I recently read a post (and a slew of supporting comments) on a popular parenting blog about birth plans and why you shouldn’t have one. Yes, you read that right — why you shouldn’t. I get where the author is coming from. Can birth be unpredictable? Sure. Can having a vision of your ideal birth set you up for disappointment if it doesn’t go exactly as you had planned? Absolutely. The birth of a child is, after all, a day that most of us have thought of and wondered what it would be like since we were children. I know I did.
But you know what is likely even more disappointing than maybe not getting your ideal birth? Getting railroaded into unnecessary interventions during your birth because you didn’t know you could say “no.” Feeling completely and utterly unsupported during your labor and delivery because you unknowingly picked a hospital with an unprecedented 50 percent C-section rate. Suffering birth trauma or postpartum depression or anxiety as a result of what happened to you in the hospital on a day you spent years dreaming about, but no time planning for.
When you’re a parent, holidays mean a lot more than eggnog and bloody marys all day. Don’t get me wrong, they can mean that, too. But they also mean one thing for sure- that you will most definitely lie your ass off to your kids for the sake of holiday spirit. Or tradition. Or some other reason. I’m really not quite clear on it yet.
This past weekend was Easter and though I didn’t go all out giving gifts or hiding eggs everywhere or making bunny crafts (don’t worry the obscene number of grandparents and great-grandparents my daughter has tend to take care of all that anyway) I did get her a good old chocolate Easter bunny who appeared in her basket Sunday morning. (Okay, so it was some time around 10 am when she came up from watching cartoons and I remembered it was Easter and popped it on the kitchen table with a handful of plastic grass. Give me a break, I’m more and more pregnant all the time).
So she walked in and I casually said, “oh looks like the Easter bunny left you a little something.” She was ecstatic and joyous and carried the chocolate bunny around like she had just won first prize in a dawdling contest (or something else my daughter would equally rock at). But it wasn’t long before her questions started rolling in. She wanted to know how the Easter bunny got into our house, where he got the green plastic grass and also how he made it. She asked why he brought it to her in the first place and who else was he going around giving chocolate bunnies to and she also seemed to find it very unfair that he had left nothing for her father and I. Though she got over feeling sorry for us quickly when she realized we had already eaten half the reeses peanut butter cups and peanut m&m’s her grandfather gave her. Okay, fine. I ate them.
I answered her questions to the best of my ability, trying to keep it a bit vague and also not blurt out “it’s all a lie! We’re lying to you, there’s no bunny! Get with the program!” But the questions kept coming. She didn’t want to let me off the hook. She was too intrigued by this mysterious bunny going into people’s homes and leaving chocolate because let’s face it- that’s pretty freaking weird and also mildly terrifying, no?
The same was true at Christmas this past year, the first year she even really bothered paying much attention to the whole Santa thing. Like, what the hell was this guy’s deal and how do reindeer fly and are you really, really sure about all this? Like “for real? Not really, though, right?” or “Let me get this straight…” was how she liked to put it.
If I’m being honest (ha) the whole thing is totally weird to me and I don’t know why I keep up with these lies. My daughter has enough imagination to fuel the world without me making up freaky bunnies and bearded men. I kind of can’t wait until the day (which at this rate, I’m guessing is rapidly approaching) when I can say, “yeah… I’m the Easter bunny. And Santa. And your goldfish did not turn into a mermaid when we flushed him down the toilet. He’s dead as a doornail but his life was complete and utter crap swimming around in that mucky water that I never bothered to clean so, it’s all good. But, please don’t hate me.”
