People continue to get pregnant despite the overwhelming trauma of being a parent. It’s baffling. And once their adorable round bellies are poking out and they’ve developed that champagne-like glow, the rest of us are all Congratulations! How exciting! Do you know what you’re having? Do you have names picked out? Because what else can we say? If they’re still thinking of names, I always throw out Satchel. The only reason I’d consider another kid is to name it Satchel.
But listen, the rest of us know that becoming a parent is a game-changer. Like, before, you were playing a friendly game of softball in the park on a warm sunny day. And then, just because there’s an extra human being on the team, you’re playing honest-to-Cal-Ripkin baseball in the freezing rain in front of a billion people, and your glove doesn’t fit, and the game lasts about 20 years.
I swear, I keep seeing all these young pregnant women, and I’m a tiny bit jealous. Not because they’re pregnant! Ew! One of the advantages of adopting is not having to spend nine months carrying a moving sack of person and then pushing it out of your vagina. No, I feel envious because of their ready-made explanation for exhaustion, moodiness, weight gain, body aches, and other assorted maladies. I mean, I have all that, too. What’s my excuse?
I’ll tell you my excuse. It’s kids. And this is the part of having a family that nobody discusses with prospective parents, who are busy reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Co-Sleeping For Dummies and Scrapbooking 101. What they really should be reading is every book they’ve ever wanted to read, because BONK. I’m sorry, did I just fall asleep? That’s what happens when I try to read these days.
Now I’ll throw in the requisite paragraph about how much I love my children. Yes. All that. Their sweet kisses and homemade gifts. The way the girly’s nose fits into my neck and my son’s irrepressible smile when he finishes a Lego project. The Diva’s soft hair beneath my hands and her head against my chest. Be still, my heart.
No, really. Be still, my heart, which is aching like a mutha because Growing Up hurts, and watching the Growing Up hurts even more. I doubt the pregnant people or the parents of newborns think about this. Yes, your heart will grow beyond your wildest expectations – which means you’ll feel even worse when it shatters into a million pieces again and again and again.
If you’re pregnant right now, here is my advice:
1. SLEEP. Like the dead. Whenever you can. Don’t even worry about the sleep you’ll miss when your baby is a baby. That’s nothing compared to the sleep you’ll lose when your child feels friendless or didn’t make the team or asks about her birth mother or wonders why Papa had to die.
2. READ. And don’t read baby books. Read great literature, whatever the genre. Devour every book you can. You’ll have plenty of time to watch television in years to come when you’re folding laundry, cooking dinner, scrubbing pee off the bathroom floor, and waiting on hold with Sears, THE WORST FUCKING COMPANY ON THE PLANET, to schedule a dishwasher repair appointment.
3. WATCH. Observe other parents with a different eye. Don’t be all I’ll never be that kind of parent. Because duh. You might be. I never thought I’d let my kid throw a tantrum in the grocery store. But sometimes the milk has to be bought and the child is screaming and there’s nothing you can do except hold down his arms so he doesn’t scratch your face and get out of there as soon as you can. Don’t judge.
4. FOCUS ON THE FOUNDATION. Spend quality time with your parenting partner. Cook dinner together, go to movies, take walks, lay in bed for days – whatever you both like. But don’t waste this time worrying about the nursery or making sure the big house projects are done. There will always be stuff to do. The most important thing you can do for your child right now is strengthen the fabric of your relationship. Nothing is going to test that bond like having a family. The other night Hot Firefighter Husband came home after 36 hours of work and asked if I had a dinner plan, and I looked up from doing the 4th-grader’s homework while simultaneously untangling a piece of string from Teddy’s neck and trying to scrape dried glue off the counter, and sent imaginary poisoned darts into his brain. But we’re strong, us two! So he said, “Why don’t I handle dinner?” That’s marriage.
5. DEFINE YOURSELF. Your life won’t be your own again for a very long time. Almost every day, once you have kids, someone will say to you, Enjoy this time! It flies by! This is a lie. Most days will feel 45 hours long. The only times that really fly are the hours between when school starts and when it ends. You will get tired of the word MOM or DAD. Seriously, you will. My son said my name 32 times before he left for school this morning. Yeah, I counted. Yesterday, I made cookies that nobody liked, cooked a dinner than nobody ate, folded three loads of laundry, taught a CPR class, and pulled a semi-digested paper towel out of the dog’s butt. If a 25-year-old Me had known I would spend even a single day like that, I would have become a crackhead. Figure out who you are so you’ll always be able to find yourself beneath the layers of fabric softener.
Have fun with all that. And OH, I ALMOST FORGOT! CONGRATULATIONS! Every baby’s a blessing.