It was a particularly bad day to give birth to a baby.
Or, depending on how you view it, I suppose, it was a particularly good day to give birth to a baby. Which is why every pregnant woman in the world decided to do it that morning. In my hospital, no less. A birth explosion is how one nurse delightfully described it. At one point, I’m pretty sure non-pregnant women just started walking in off the street and heading to the maternity ward.
Woman Off The Street: “Excuse me, nurse? I’m not sure how it happened but it appears I’ve spontaneously become pregnant. And I’m about to give birth RIGHT NOW.”
Nurse: “No worries. I know just who to bump down the list.”
I was fourth in line. Then fifth. Then sixth. Since my cesarean was scheduled and I wasn’t in the throes of excruciating pain or life-threatening complications like the rest of them, that apparently made my case somehow less urgent.
Pffft. But that’s our broken healthcare system for you.
Actually, when it comes down to it, I didn’t mind the waiting. As much as I was done (with a capital D-O-N-E) with being pregnant, I’ve never been the kind of person who was impatient to get sliced in half. In fact, you’d be amazed how long I can wait to get professionally gutted.
However, I did mind the whole “you can’t have any liquids” rule, especially seeing as how liquid is one of the main ingredients in coffee. It had been almost 13 hours since my last cup, which was bordering on dangerous territory. But the doctor refused to even listen to my argument that coffee doesn’t necessarily qualify as food or liquid so much as it qualifies as anti-homicide serum. The arrogant know-it-all.
Pffft. But that’s Western medicine for you.
Anyway, as you can imagine, the baby-cutting-out crew was all business by the time they got to me. No one even laughed at my “I gained so much pregnancy weight, this is more like a double D-section, am I right?” joke. But honestly, you can’t blame them. The miracle of birth probably loses some of its miraculousness when the operating room starts to resemble a screaming cherub assembly line.
However, none of the above mattered. None of it. Because within a few short minutes, I finally had my daughter. My perfect, beautiful, angelic daughter.
And as I looked down at my tiny, adorable, baby girl covered in gross lady part crud, I whispered “And now our family is complete” in her ear as tears gently slid down my face, movie-where-a-teenager-has-cancer-style.
I was in love, dear reader. Oh, so in love.
Cut to five and a half weeks later…
My tiny, adorable, baby girl covered in gross baby vomit is screaming her primal Viking warrior/dying pterodactyl cry at heretofore unheard of decibels while she has explosive diarrhea all over my hand and 90 percent of the far wall. Meanwhile, my sweet, loving toddler is destroying the entire house with a cookie he illegally procured while screaming something about “da poiple cwayon broked in da half.” The dog is barking at “Serial Killer Has Entered The Home” levels even though it’s more of a “Light Wind Blowing Through The Window” situation. And my husband…my husband is…crap, where is he?
Ah, the wifi is down. I sigh. Dramatically. I sigh because my husband happens to be a man. And when you live with a man, having the wifi down means nothing else exists until the wifi is back up.
So, my husband is scrolling through the dark web that is the set-up menu on our smart TV, looking for the ancient rune that magically brings back the wifi, completely oblivious to the Hindenburg Disaster happening all around him.
I start breastfeeding the frantically clawing honey badger I’ve named Mae in an effort to shut up at least one small creature in our house. My son sees this as the perfect opportunity for me to read him every single book he owns while sitting awkwardly on my shoulder and the dog decides puking all over his pillow is the best way to deter the non-existent serial killer from chopping us all into tiny pieces. Luckily, my husband is having fantastic luck with Todd, the genius wizard over at the cable company, who clearly deserves a raise and who informs my husband “uh, I don’t know, man, maybe it’s the router or something?”
And because the universe needed a good laugh, our air conditioner chooses this exact moment to stop working. In the middle of a heat wave. That the local meteorologist described professionally as “just wicked hot, folks.”
In the midst of all this, I look down at my tiny, adorable, baby girl now covered in illegal toddler cookie crumbs and smile as I whisper in her ear “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
(Mind you, this touching moment was followed immediately by the much less charming bellowing of “STOP WEARING MOMMY’S UNDERWEAR AS A HAT!” at my son. But, hey, you take your perfectly happy moments, no matter how brief, where you can.)
As I sit here with my laptop, a million years pregnant, looking like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (only rounder and more obnoxious), I can’t help but wonder “what the hell am I doing?”
Not meaning the pregnancy, of course. It’s much too late for that regret. She’s big enough to qualify for social security at this point.
No, I mean this is likely my last post for awhile. One, because I could give birth any day now (although considering my previous birthing record, by “any day now” I mean “two weeks past forever”). And after I do I’m going to take a small break from writing so I can concentrate on the important things, like cuddling with my new baby and finding new places in my house where I can hide so I can sob over my destroyed nipples in private.
