in which I try the blood-absorbing underpants

Shortly after Bumby was born, when my mother-in-law discovered that we were planning to cloth diaper him, she told me about her experiences working in hospitals in the ’60s and ’70s. Disposable diapers were relatively new, and the new mothers were afraid of them. What were they made of, that they could absorb such massive quantities of liquid without feeling wet? The prevailing fear was that they would absorb all of the water right out of the baby, leaving nothing but a shriveled up husk lying in the crib.

It was with this same sense of trepidation and awe that I purchased the blood-absorbing period underwear.

In case you are not familiar, they are called Thinx, although for some reason in my head I always call them Spanx. I don’t know why. I realize that this is another brand with an “x” where there should be a “ks,” but common misspelling aside, I don’t know why I get the two brands confused. You may be familiar with Thinx because of their bizarre ad campaign involving women covering up each other’s ears and eyes:

Covering-Eyes-2

or falling to the ground:

fainting woman

I have no idea what these ads are supposed to convey (maybe she has fainted from lack of blood?). Also, the orange and brown is not that flattering.  Anyway.

Now is the part of the post where you hear a lot about my particular period. Fair warning.

Despite exclusively breastfeeding, I was lucky enough to start my period right away, six weeks after Bumby was born. Thanks, body, that was awesome of you. I was still sore, and did not want to wear tampons. “Fortunately,” I had a huge pack of super-sized overnight pads in my wife’s closet, and even some of those free hospital underwear to put them in, so as not to ruin my beloved maternity underwear (I seriously love and still wear my maternity underwear). I was sexy, y’all. Since then, my period has followed a familiar pattern:

Day 1 – Light flow, always a fucking surprise now that I am no longer tracking my cycle.
Day 2 – Super heavy in the morning, then gradually tapering off to something normal. Need to wake up to change tampon at least once overnight in order to avoid a murder scene in bed in the morning. Almost always ruin at least one thing because of walking all the way to the bathroom at work and forgetting to bring a tampon, or not realizing that one hour has passed so clearly I am about to start hemorrhaging all over the place.
Day 3 – Same as day 2.
Day 4 through ??? – Very light, just enough that I have to wear something all day or I ruin underwear and clothes, but not enough that I can really use a tampon because pulling out a dry tampon hurts like a mother and yet you can’t leave it in because of toxic shock and all kinds of other grossness. Usually at some point I “forget” I am on my period and just wear dark underwear and hope for the best. I never know how long my period actually lasts because my annoyance and “forgetting” ranges from day 5 to day 7 and I don’t know when it actually ends.

So, there it is. I still don’t love tampons, since Bumby was born. I just feel a little uncomfortable still, and don’t really like putting bleach and asbestos and who knows what else in my vagina more than I have to. Don’t say diva cup at me, either, I just can’t. So I thought, what the hell, I will give these things a try.

I bought one pair of hip huggers (for heavy days), two sportys and two cheekies (each for medium days). In retrospect, look back at the list above, and ask yourself why a person with two heavy days would only buy one set of “heavy day” underwear? I don’t know. It was stupid of me. Anyway, this ran me about $135.

Do they work?

Yes, they work. I tested this by pouring 1/4 cup of water into one of the pairs before putting them on my body, to make sure I wasn’t about to ruin (yet another) pair of pajama pants or set of sheets. They somehow absorb a lot of liquid while still feeling relatively dry and not getting all bulked up and weird. Science, is all I can say. For the record, I also did not wake up as a shriveled up husk. I am still a normal person with water in my body.

For my first heavy day, I wore one of the medium day underwear as a backup (the cheekies), and used tampons anyway. I was going to work, and could not risk an “issue,” plus even the heavy day Thinx are not designed to absorb 900 tampons worth of blood. The bottom line was that I could relax a little. When I walk all the way to the bathroom and forget to bring a tampon with me, no big deal. I can still take out the old one and just put a new one in next time. That kind of thing. No issues, no smell, not wet feeling, overall pleased.

