Friday, April 08, 2011

)en: Kandid About Kids

I'm feeling contemplative but I don't really know what to say.  The main reason i'm here is that my offspring is sleeping and I don't really know what to do with myself. Do you ever feel kind of slothful and listless when it's super sunny in the house and you're sitting in or near the sun in the corner and you're like, it's warm and really bright and i just ate a lot of chocolate and my mouth feels gross, so I guess i'll stare at the computer and type something?  I know I do.  And now is one of those times.

I can't believe my blog is almost 6 years old.  How have i changed, matured, evolved, since I began?  How has the blog?  I don't know. History of reading my journal from when i was a teenager has taught me that my sense of humor has to have gotten astronomically better over the years  (though i had some solid bits here and there back in the day). I'd think the same about the blog except sometimes I'll read through the archives and even the comments and just outright laugh at my own words.  Dang, I was funny! And i feel less funny in modern days.   I'd like to blame that on Julian, like I do with most things.  But hopefully it's just a phase, and will last until I go be productive with myself and get the chocolate out of my mouth. And, the weird thing is, Julian thinks I'm totally funny.  So I don't know what to believe anymore.

Every once in a while I think about what having a kid does to a person's soul, and all the amusing qualities and events that are now part of my life.  For example: Theories. Theories and lessons i have gained or learned now, that i didn't have before.  For example, when I was pregnant, i wanted to shoot people in the face who said things like, "just wait until...."   or "life is going to be SO ______...."  or "i know things you couldn't possibly imagine!"   or phrases like unto it.  This we know. (<-- click on that to see how well i've stayed true to myself. This should be interesting.)  To be candid: I wasn't danged excited. I was mostly terrified out of my skull.  I had worked so hard to love what I had that i was terribly afraid of losing it.   So i spent the last few months of my pregnancy living in my oft-visited Zen Place.

Anyway, so i hated those people (no offense).     But, now, having a bit of hindsight and also current sight, I totally get why those people say those things.  One theory might be that the trauma of it all makes us feel like we've achieved the world's most unbeatable feat and we must declare it to all who are at the door of attempting it.  Perhaps we also feel it our duty to our fellow man to warn them.  The problem is, it does no good, and only adds to stress and fear.  Why? Because it's impossible to know how it's going to be.  I know this now. Thus, I try to refrain from saying such comments to people, though it is tempting.

Here is something as an alternative: Wait to say those things. Don't say them before the baby comes. Wait.  And then as soon as someone has a baby, wait a few weeks, and then send them an eloquent note (anonymous or not) saying "It sucks like CRAP, doesn't it."  I'm not trying to be negative, but even the cheeriest and most adept parents out there have to agree that it sucks like crap at times, particularly the beginning where, as i once told an acquaintance, "I've never felt so naked in the dark."  (<--- LOTR reference, anyone?) This is the time when those words are useful, in my opinion.  It amuses me though, that when i was pregnant, most people put on a happy face and said, "ohhh it's so exciting! Yay for babies! Yayayay i love babies" when, I now realize,  deep down they were chuckling wickedly.   Well played, friends. Well played. But i get it.   Me, I like to do a bit of the in-between. I try to be honest but hopefully not unnecessarily so. And also i try to point out the good things too, since I try to do that for myself each and every day of my life.  

I guess you could say I am a "say what i think i mean" kind of person. I don't just shoot my mouth off, which i might, but I speak my thoughts prematurely, as in, my thought was incomplete, not well-formulated. I'm not even sure that's what i truly think.    Total half-baked idea. It's kind of exhilarating, because if it's a stroke of inspired genius, you were there firsthand to hear it, but I'm still waiting for that to happen. But it might, one day.  It might. So i do that, or i carry out a 10-minute conversation in my head and choose to verbalize one singled out phrase of it, somewhere from the middle. This can either mean i say something inappropriate or incoherent.   It's a lot of fun.