Two, my brain has been slowly dissolving in a vat of bubbling hormones for months now, making anything more complicated than dipping deep-fried Cheetos stuffed with mac n’ cheese into tartar sauce damn near impossible.
So, I want to at least try to pull myself together and make this last one a good one. You know, funny but sweet. Perhaps even a bit profound.
And you’d think finding a topic would be easy considering I’m now too big to do anything other than recline on the couch and moan, leaving me plenty of time to worry unnecessarily about things I have absolutely no control over.
The thing is, though, at this stage, I don’t care about anything other than getting this THING out of me.
Sorry. That’s not very maternal. I mean, getting this adorable THING out of me.
Right friggin’ now.
For example, I was going to write about my catch-22 fears of trying to give birth after having a C-section while also simultaneously being afraid of having a second C-section. But then I realized I just…(sigh)…I just don’t care. She can come out any way she wants. She can burrow out my uterus “Shawshank Redemption” style and make her grand entrance via my mouth if she wants. Just as long as she is outside my body and I can finally roll over in bed without the help of a crowbar, a crane and a decent-sized construction crew.
After scraping that idea, I managed to croak out a few sentences about my concerns regarding my first-born. Will I have enough time for him after she’s born? Will he still love me as much as he does now when I’m constantly distracted by his newborn sister? Am I properly mourning the end of the “just me and him” era?
But…again…I don’t really care. I’m tired and hot and can’t get off the couch without assistance. Any issues that stem from this period in my toddler son’s life can be dealt with later (likely via his memoir in which I am referred to as his “momster”).
Being pregnant in the summer, I also tossed around a paragraph or two about my FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Scrolling through social media, I am inundated with images of friends and family and that bartender I met eight years ago doing fun summery things at lakes and in rivers and on the ocean. They’re going to ballgames and amusement parks and beer gardens. They are having the time of their Instagram-filtered lives and here I sit on the couch with nothing but a bucket of chicken and six fans pointed directly at my face.
But, if I’m being honest, leaving the house is pretty much the last thing I want to do. My house has everything a pregnant lady could possibly want or need (specifically, Netflix, a bed and a good-looking husband who leaves me the hell alone unless it is to fetch me more cheese to eat in bed). I’ll enjoy those stupid fireflies and bonfires and blah, blah, other unforgettable summer memories, blah, next year.
Because again, I don’t care. About anything. Except surviving these last few weeks.
OK, that’s not entirely true. I do slightly care about not murdering anyone until this baby comes out. But that’s only because I will not fair well in prison and not necessarily because I care about stupid crap like the sanctity of life and morals right now.
So, I apologize for wasting your time, dear readers. I hope you can forgive me and I promise to come back with fresh material and a whole new cheery outlook on life (or whatever).
But if you can’t, it’s cool.
I just…(sigh)…don’t care.
One of the first things you learn as a new mom, besides how to dodge jets of baby urine like Neo in “The Matrix,” is how much society hates you. Oof, and man, do they hate you. And me. And anyone whose uterus used to have an occupant.
It doesn’t matter if we work or stay at home, breast or bottle feed, wear yoga pants or fancy tailored lady trousers with actual working buttons. Moms are just the worst. Because keeping tiny psychopaths with a death wish alive and molding them into decent people who don’t think smearing poop on the dog is a ripping good time is apparently easy and therefore deserves no respect. Or really deserves anything other than your anger and utter contempt.
(This is mostly because no one really notices the million different wonderful and difficult things that you do as a mom until you accidentally blink one day for the first time in three years and an alligator or a gorilla snatches your kid. In which case, they suddenly have all kinds of opinions about your parenting skills and decide the best way to express those opinions is to send you death threats.)
*Daintily steps down from soapbox*
ANYHOO, as I was saying, tough as it is to be a mother in this day and age, what tends to get lost in this tsunami of collective maternal hatred is the smaller, yet still potent, wave of what I call “daddy disapproval.” Because see, we don’t hate dads. Oh no. The complete opposite. We love them. Absolutely adore them, in fact.
Just as long as they never stray outside the very rigid perimeters our society has laid out for them. Perimeters, I should add, that that same society is constantly changing on a very rapid basis (which is why wearing matching princess dresses with your daughter during a trip to the grocery store will earn you the title of “Father of the Year,” but only buying her pink, girly toys will earn you the title “Male Chauvinist of the Year”).