The second heavy day, I was at home, so I thought I would see what happened if I just wore the Thinx alone. I decided to go to a yoga class that morning for a lot of complicated reasons that are irrelevant here — normally I do not spend my weekday mornings doing yoga, but particular day I did. At the end of the class, I had a feeling much like the feeling I had in seventh grade band class, when I did not expect my period so all that was between me and my ergonomically correct chair were my jeans and white Hanes Her Way. You know the feeling I mean. It’s a scary, scary feeling. I was like, please Spanx, please work. (By Spanx, I meant Thinx, of course.) And they did, but they could not handle what all of the twisting and lunging and warrior poses had caused. Luckily both my yoga pants and the seat of my car are black, so that unnecessary embarrassment was avoided, but let’s just say I need to do the “backup” method for the heavy days, and leave it at that.

For the light days, these things are perfect. I can just go about my business without worrying about the dry tampon problem or wearing pads like I am back in the 7th grade band class and also without ruining anything. Also, my days of waking up overnight to change tampons are over, because I use the Thinx as a backup for the tampon overnight.

Overall, 8 out of 10, I would say.

Washing: You are supposed to rinse them, then cold wash, then dry. The first time I washed them, I rinsed right away and then put them in a wet-bag (the kind you use for cloth diapers) until I had collected enough to wash. But after the fateful yoga class, I was in the shower with my Thinx soaking in the sink. Bumby was tooling around the bathroom doing Bumby things. And wouldn’t you know, that little shit threw my wife’s toothpaste into the sink where my Thinx were soaking. I didn’t even know he was tall enough to reach! Gross. Oh well, at least it wasn’t my toothpaste. So then the next time, I washed them the way I do my cloth diapers – throw them straight into the wet bag all nasty, and then when it’s time for a wash, dump the whole thing into the washer, run them through a cold-water rinse cycle first, then a regular wash cycle. Seems fine.

Now, the cost: I had hoped that these things would prove cost-effective in the long run, like cloth diapering, but because I can’t eliminate tampons all together, I am not sure that is the case. So let’s do some high-school algebra:

5 pairs of Thinx, which is enough to get me through one cycle having 2 washes = $135.

Tampons, in this stupid city where everything is more expensive than it should be = $0.36 each.

Number of tampons before Thinx: Maybe…… 30? or so? = $10.80 per cycle

Number of tampons after Thinx: Maybe…. 10? = $3.60 per cycle (and 1/3 of the bleach, asbestos, etc.)

So that’s a savings of about $7 per month. So these babies are paying for themselves within about 2 years. This is not SO bad, but it’s not going to make all the difference in your budget, either. Especially since, if I could do this again, I’d probably buy 7 or 8 pairs to space out the laundry a little more. I always have this feeling like they are a little scarce, and I am about to run out. And although you technically do not need to change them during the day, I liked to put on a fresh pair at night. I don’t know how long they will last, either — it is possible I will need to buy new ones after two years.  Although, I will have saved a lot more if you think about the number of sheets and pajamas I will have avoided ruining, and my entire family is probably grateful that instead of waking up overnight to change my tampon during a time of the month when I am not at my most patient anyway, I can now sleep through. God and Bumby willing, that is.

one

In 2009, my wife and I talked about having babies. Specifically, I informed my then-girlfriend, who was already the mother of three, that if she did not want to have more babies, that was it. It was a deal-breaker for me. “BABIES,” I said, “plural. Not BABY.”  I wanted, specifically, two babies.  Also, she had to want the babies, not just be willing to go through it for me. Because babies should be wanted, all of them, each of them. There is a big difference between wanting a baby and agreeing to have a baby because the person that you love wants one. She did not answer right away. She said she would think about it, and come back to me. And she did.  A day or so later, she said she was in. Whole-heartedly in.  Babies I wanted, and babies I would have.

And then, you know, life happened. For one reason or another, it wasn’t time to start trying to conceive until late in 2013. Then it took us nearly a year to get pregnant. So it wasn’t until six years after that original conversation that we had our first baby together.

