If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading Mommy Blogs, it’s that love for one’s child is totally independent of actually enjoying the day-to-day life of being a parent.
Parents are human.
Parents get tired.
Parents get stressed.
Parents sometimes need TWO FREAKING MINUTES without another human being clinging to them.
Yet many women tend to romanticize parenthood, and then the overwhelming reality of baby care tends to gobsmack us. Women everywhere are struggling with accepting this, and it’s a feminist act, a step towards sanity and freedom, to say “it’s okay to find this really damn stressful, and you can hate the individual moments while still loving your baby.”
So people have been telling me from the moment they found out I was pregnant that this was going to be awful. They tried their best to prepare me for the fact that no matter how ready you think you are for that baby, the screaming and the sleep deprivation and changing the diaper that you JUST CHANGED TEN MINUTES AGO will get to you, eventually.
“Sleep while you can!” they would tell me, as if I could store the sleep in the jar for when I would really need it.
“Want mine?” they would leer threateningly, looking vaguely hopeful that I would say “yes” and take their devil child off of their hands forever.
“Babies are false advertising, you know,” I was reminded.
“You won’t be getting sex again for at least six weeks after the baby is born,” the OB warned PH with a cruel laugh.
People have been telling and telling us how insanely difficult we would find parenthood. The love I would have for my baby was touted as a consolation prize that would help make up for all of the inherent awfulness.
I believed them. I had learned from the Puppy Incident that life just doesn’t go by the book, and that reality really likes to smack you in the face with a metaphorical dead trout. So I tried to prepare myself. I didn’t want to be all “I’m so disillusioned” while the Mommy Blogging community laughed and said “told you so!” I also knew that I was at a high risk of Post Partum Depression, since I was already on antidepressants and still struggling with blues through my pregnancy.
In order to properly slaughter any romantic notions that might have been frolicking innocently in my brain, I subjected myself to every horror story I could find. I read It Sucked, And Then I Cried, and Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, and prepared myself for similar crazy. I expected PPD and an increase of my antidepressants. I hoped I wouldn’t have to contend with colic, sure that a screamer would push me round the bend.
I did get a screamer.
Some days, like yesterday, he nurses almost constantly for the whole day, and wakes up and cries if I put him down. The house is a mess. My Perfect Husband is overworked and sleep deprived and constantly berating himself for not being able to do everything, including lactation.
So when I went to see the shrink on Wednesday, and she asked me how I was doing, we were both surprised by my answer.
I’m doing awesome.
I love motherhood.
Even when Babby won’t sleep all day and insists on spending the entire day hanging off of my nipple like a lamprey, until I feel literally drained… I’m still pretty happy. The PPD hasn’t arrived. Between the two of us, I think that poor Perfect Husband, what with having to get up early in the morning after the late nights of Babby-wrangling, is closer to the edge than I am.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my moments. Caring for the baby is very time consuming, so the dishes go unwashed and the floor goes unswept, especially on days when he just doesn’t want to be put down. PH has to pick up the slack. Sometimes I sit there, being sucked on for hours on end, and glare at poor PH, who has the unimaginable freedom to move around the house unencumbered almost all the time. As much as he tries to help with diaper changes and baby snuggling, the incessant demands for booba mean that I am still the one with the baby 90% of the time, even on weekends. It isn’t PH’s fault. It isn’t even his preference. He wants to care for his baby. If he could lactate, I’m sure he would. But he can’t, and I can. And sometimes, that sucks.
But I wouldn’t switch places with him in a million years. Because honestly? I like having something to take care of. I loved taking care of my crazy, always-awake, totally-active, needs-constant-supervision puppy. I even loved Tamagotchis when they were all the rage, and all they would do in return for my constant care was beep at me demandingly. So I like caring for someone who depends on me, love being so important to another living thing. I love thinking of ways to make their life better. I love cuddling something that is MINE.
That part… that’s everything I fantasized. BETTER, because I believed the horror stories over my own fantasies, so I didn’t think it would actually be this awesome. But it is. I love snuggling my baby, and even when he is screaming and looking at me with the most rageful expressions, I just keep thinking “Aw. You’re so cute when you pout like that” and then I kiss his cheek while he goes “Aaa! Aaah! Aaaaah!” in my ear.
When he sleeps for more than an hour or two at a time, I am deeply grateful. But when he wakes up, I’m grateful too, because when he’s sleeping I really miss the little bastard. I’m delighted to be able to pick him up and hug him again; reunited after a long separation.
I like smiling into his eyes, the eyes that look at me so seriously and then stare off in the distance while his brow furrows. Those eyes are so human, so thoughtful, and I know he’s wondering what it’s all about. I want him to know that it’s all about how loved he is. I want those eyes to grow up to see the world with confidence, and joy. And I want his life to start with a smiling mother who always answers his cries with unconditional love. So even when I’m feeling stressed and drained, I make a point of smiling at him anyway, and we both feel happier because of it.
Besides, the screaming is getting less and less. There’s a lot more smiling and a lot less screaming than there was three weeks ago, and his smiles are so joyful that he made a whole crowd of female employees at PH’s work go “awwww!” in unison when he graced them with one.
Parenthood comes with all the strains and difficulties that I was warned about. What no one told me is that I could have them all and still think it was pretty fun.
No one told me that I might actually like this job.