When you have a baby, people are full of advice. Some of it is really good and totally helpful, especially when it comes with a bottle of wine or a gift card. But then there’s the advice that isn’t helpful in the least, which somehow you may find yourself dolling out once you’re the experienced mother…
1. “Enjoy every moment.” This actually makes my skin hot. Like, instantaneously everyone started acting like I should be enjoying everything like I was on spring break in Cabo or something. I had breast milk dried to my fat rolls and bags under my eyes for months. (Wait, scratch that. Four years). Suddenly, I have the toughest job I’ve ever had and I’m supposed to enjoy it all? Like every. waking. moment? Shit. Truth be told, I was not enjoying very many moments when I had a newborn screamy-screamer. Sure, I was head-over-heels in love, obsessed even, with my new baby. But I was exhausted beyond anything I’d ever come close to experiencing. My boobs ached. My back ached. I was alone almost all of the time and my baby screamed bloody murder through most of each and every ten hour day when my husband was at work. I thought sleeping and showering were gone from my life forever. People telling me to enjoy every moment started to make me feel like I was doing something terribly, terribly wrong. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the reason people say this is because they totally forgot to enjoy every moment and they didn’t want us to make the same mistake. They also clearly forgot exactly why they didn’t enjoy them.
Since my 29th birthday is juuuust around the corner (Aries, baby), I figured I better make a lofty list of goals for the next year that I probably won’t achieve. Not to sound like a Debbie-Downer! It’s just, I’ll have a new baby (and an old one) and um, yeah okay, that’s about it but… that’s a lot! I’m not sure how I’m going to have time to keep up with my writing “career” (I use that term loosely) or yoga-ing myself back into a human-being or, really, anything aside from wiping butts all-the-live-long-day.
But I still think it’s important to have goals! Goals you might not achieve but at least aim for. Goals that keep you sane in the middle of the night when you feel like your life has turned into an endless stream of feedings and diaper changes, feedings and diaper changes and wondering how you got into this mess and will you ever find your way out? Or, maybe that’s just me.
I’m not worried about turning 30. I don’t mind getting older and I hear thirties are awesome. They are also the new twenty. By the time I’m 30 they’ll be the new 18 basically so, I’m pretty much sold. But either way, it feels like I should have something to show for myself by the time I get to the big 3-0, aside from the two smelly butts I’ll be wiping. And I mean that lovingly.
Here are 30 things I’d like to accomplish over the next year and if I don’t, it’s really not that big of a deal.
1. Do yoga everyday. Even if it’s just meditating or deep-breathing and even if it’s only for ten minutes.
2. Read a book from start to finish. More specifically a book that isn’t about parenting, child-rearing, mothering, identity-crisis’s or babies.
3. Have a date night at least once a month that doesn’t end at 8 o’clock.
4. Go to a beach. Lay in the sun. Drink margs.
5. Paint more.
6. Knit more. Something besides hats.
7. Write a children’s book with Piper with hopes of turning it into a series.
8. Go camping. And find away to escape the mosquitoes from murdering me and only me, yet again.
9. Make more money than I made this year. Ha! That shouldn’t be too hard.
10. Write for a new publication.
11. Create a weekly yoga video for readers.
12. Take a class.
13. Teach a class.
14. Don’t watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
15. Breastfeed when and where I want to.
16. Take a nap. That’s right, just one. Let’s not go crazy here.
17. Do things with other moms.
18. Do things with people other than moms.
19. Take Piper on more play-dates.
20. Make a healthy dinner at least four nights a week.
21. Don’t yell, ever, at all.
22. Try a new food trend. A cleanse? Paleo? Something that doesn’t suck, obv.
23. Be mostly happy.
24. Have two or three wine-less nights a week, every week.
25. Do a yoga challenge for a month.
26. Don’t feel guilty about working (ha).
27. Get rid of cable.
28. Go outside everyday for an hour.
29. Be a better wife.
30. Finish my “book” even if it’s just 150 pages of crap that ends up sitting on my “desk” in the basement.
That’s about all I’ve got! If I cover half of those I’ll be pretty satisfied but why not shoot for the moon. What are your goals this year?
Four years ago, a daughter came bursting into my world, splitting it, and me, wide open. The pregnancy was long and difficult, filled with nausea that lasted until the day she was born. When she arrived she cried harder than I ever knew such a tiny person could. I loved her instantly but she was one hard as hell baby.
