story /Lindsey Goldstein
So let’s imagine you’re one of those girls who has always wanted a baby. When you were little, you had dollies and liked to push them in tiny strollers. People would smile and think how cute you were that your maternal instincts were already pushing through like a little daisy. Sometimes you might even think, maybe I’m ready?
Or there’s the other kind of girl who didn’t necessarily think she wanted to have a baby, but perhaps last month she was having sex with that really hot guy she’d been eyeing at the super hip gym she goes to down the street. He finally noticed her and that fateful night was her chance after having too many drinks with him at the bar post grueling cardio barre workout. When it came time to do the deed, he gave her a pouty look (so hot!) and said he didn’t have a condom, but it was cool, right? He promised he’d been tested and after some quick mental calculations about when her last period was, she said just do it already. But she royally screwed up. And suddenly, “Oh yeah! She’s having a baby!”
Oh wait, that’s a totally 1980s movie reference and isn’t that actress the mother in DOWNTON ABBEY now? Nonetheless, Girl 2 is super open-minded and thinks of all the people who want perfectly good babies but can’t have one. So maybe she’ll just figure it out?
Let’s go back to scenario numero uno. That dolly that you used to play with and imagine was going to be just like your precious little one is actually more akin to the baby dolls that pee and vomit all over you every time they’re fed. And to the girl who thinks she can do it all herself: you probably could. But it would suck royally. The whole it takes a village thing. There’s something to it.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my daughter. I smile just thinking about her. But sometimes, I sigh and think about what life was like before I ceased having my life to myself. Let’s break it down to the nitty gritty:
1) I got pregnant. I was lucky, I’ll admit. I was 36 years old and the odds of getting pregnant at my “advanced maternal age” were slim, especially the first try. But it happened and I cried like a baby because I wasn’t ready. I thought, ingrate that I was, it would take at least a year so I would have time to get my business off the ground, enjoy being married a little longer, and relish being carefree. Oh, and drinking.
But shit happens. It was an uneventful pregnancy as pregnancies go. I got fat and then I had a baby. My first utterance when she came out was “Oh, she’s actually cute!” I had been harboring the secret fear that she’d be hideous. The nurse actually gave me a dirty look when I dared to speak my first thought out loud. I didn’t garner any more affection from her when I later asked if I should wait a few minutes before piercing my newborn’s ears. The nurse was apparently unable to detect the humorous tone in my voice.
2) So we went home. I couldn’t believe there was a teensy tiny person in the back of my car. Before my daughter, I had a bit of a case of leadfoot. Now I drive like a little old lady, obeying the signs and keeping my hands at ten and two. The crushing sense of responsibility for this person’s life is never going to go away. I can tell.
3) At home, I quickly realized that whole vomiting, shitting, peeing dolly metaphor is indeed accurate. A newborn is a sieve. You put milk in it and it promptly spews out some orifice. Sometimes I would breastfeed her (oh and the PAIN that ensued for the first week of doing that! Don’t even get me started on how you will transform into one of those dogs with the giant nipples you see wandering the streets of South America) and as she was feeding, poo would shoot out of her, occasionally exploding out of the diaper and down her leg. Or onto my shirt. Or down my own leg. I just got used to it. And to doing A LOT of laundry.
4) Time passed. She got cuter and pooped less. And I’ll be honest: life fell into a normal routine. I returned to work. My husband and I were able to go out for an occasional date. But any sense of spontaneity in life disappeared. Those weekends in the Hamptons or to Miami that you get to run off to now? Gone. Wanna go see a movie and maybe bang out some karaoke after? Hell no. I revise that. If you’re Kim Kardashian or someone like that, no worries. But for the normal set, life is planned. Each day is planned, dates with your husband are planned, and trips have to be planned very carefully. Even sex has to be planned much of the time. Hmm, let’s see. I have about ten minutes at 9:50 so that I can still get my eight hours in. Yup, you must be with the child most of the day or have someone else watch her or you will be arrested.
