People have a lot of stuff to tell you about new babies.
Everyone tells you: Is the baby fed? Then that’s enough!
Perhaps this is meant as reassurance that it’s okay to merely survive. I can see that. But for me day-to-day survival on a long-term basis is not enough. Just feeding the baby is not enough. Just feeding the baby and showering is not enough. Just feeding the baby, showering, and feeding myself is not enough. Maybe I’ve set my expectations bar too high but I require more from my life to feel happy and balanced. I need… exercise and outside stimulation and some sense of linear productivity. I need to be able to find a faint outline of my old autonomous self in the shadow I cast on each day.
Now that we’re out of the early newborn trenches and my body has healed some, it’s easier to recognize myself. But honestly, there are still plenty of times where I look up and realize it’s afternoon and all I’ve done so far in the day is pump and feed the baby while scarfing down half a bag of trail mix. Telling me I’m supposed to shrug and be okay with this doesn’t make it any easier. I typically need a lot of alone time and a lot of order and structure in my life, and the loss of these things has been an acute grief. Which is why it really chaps my ass when…
Everyone tells you: Just sleep when the baby sleeps!
You don’t have a baby in a goddamn vacuum. The stupid thing about your life with a baby is that it continues more or less without you, and every day that passes means digging out from under a bigger mountain of laundry, bills, chores, packages, and thank-yous. It can drive you crazy if you let it, and I do. I let it drive me crazy every fucking day.
Spending all day every day in your pajamas in bed might seem enviably appealing right up until the moment it starts making you feel like a convalescing shut-in. For me, this occurs after ten minutes. Also, listen, a baby does not make for a great bedmate. I could make a list of 7,000 other things I’d rather lounge in bed with over my baby, including a pile of rusty switchblades and liver-lovin’ Eugene Victor Tooms.
Let’s put it another way. Taking care of a baby feels like being in jail part-time. You change the baby, feed the baby (mine typically takes over an hour! To eat! Like some kind of fussy gourmand! Who dines more than a dozen times per day!), and finally get her to go to sleep or dump her in someone else’s arms, and then the warden comes and unlocks the cell. You’re free! Sometimes it only lasts for 10 minutes, but goddamn it, you’re finally free! Do you want to spend those precious minutes lying around, or do you want to a) poop b) cram peanut butter toast down your gullet c) rinse the stench off of yourself d) pay your rent/mortgage before you accrue another late charge? I am not you, but if you were me, you’d be thinking you’d better damn well take advantage of a sleeping baby to, like, PERSON for a minute before the warden comes to lock you back up.
I don’t like that warden.
Everyone tells you: You’ll never sleep again!
You know, come to think of it, you’re right. Well do I remember waking up every morning as a child to find my parents standing over my bed anxiously watching me, hands cracked to bleeding from wringing them so hard. Even today, after being out of their house for nearly as long as I was in it, they don’t dare catch a few winks. They just spend their nights pacing and repeatedly wondering aloud whether I’m okay or not. It’s a shame but this is the way it has to be. Once you procreate there is simply no more sleep until the sweet embrace of death.
Everyone tells you: Enjoy every minute of this! Just soak it in!
Okay, so I’m supposed to find watching my baby doze with my boob in her mouth personally fulfilling! Noted.
Everyone tells you: You think this is hard, just wait ’til they’re teething/crawling/walking/driving!
Thanks for your time.