Put simply,  I do try to filter myself, but often things slip out.   I will say things that range from the slightly odd to totally inappropriate, like "yes, new babies are adorable. I can't believe how small they are. How are they alive?? They're still fetuses! Ew, it's so weird. But look how cute..."    If someone mentions how they loooove having new babies vs older, I say, "BLEGGH are you kidding me?? I wish i was an elephant so I could birth a 1-year-old"    And when Sean and I look at pictures on the computer of Julian on the day of his birth, we remark on how beautiful and small and dimply he is, and then i tearily blurt out, "WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!!" 

Ha ha!  I'm sorry.  i do. I did.   But it's not entirely my fault.   I laugh now because, what a horrible thing to say! but it's how i felt, looking at those pictures.  It's not like i was dreading his coming, or regret it, because I wasn't, and don't (mostly),  but I think the experience was somewhat marred by other events. And it was just a little too much for my little brain at the time. And i guess i just wasn't one of those "immediately in love" mothers.  I mean, i loved him with that automatic love that comes from going through so much on behalf of someone else i guess,  but i didn't know him and every time i saw him i was like, who in the hey is this??  How surreal to sit in a chair holding what was allegedly my baby on his Day 2 of Life in a breastfeeding class, as if I was actually going to be the one to perform this monumental service.  More than, I felt that i was in a class in some kind of vague Trauma Center for the Traumatized, and they had provided me with an extremely lifelike Hospital Doll That Belongs To The Hospital.  (I kept looking for his label but never found anything.)

In conclusion, I don't even really know what i set out to say. Lately I feel like i want to write a book or something on the first year of a baby's life, in near hindsight.  I don't claim to be an expert (at least about this) but I only feel that i at last have been doing this long enough to have learned a thing or two (and have even learned to enjoy some--praise the heavens) instead of trying to tread water with bowling balls for feet day after day after day.  And new things will come. And the days will be unfailingly ever-changing, as they maddeningly are. I was thinking about how, in the early days, I dreaded going to bed so much because i couldn't stand the thought of having to wake up and do it all over again.  People would tell me "it gets better" but it was so hard to hear with all the feelings of "I'm being tortured" all around me. (Another tip i would say would be to say those words and often, and also maybe get tattoos of them all up and down your arms, or at least put them on a post-it and stick it to your forehead every day when you wake up.) My life has changed a lot since those days, for which i am grateful.  But there are still the difficult days, the suffocating feelings of uncertainty and naked darkness. And, in those moments, as is the way of the Universe,  just when you think you'll never escape the pit of despair, the clouds open and something happens to give a small yet powerfully bright ray of hope, as I have learned.

Julian Fun Fact: He doesn't really know how to kiss. He can give pretty decent hugs but never kisses, ever.  He loves his stuffed animals violently but he "kisses" them by biting them vigorously on the nose (we're going to have to have some awkward talks when he gets older).  But never has he done a proper kiss.  A few days ago was one of those Torture Days (I am totally random-word-capitalization-happy today) when Julian and I were in a fight all day. We just did NOT see eye-to-eye on anything.  At the end of it, after recounting the day's events using words such as "demon child" and "rat baby,"  I sat on the floor, listless, leaning against the couch with my knees up. Feeling weary and very suspicious, I watched my baby hop on his knees over to me, and slowly walking up, he kissed me on the mouth and hopped away. 


So that's how it's going to be.


Joel said...

You know how they say you can only lift someone up if you're above them, or whatever? The reason current parents say those things to future parents is sometimes the easiest way to pull yourself up is by pushing on those below you. It's like you're passing along a curse to be rid of it yourself, like in The Ring. Except in this case it only partially works, since it does get better but gets harder simultaneously. It's weird that we manage to survive.

Alanna said...

The funny thing about this post is that I read it and TOTALLY got it, and then wondered if someone who doesn't have kids could possibly understand what you're saying? It's all true, though.

