I spent a total of 12 minutes in the dentist’s chair the other day. The hygienist insisted that I have a “full mouth debridement,” which I quickly learned is dentist-speak for “miniature light saber slashing its way through your mouth accompanied by an unbearably high-pitched squeal that will make nails on the chalkboard sound like Mozart.” Of the 12 minutes that I sat in the chair, 11 1/2 were waiting for the numbing agent to kick in, and a full 30 seconds was the hygienist working on a single tooth. In that time, I managed twice to flinch so dramatically in pain that she looked at me condescendingly and informed me that I would have to come back another day when the doctor could give me something stronger to make me sit still.
Obediently, I followed her back to the waiting room and then had the audacity to ask if the light saber, ahem, debridement, was truly necessary or just a punishment for having gone two years without a cleaning. (I didn’t word it quite that way, but that was my message.) She looked down her nose at me, which was impressive because she was seated and I was standing, blinked, and, speaking slowly to be sure I understood, informed me that I had Very Inflamed Gums due to (pause for dramatic effect) Tartar Buildup and CLEARLY, since I was in so much pain, I really needed the light saber treatment. “Maybe,” she said, “if you follow the proper cleaning regimen after we do the debridement, you can go back to a healthy mouth cleaning.”
I am not going back. Yes, I am terrified of the pain. It really was bad. But, more importantly, becoming a mother has empowered me to demand respect. My body made a person and is now making food to nourish that person. God help me if I’m going to just let you at my body (yes, even if it’s just my teeth) willy-nilly with your light saber without at least treating me with respect and giving me some options.
Here are a few other things that motherhood has taught me so far:
Poop isn’t so bad when it belongs to your newborn baby. I hear this rapidly changes once they start solids.
It’s best not to wear your mom shoes when going out on the oh-so-rare date with your husband. Pull out the heels, or at least the wedges. (Not for him, of course… for yourself. Nothing makes you feel human again like putting on what you wore before the pregnancy, and let’s be honest, you’re probably still more comfortable in your maternity clothes.)
And, most importantly:
You really, truly, don’t understand what it is to be a parent until you become one. For a few hours when we were first called to the hospital with Jacob, I thought that we might lose our baby. And in that moment, I was willing to tear out my heart with my bare hands if it would save him. Then I understood. The love of a parent for her child is irrational and all-encompassing in a way I could never have imagined until I held my baby boy for the first time. So thank you, Maman and Dad, for loving me like I love Jacob.