12.20.2010

TED, you’ve got my number.

My aunt sent me a link to this TED talk, and I watched, taking notes, smiling, and nodding my head the whole time.

Loving your baby is a process!

Being a new mom makes you a shut-in, and shut-out!

Constant guilt & shame that you’ve done something wrong!

And the enormity of the ups and downs – even moment by moment!

They’ve totally got my number.

I’ve been reading one of the books for my postpartum doula certification, and although a lot of it is very accurately stated, I found myself thinking over and over that the writing seemed stuffy, old-fashioned. She uses “the baggage” to talk about the placenta, and other euphemisms. But she’s British, and older. But still, she discusses important issues, issues of significance to new moms, like feeling isolated, guilty, wondering if you can handle it – all the complications of the adjustment.

Both of these things were exciting to find – the video and the book – because it’s exactly what I’ve been writing about. I’ve been hoping to help other new moms make it through those tough times that people forget about or are unwilling to talk about.

And I think it’s a combination of denial and forgetting.

You’re not supposed to admit ever being dissatisfied as a mom, but there are times when I am. And there’s real science behind it.

As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy still, that babies and toddlers are the hardest, and that each successive child produces diminishing returns. {from the NYT Mag article linked above}

Having babies will not make us happier. In the best case it will be the same. In the worst, less happy. Forgetting how hard it is has got to be the only thing keeping our species going. There’s always the biological drive to procreate, the evolutionarily manipulative cuteness of babies. But it’s forgetting that is making people do it a second (and third and sixth and tenth) time. I know I’ll forget, and then I’ll probably want to do it all over again. But how crazy is it that the success of our species relies on forgetting?

Growing up in a family of four rambunctious kids, of which I was the oldest, we used to always joke that we were an excellent birth control method. The only babysitter we ever had when there were 4 kids, a dear friend of mine, is happily married with no kids and no plans to have any. She said she’s happy being the “aunt” to mine. And our exchange student, who lived with us when the youngest was just about a year old, also has no children, and I don’t think she has plans to change that. They know (as I did) what they would be giving up for parenthood.

Why would anyone do this to themselves?

And in this article, they talk about the hit that a marriage takes from having children. American parents spend less time together (without their kids) now than in the ‘70s. “But” I said to my mountain man, “we’re not spending that kind of time together! Maybe a fraction of it!”. The mountain man suggested we take “less good care of her”. We talked about the theory of diminishing returns and how it may relate to parenting. And then, that we have a 4-month-old, and that infancy and toddlerhood demand more time. We’re both giving up happiness from our child-free days, and our relationship has certainly taken a hit. We bicker a little more, we spend less time talking and snuggling and being with each other. Our time together has to be more orchestrated, is less spontaneous, and is never just about us. Instead of this parenting thing being joyful in the day-to-day, it’s something we’ll struggle through and then look back on as having been the happiest time in our lives.

Just this afternoon, when I was putting my Pie down for a nap, I could see those days of forgetting coming. Things are changing, she’s growing out of her newbornyness. It’s getting so much easier. She goes down for naps, will play for a few minutes out of my arms. She interacts, smiles, and laughs. Her laugh is silent though. Mouth wide open, head back, but silent. Kind of ominous, actually. But it’s getting easier. I can see myself forgetting.

I changed her diaper and got her in bed, and was thinking. Her poops have been changing, her intestinal functioning is maturing in preparation for a lifetime of solid foods. It’s kind of a big deal. She’s pooping all the time now, but small amounts. Gone are the days of the poonami (unless she’s just holding out for a really big one) and here are the days of silly string. You know, like at the very end of a can of silly string, when you try to get that last little bit out, and you just get dry splatter.

“Her intestines are growing up!” – my mom

And the changing poops, like the bigger diapers, are making me sad. I was trying to get her down for a nap, just after having changed her silly string poopy diaper, and thinking that one day I wouldn’t be nursing her off to sleep. And one day I would miss the snuggle and the flutter suck. One day, when she is a little bigger, not my little (giant) baby any longer, I might miss this. I might want to do it again.

But don’t quote me on that.

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