I peed my pants at Toby Smith’s birthday party. It was both the first boy-girl party I’d ever been to, and the first time I’d ever been invited to a boy’s house. I’d chosen my brand new Limited Too sweatshirt for the momentous event. The stakes were at an all-time high.

The ensuing tween tragedy started with a bright idea and a bucket of tennis balls. One of the boys invented a game on the fly that involved us girls stuffing tennis balls into our shirts, then running down a hill while they chased us and retrieved as many balls as they could.

Don’t be fooled by their smell. Twelve year old boys can be quite clever provided the right motivation.

So there I am, running with blissful abandon to the musical stylings of Everclear while fuzzy green balls bounce against my torso and cute boys chase after me. But then one of my friends grabs my arm and we both fall and we both start tumbling down the hill and we both laugh, only I laugh much harder. Much, much harder.

Motherhood is kind of like Toby Smith’s birthday party. One minute it’s all fun and balls and some cute guy saying you know what sounds fun?, and the next minute you’re the one covered in pee and trying not to cry. 

It was only three years ago that I was sipping lattes and sparkling water while discussing Beowulf and The Brother Karamazov. That would have been a busy day at work. Now I am negotiating with an exhibitionist toddler, and trying to explain in his terms why poor Dan and Lois next door shouldn’t be subjected to random acts of nudity.

See, we thought we were doing the right thing teaching our son all the proper words for his body parts. My husband and I lovingly read to him a thoughtful little book titled God Made All of Me. “God made every part of your body and God called every part of your body good.  Some parts of your body are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing…” Sounds innocent enough, right? A good starting point for preschooler body image?

We never factored in the utter shamelessness of the three and under crowd. My boy now makes it a regular practice to stand proudly atop his changing table, naked as can be, throw back his curtains and yell, “No penis!” He will not rest until this neighborhood knows penises, while good, are not for sharing or for showing. 

Fear not, I am usually less than a yard behind him, running toward his curtains, 2T pull-up in hand, somehow shouting and whispering simultaneously because the aforementioned Dan and Lois like to keep their windows open, “We don’t show our penis to the neighbors!” 

Every day we aren’t fined by the HOA is a good day.

If you’re thinking I should consult Pinterest for a ten step, multi-sensory solution to our problem, let me tell you something about sweet, little helpful Pinterest: it’s out to get you.

I made the colossal mistake of using Pinterest as some kind of postpartum how-to manual. At around the 27th week of my pregnancy I composed a list titled Things to Prep and another called Purchases. I fully intended on having a highly organized, if not a tad obsessive, transition into mother of two. 

Among the comfy slippers and witch hazel pads on the list of things to buy was this pearl: oversized panties so ugly you won’t mind ruining them. A few clicks later, Amazon Prime was discreetly ensuring I’d have 6 pairs of perfectly heinous granny panties to decimate. 

After another cruise through c-section pins, I added three tasks to my preparations list: manicure, pedicure, 86 all body hair. 

Do all of these things as close to your surgery date as possible, Pinterest said. Take advantage of knowing when you’ll be giving birth, it said.

At 7 months pregnant that last one seemed obvious. I’m a modern woman, after all. I know my way around a Keurig and a waxing parlor. I didn’t get here in horse-drawn carriage.

On the other side of 8 months, it seemed daunting at best. I had a sliver of toe left in my sights. How could I possibly address this personal maintenance issue without maiming myself?

With my c-section scheduled for April 1 (shoulda known…) this was my plan:

-wash/dry/hide hideous undies, March 28

-pay a professional to handle my business, March 30

-give the esthetician a big tip then treat myself to a mani pedi, March 30

This is what actually happened: I had an emergency c-section 5 days ahead of schedule, on March 27. 

Yeah…yeah….

There I am, on the operating table, blindsided by the chain of events that got me there, but excited to meet my baby. After twelve hours without food and fifteen minutes laying on steel, I am wishing for a second blanket and a hefty burrito when I hear it. The sound of a razor.

“We’re about to get started, mom.” It’s a kind, young resident speaking. A clean cut male. “I’m just clearing the surgical field first.”

The machines don’t seem to be registering that I am dead inside. They go on with their indifferent beeping. This is about one notch behind the birthday party of ’96 and climbing. I am so relieved to begin vomiting thus eliminating the need to respond to this man.

But, Dr. Wright, if you’re reading this, will you let me explain? Have you ever seen the tv show Friends? Does the phrase, we were on a break mean anything to you, Dr. Wright? Because that is the relationship I had with my surgical field when our paths crossed. We were on a break. Okay, the surgical field you saw, that’s not who I am. Did my chart happen to mention that Pinterest instructed me to wait a few more days to clear my field, or that I couldn’t even confirm the existence of my belly button without a mirror, or that I’d been on pelvic rest for sixteen weeks? Sixteen weeks Dr. Wright, ten and six! My surgical field was a ghost town. You might have noticed some tumble weeds blowing past you and an abandoned pair of boots. I ask you, Dr. Wright, what reason did I have to clear my surgical field ahead of schedule? I had an appointment! We were on a break!

And what, you ask, became of those wretched knickers Pinterest insist I buy? The ones I didn’t even need because the hospital gave me two bags to take home? My mother in law washed, dried, and folded all six of them neatly into a laundry basket. I know this because I watched with unmatched horror from my recovery station in our recliner chair as she held them up to fold. I’d forgotten about them completely. I’d bought Pilgrim panties and totally spaced. 

How do you tell the person folding your underwear this is not what it looks like? Do you show your mother-in-law your collection of lacy thongs, a kind of sad exhibit A, proving you are not a completely out of touch prude? No, you do not. You just double fist a few more lactation cookies and let it ride.

God made all the parts of motherhood and He called all of them good. Some parts are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing and some parts accidentally get shared and it is up to you whether to laugh or to cry or to do some combination of the two while you keep running down this hill.

No one has ever called mothering fancy. It’s not polished or refined, or even hygienic a lot of the time. I got accused of being homeless four days into it, based solely on my appearance. This is the real deal. Wear pants you don’t mind peeing in. Play on.


Written by April Hoss. Photo by Chrysti Tovani.