Motherhood took a lot of adjusting for me. I’d been living a booze-fueled life for as long as I could remember. But my daughter became the change I never knew I wanted. Luckily, my relationship with her musician-by-night, electrician-by day-father survived the earth shifting beneath our feet and four years later, we were ready to “try” and have another baby.
Having your first baby is not really scary. Well, it is in some ways (like ‘holy shit how am I going to not take shots for nine months?! Are you effing kidding me??’) But you don’t exactly know what to expect and I mean that in a good way. The fist time pregnant moms I meet (and once was) are generally so blissed out on picking baby names and paint colors that the stark reality of parenting is so so so incredibly far off.
I don’t mean this negatively at all. It’s exactly where you want to be when you’re expecting for the first time and it’s a warped reality we should all allow these mamas-to-be (hopefully none of whom are reading this). But no one wants to hear about how they are never going to sleep again or how their lives will change so much more than they could ever wrap their prenatal heads around. NO ONE. And they won’t believe you anyway so don’t even try. It comes off kind of mean, as do labor horror stories. I remember confidently not batting an eyelash thinking, “well, that won’t happen to me.” Or, “I’ll train my kid to sleep the right way’ and most importantly, “it’ll be FINE. People have babies all the time!”.
I totally remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait till this baby comes, then I’ll actually be able to get some sleep!’ BAH. Then I was awake for days between labor and delivery and our hospital because who can sleep in a hospital between nursing and visits and people coming in every hour or two to check you. Then I got home and never slept again. Well, never through the night again. Pretty much. My kid is four and still comes in at least twice a night, once because she needs to potty and once because “I just love you too much” and how can you argue with that at 3 am? Even though it’s so not as cute at 3 am as it sounds now but still kind of cute. Kind of.
There was a long, long period of time when I thought baby two would never be. I didn’t have that call to procreate. In fact, I’d never ever felt it, not in the slightest and I sort of doubted I ever would. But then the word “never” started to catch up with me. When my daughter was 3 1/2 I started realizing that if I didn’t want kids more than five years apart, now was the time. Like, yesterday was the time. I really did want her to grow up with a sibling, not that I believe that is the best or only way to raise kids. I think only children can be quite content. There is actually a lot of research that says many are better adjusted and are less lonely later in their lives because they’ve grown accustomed to entertaining themselves. And financially, we’d be able to do more for one child than for two. There were a lot of practical reason to only have one kid and really only one reason to have more.
I didn’t feel done.
So we jumped. Leapt. I really feel that this time, like it was a giant leap of faith. Because I have so much more fear and anxiety about having a second baby than I did a first. Knowledge is not always power. Knowledge can be a mean, evil taunter. It reminds me how hard it is to be awake all day and then all night with a new baby who nurses constantly and retain any level of brain activity. It reminds me how difficult it is to do simple things like get dressed or shower or eat a sandwich with an infant attached to your boob. It reminds me that everything I own will be soon covered in baby vomit once again and how I’ll feel guilty about doing almost anything that doesn’t involve nursing, swaddling, rocking or playing. Oh, and how getting poop in your mouth is really not all that abnormal. Plus, this time I’ll be doing it all while wrangling my OTHER kid and trying to remain some semblance of a work/life/mamahood balance. Uhhhhh. Whaat.
Sure, I know how to warm a bottle and I know the The Five S’s (swaddle, shhhing, sucking, swinging, side/stomach, OKAY FINE I just googled them because I forgot). But ignorance is also totally bliss and knowledge is also totally frightening. Apparently, women’s bodies produce a hormone that makes them forget the pain of labor and the difficulty of new parenthood. I read that somewhere but I mean, it must be true because we just keep doing it over and over and over again. But I think my body missed that hormone. I make too many of the pukey kinds and not enough of the forgetting kind.
So I do what any fearful, sane mama-to-be (again) does.
I smile, OM, and tell myself “it’ll be fine, people have second babies all the time.”