The weird thing about parenting, though, is that it's totally different with a second kid. In my case, they're pretty extreme examples, but it illustrates the point nicely. First kid: born emergency c-section, leaving me feeling awful and like a failure all at the same time. I spent my entire stay at the hospital scared out of my mind and wondering how in the world I was going to take care of this little person for the rest of my life. Second kid: born so quickly we didn't even manage to leave our house (fortunately the EMTs got there very quickly and saved Craig the hassle of having to catch her). Even though Craig nearly had a heart attack, I loved it. It was empowering and beautiful and all that crap that REALLY granola people say about childbirth. All the stuff my first kids' birth had NOT been. After we eventually made it to the hospital, it felt like an awesome vacation for me! I lounged around in bed holding my tiny baby, nursing her like it was easy (because this time I knew what I was doing!), eating tons of food because I was enjoying having my stomach back, and just basking in the happiness of it all. Because I'd already kept one baby alive, I was pretty sure I could do it again.

The difference between the two was like night and day.

So I guess what I'm saying here is, if it's at all possible, every one should get to have two kids. Because it's a lot more fun the second time around.

But no matter what, it really is wonderful and incredible. It's just awful and hard and soul-sucking and exhausting all at the same time.

Weird, huh?

Pedersen Posse said...

Well put.

sarah said...

thanks jen. i can relate. i love your thoughts...julian is one lucky boy. you put words to many of my thoughts. i think sophie and i are in a fight some days too...ha...fight. that's funny....cause she's 2. :)

lindsey v said...

Rat baby- haha! I totally know what you mean- I've been there, treading bowling balls with water- er, something like that. I wonder lots of times why in the HE*K I had 4 kids. But they're very manipulative aren't they? Just when they know their mom is headed for craziness, they do something extra cute.

Brooke said...

J, this was good for me to read today. Thanks. :)

)en said...

I appreciate these comments. Brooke, I'm glad you liked it. No doubt this post is boring boresville to someone sans kids. Or with them, who knows. But i had to get it out of me.

Agreed, Joel. I wonder if it's very much a "misery loves company" situation. or like those who've survived amazing trauma-- you kind of have to talk about it with people as your therapy. Actually i totally think it's that.

Alanna, thanks for saying that. Right now i am not having any thoughts of second child, at all--AT ALL-- but i like what you said about the stark contrast. I think that would be the only reason to do it. To experiment.. just to see if it's as bad as i fear. If it is, I'm a sucker, but at least Julian has a sib. Can't believe you birthed at home! And so fast. That would be kind of awesome, actually, if I didn't know beforehand that was how it was going to be. I'm pretty sure i'd rather go lean against a tree and birth a kid than go to another hospital ever again.

Treading bowling balls--ha ha. Now I'm picturing a swimming pool full of bowling balls. Ouch. Yeah, dang these cute kids. I wonder what would happen if i was blind? I should talk to a blind parent and ask if it's really all it's supposedly cracked up to be without the distraction of vision. Actually, I have a LOT of questions for blind people.

Jeremy said...

If it helps any, I told Caleb to Shut Up! when he was just a week old. Didn't do him any good but I got it out of my system. Stupid 3:00am, nobody should be awake at that time except for a Wal-Mart employee who can show me where the baby Motrin is. Stupid ear aches!

Rob said...

First time parents and funerals are pretty much the same problem for our human nature. We CAN empathize, but we need to communicate it somehow. We should say SOMETHING, but what? Saying nothing would be worse, so we say something like, "How are you?" Knowing how stupid it is, and how we know the answer, of course they're doing terribly and don't want to be shaking your hand, or dealing with all this funeral crap, but cultural law says it must be done. Even after losing someone and hating all those conversations I do the same thing at funerals, because saying nothing seems worse when you are trying to comfort someone (not true all the time, I would have loved more people saying nothing).

And so it is with new parents. We want to show we understand, we've been there, we can empathize, and so we make annoying and obvious statements like "just wait until...." or "life is going to be SO ______...."

The really funny thing is that the answer for both new parents and bereaved people are exactly the same.

You need two things: Prayer and time.