By the time Bumby was born, the other kids were kind of… old. The next-youngest was 9, and the oldest was 14. Having another child when your next-youngest is 9 is very different from having another child when your next-youngest is 3.  To further complicate matters, the Big One was decidedly moody about the topic of adding a fourth child to our nest, and made those moods known throughout the entire experience of talking about a baby, getting pregnant with a baby, being pregnant with a baby, and having a baby. It was, frankly, rather miserable for my wife and me. Although Bumby and the Big One are fast friends now, it is far from clear that she in particular, or any of the older kids more generally, would welcome another addition with open arms.

Then there is my wife. She agreed to babies, this is true. She knows she agreed to babies. But she has reneged. She is happy with our family of six. She is not getting any younger, and although she loves our children fiercely, she also looks forward to our empty nest years (as do I!). She would like to have those empty nest years when she is still young enough to do fun empty nest things and does not have to take too many prescription medications. Before I ever got pregnant with Bumby, she made it clear. She wanted this one more child very much, but only this one more child.

So that leaves me.  I wanted babies. I have been quite clear on this, always. I did not want just one pregnancy, just one baby. But I agreed to stop after one, because I still feel just as I did in 2009, that each child should be wanted by its family. Knowing how the rest of the family felt, I almost hoped that being pregnant would not live up to my expectations. Maybe I would feel about it the way so many women do — it is acceptable as a means to an end, but not altogether a great experience in and of itself. I may even be miserable, or have complications. It is weird to almost hope for these things, but I wanted it to cure me so that I would not yearn to go through it again. So that I would be content with just one baby.  No such luck. I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was at home in my body for the first time since puberty. I felt beautiful. I marveled at the changes and adored having Bumby close to me and with me, always. I wasn’t even really uncomfortable until around 37 weeks, and slept well. Something about the pregnancy hormones agreed with me, and I was just happy the entire time. I can count on one hand the number of times I was angry or sad for the entire pregnancy. Then, I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth just one day past my due date.

After which, I met Bumby. I fell in love with him, hard and fast. Postpartum came with all the rawness and separation and plummeting hormones that it always does. Sometime in those early weeks, I became furious with my wife.  How could she, knowing how amazing it is to have a child, knowing how fast and fierce and primal the love is, how could she say I can’t do it again? When I agreed that maybe just one baby would be enough, I didn’t know what I was giving up. But she has been through this before. She knew what she was asking of me, and she asked it anyway.  How could she? She didn’t answer.

I cooled off, and my hormones balanced out.  I still wanted another child, but I stopped being mad at my wife for being done.  She could not make herself want another child any more than I could make myself not want another child.

My confidence as a parent grew, and I found I can actually manage four kids on my own, while my wife works or has a late dinner. I make decisions about the older kids that I previously would have deferred to my wife. I love them more, and have more patience with them.  Bumby started sleeping, and I started getting my life back. I went back to work part-time, and found a work/life balance that works for me.  Bumby started walking, and talking, and making jokes. I went from staring at him adoringly, to interacting with him. The love grew. I got my hair cut, without Bumby in my lap. I left Bumby with the sitter so I could go to the 5th grade science fair with his big brother. I started planning our spring garden, now that I have a fun toddler to plant it with, instead of a baby who won’t be set down long enough for me to plant even one tomato plant. I became me again. But now, me with Bumby.

And you know what?  I can’t imagine having another baby. I sometimes would like to have an afternoon of baby Bumby back, where we just nurse and nap and I eat strawberries in the sunshine while he stares at his own hand. My pregnancy and our first year as a family of six were the hardest and most wonderful months of my life, and I will remember them forever. But I don’t want to do them again, and I don’t want to do them with another baby.  I am done, with one.  I am sure that I will still have my moments of longing, but in the main I am, shockingly, at peace with this.

Before Bumby was born, we were a blended family. A family, yes, but there always seemed to be shifting alliances — me on the one side and my wife and the kids on the other, or the adults on one side, and the kids on the other.  Various divisions. Bumby has brought us all together. We have gone from a collection of people, to a whole family. One family. We are all brought together by loving this little guy more than we thought we ever could. We don’t need another baby, because we are complete now. I don’t need another baby, because I had the baby I was meant to have. Thanks, Bumbs.