5) Any savings you think you’re gonna have, forget about. Have extra spending money for that awesome Fendi clutch you’ve been angling for? Nope. Just take that money and flush it. Babies are tiny but require an inordinate amount of money to maintain. Sort of like German cars. And each time you go out with said baby you have to tote about five bags. After packing up my car, I marvel at how many outfit changes, diapers, snacks, and toys are needed for one person. I am allowed one small purse.
6) So traveling. Let’s talk about that. Because it’s something I used to LOVE to do. Not anymore. Tiny babies are easy. They’re like luggage. They just go with you, but you’re not allowed to put them in the overhead bin. Then they get a little older and more vocal and mobile. And then life sucks. People on the plane hate you when they scream or run around. But I now know that toddlers scream more if you keep them in their seats. My husband and I took our daughter to Hawaii as a family getaway. On the flight out, we almost caused a newlywed couple to divorce because our daughter – who is tall for her age – decided to kick the back of their seat the entire way. The woman wouldn’t move her seat, we couldn’t move because airlines don’t allow children to sit on ends and ultimately, the woman screamed at her husband that he should do something about the situation. For five glorious hours. We felt bad…for the husband. On the flight back, our daughter decided to scream the ENTIRE way home no matter what we did to console her. We suspected she was tired but wouldn’t nap. Different passengers stopped by to see if they could help. People were pushing pieces of food at her, toys, crayons. I waited to see if anyone would slap her. At one point, I just decided to pretend that I didn’t know her or my husband. He was a bit upset at me for that.
7) Mealtimes: Oh to eat a meal slowly, without hunching in a corner, shoveling food into my mouth as quickly as the fork will carry it without tiny hands being thrust into my food, picking out the things she’d like to sample, only to promptly shove the half-chewed, discarded item back onto my plate. Most meals I realize that I’m starving afterward because I spent the entire thing making sure my daughter ate something, even if it’s my food. I don’t play that game some parents do where they order food for their children and then just hoover up the leftovers bits for their meal. I enjoy my own food, thank you very much, but the only time I get to enjoy a meal these days are after my daughter has gone to bed or the rare occasion of eating without her.
Sometimes, I like to eat something unhealthy but no can do unless I sneak it without my daughter noticing, because then I’d have to share with her. Since I’m trying to feed her healthy foods, I have to slyly grab a piece of licorice or other tasty treat and gobble it down before she notices. The other day I thought I was being very stealth as I quickly chewed a piece of red licorice and swallowed it before running upstairs to see why my daughter was summoning me. When I approached her, she cocked her head to the side, sniffed my mouth and shouted, “Are you eating candy?!?!?” Game over.
8) My beautiful daughter is VERY vocal for her age and has been able to shout or manipulate me with complete sentences/paragraphs for a long time now. I love that she’s so smart. I don’t like that EVERY single day is a battleground. From the time she wakes up, we have to negotiate what she wears, what she eats, how many walks I’m allowed to take with my dog. She tells me she’ll stay home alone while I walk the dog and when I tell her that a policeman will cart me away if I leave her alone, she crosses her arms and says, “That’s okay. Daddy will come home then.” God love her. And bedtime. Used to be so easy because she was in a crib. I’d just throw her in there with a couple of stuffed animals and she’d sing herself to sleep. Then a bed happened. And now I completely understand why that guy wrote the “Go the F#*& to Sleep” book. If it’s not water, it’s a kiss or a blanket or maybe she wants me to move the position of the moon in the sky. Did I mention that she is not yet three?
So look, I’m all for having kids. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how much I love my daughter and at the end of the day, when she yawns (finally) and hugs me and tells me she loves me, I melt a little. Partially because I’m so tired since she doesn’t nap anymore and demands I entertain her every waking moment like a tiny Mussolini, but also because she’s my little girl and she’s fantastically sassy and confident and makes my world brighter. But man is she a handful. A handful I wouldn’t have ever wished upon my younger self. So enjoy life to the fullest now, gals. Wear condoms until you’re sure you’re ready and think fondly of the little girl and her stroller. Then think of poop running down her leg. Yeah, she may want to wait until she gets a little bit more living out of her system.