The Insane Business of Baby-Having

The Insane Business of Baby-Having

I am a few weeks away from giving birth to my second child, which makes me the world’s pre-eminent authority on the subject of having babies. As my husband and I prepare the nursery and ponder what life will look like when we are a family of four, I feel it necessary to share some observations I’ve gained over two rounds of pregnancy. And here is the first one: EVERYTHING ABOUT HAVING A BABY IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

What, you thought it was magical? Let me guess: the person who told you that is a parent him/herself, motivated by the not-entirely-selfless goal of getting your to join our ranks. “Being a mom is just everything,” you’ll hear, as your formerly put-together friend wipes vomit from her sleeve. “I mean, it changed me in the best way.” As she stares vacantly through you with bloodshot eyes, you’ll wonder why something so magical results in a look ripped off from The Walking Dead’s set.

Well, I’m here to tell you the truth. Parenthood is a cult whose members are more strident than those Jehovah’s Witnesses teenagers, and there is some misinformation out there. Like anything else in this world, this is an endeavor with some good, some bad, and some ugly packed into it, and I do not want you showing up on my doorstep in a few years with an eight-pound package in tow screaming, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME HE WOULD PISS IN MY MOUTH??!!” So let’s get down to brass tacks. In fact, I’ll pause to allow you to mix a quick drink, because you’re going to need it (and give me a sip, why don’t you? I’m third trimesterit’s cool).

1) We’ve all heard about the sleeplessness. And some people will tell you that those moments in the middle of the night with just you and your little one are among the most magical bonding times you’ll ever have. Well, I would like to invite those people to politely go to hell. I found the round-the-clock schedule to be absolute torture. And oh hey, guess what? SLEEP DEPRIVATION IS ACTUALLY USED AS A FORM OF TORTURE! What a coincidence! So if you find yourself responding to that 3 am cry, once again, with less than ethereal excitement over the magical bonding experience in which you’re about to partake, consider yourself among the segment of the population who has never listed “Being a POW” as one of their personal life goals.

2) As I was being wheeled down the hospital hallway for my C-section, the nurse told me to get ready: while the past nine months had been all about me, things were about to change. And how. She said that all attention in the room would immediately switch to the baby and stay there. I didn’t realize she meant forever. Cut to me a few minutes later, wondering if they were going to let me see my kid and then realizing I was about to hurl/faint due to loss of blood. “Can I get some drugs?” I whispered weakly to the nurse standing beside me, who finally turned my way and, I assume, saved my life. It’s a startling about-face: for the better part of a year, everyone is all up in your junk (figuratively and literally) about your health, what you’re eating, how you’re feeling. And in an instant, that’s over. You’re a crazy-haired milk dispensary working the graveyard shift as everyone coos over The Blessed Child who, let’s be honest, looks like E.T. and just poops and cries all day/night.

3) Your body takes a beating. I can only speak for those of us who delivered our babies through the abdominal cavity, but you should expect for things to be different once a child has emerged from your nethers. And some of it will never bounce back. I won’t get into details hereyou’re welcome. But I will never be able to out on a bathing suit again without adjusting it around The Scar. And as my sister, who had a traditional delivery, reacted when I told her my doctor said I could try for that if this baby isn’t breech: “So you’re thinking about tearing up TWO sections of your body?”

4) You know how, after you’ve had any other kind of trauma/major surgical procedure, people want to do something nice for you? Like, they’ll send you a card, or make dinner and bring it by? And then, they’ll leave? Well. When you have a baby, people don’t leave. Oh sure, the baby screams or poops and your guests are all checking their watches and “I have thisthinggotta go!” But until then, expect your surroundings, be they hospital room or home, to turn into a hotel. You’re sitting there trying to feed your baby from the squirt gun your chest has become, and people are milling around like it’s cocktail hour on the Lido Deck. Spoiler alert: hospital doors don’t have locks. Double spoiler alert: people read that “IT’S A BOY/GIRL!” announcement by your mailbox as a VACANCY sign and will roll in like Cousin Eddie at Christmas. And the shitter is so full, y’all. If you’re an introvert like me and my husband, this scenario is your own worst post-apocalyptic nightmare. Your space is no longer your own: first it was just burp cloths and bottles, now you’re tripping over Aunt Edna’s back issues of AARP magazine and wondering when, for God’s sake, you’ll ever be alone again. Short answer: never. But it helps to set boundaries, like a sign on the doorbell reading “Push this button and you die” or a heads-up as to when visiting hours end (five minutes after you get back from the bathroom for your pee/crying break). It helps if you have an ally among the multitudinous guests who earns her rentmine is my mom, who walks in with her exit strategy already discussed, scrubs the toilets, makes every dinner, cleans my kitchen according to the manifesto I wrote, and lets my dad sit this part out, since he is “helpful with diaper-changing” in the same way The Rock is “an Oscar-winning actor.” Seriously, I would love to find the first new mother who made guests think it was okay to stay as long as they wantedI bet she’s related to the first widow who told everyone at the church, “Stop by the house after the funeral and I’ll make you all some chicken salad seasoned with my tears!” Insane.

5) Finally, for the craziest thing. You’ve got this little alien-looking Picasso-with-poop ruling your life, your own little giraffe in the room, and you’ve never been more tired, confused, or afraid. Yet somehow, through all the dark and disorienting moments, you will feel a glimmer of hope. And you’ll look down at this tiny face that shows no recognition of who you are and what you’ve done for it, and you will be consumed by a love so powerful it hurts. Actually hurts. Especially in the hoo-ha. You will know, in that instant, that your life will never truly be your own again and that this fact is somehow God’s/the universe’s greatest gift to you, ever. I’m not saying you’ll never look back with nostalgia on the carefree life you once led, or that you’ll never hide in the closet with a bottle of Jim Beam until the voices in your head die down to a dull roar, but: you will know, as you watch this tiny terror become a real person, that you have never done anything more important in your life. (Now will someone please remind me of that in a couple of months?)

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