For example, we expect dads to earn good money to provide for their family. However, he’s not supposed to work overtime or ever put work before his family because he also needs to help take care of the kids. And unload the dishwasher. And show up to all the soccer games (even though soccer is quite literally the worst invention mankind has ever come up with). Granted, working moms are also expected to do all this, but at least society allows them to bitch about it. Whereas if a man dared to complain about the unfairness of it all, he would swiftly be drowned out by a chorus of enraged and exhausted women, and would then be beaten to death by a barrage of overstuffed diaper bags.
And never you mind that men are more involved than ever in the day-to-day operations of childcare. Dudes are not allowed to talk about how hard it is to be a dad. Ever.
On the positive side, dads can still be the strong type if they want. Just not the silent type. Because the evolved male is no longer allowed to be emotionally distant from his children.
However, he also can’t get too emotional with his kids. One of the few freedoms we still allow moms, wretched creatures though they are, is that they can get mad at their children. They can yell at their kids in public and make veiled threats of bodily harm without raising any red flags. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hollered “you do that again I’m gonna beat ya’ ‘til you’re dead!” to my 2-year-old on the playground and not only did no one bother looking up from their phone, they most likely couldn’t even hear me over all the other women screaming things like “knock it off, Kolby, or so help me I will rip your arm off and then smack your face with your own hand.”
Now imagine a dad doing that.
Speaking of red flags, as a woman I can sit in any park or playground regardless of whether I have children with me and no one will think anything nefarious about my presence. And I mean even if I’m sporting a trench coat, sunglasses and a giant telephoto lens on my giant camera. Meanwhile, a dad who dares to try to breathe air that close to other children without a kid velcroed to his own body needs at least two forms of identification, a copy of his paternity test signed by his doctor and a note from his wife giving her permission for him to be there.
And chances are good several concerned citizens will still call the fuzz on him.
I could go on and on. We judge dads if they are horrible at sports. Or if they can’t teach their kids how to fix a flat tire. And then there’s the super fun dilemma we put them in regarding the lack of changing tables in men’s rooms.
It’s a very thin tightrope that we make modern dads walk (I suppose to match the tiny, little boxes we try to stuff moms into). And what it ultimately comes down to is that our refusal to value child rearing ends up hurting everyone. Dads are doing more than ever but rarely get noticed or praised for it. Mostly because when you’re both overworked and exhausted, like pretty much every set of parents I know, it can be hard to acknowledge the other’s contribution.
So, perhaps instead of expecting parents to be perfect in the face impossible odds, we could, oh, I don’t know, make it a bit easier to raise a family in this country. Starting with paid maternity AND paternity leave. And maybe affordable daycare, or even almost affordable (as opposed to our current model of “only affordable if eating is not vital to you”). And perhaps, hey, everyone could chill with the pitchforks and torches and death threats for awhile.
And that is my very awkward and long-winded way of saying Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there. We love you and you deserve better.
We all do.
When you’re nine months pregnant and busy chasing a sugar-addicted toddler around, certain things are bound to fall through the cracks. The family’s collective hygiene, for one (she types as she tries to remember how many days in a row her son has worn those Spiderman pajamas). Basic human decency, for another (she types while cringing as she remembers yelling “so help me, if you poop in that plant, mister!” while talking to her insurance agent on the phone).
And, of course, remembering important dates, such as holidays and doctor’s appointments and Taco Tuesday. Which is how I ended up ugly crying into my lasagna last Tuesday in a pregnancy-hormone-fueled rage.
And which is also how my 35th birthday snuck up on me.
Having been someone who was always just on this side of obnoxious when it came to celebrating her birthday, this is pretty much unheard of. I mean, I’ve been known to celebrate the day of my arrival on Earth for the entire month. And 35? Sure, it’s not a huge milestone but a big enough one that it makes you question whether wearing blue glittery lipstick is still a good idea or not.
(It is. It always will be. I will be 95 and still rocking it. I will be buried wearing that lipstick).
Thirty-five is also an age when you start to, if not actually become wise, perceive yourself as becoming wise. Which is why instead of celebrating my almost-forgotten 35th birthday with a big bang (it’s hard to dance all night when you are roughly the size of a planet and have swollen hobbit feet), I want to share some of the wisdom I’ve picked up along the way in my 30 plus years of living.
And so, here are the 35 things I’ve learned in 35 years:
I can’t remember exactly how old I was. It was probably around age 11. A lot of important revelations are made when you turn 11. Like realizing tater tots are the world’s most perfect food and how one eye roll is worth a thousand “whatever’s.”
So it was probably around this time that I decided it was my nose. It was so obvious. Literally right there way out in front of my face. All my problems in life began and ended with my nose.
What was wrong with it exactly? Pffft. Where to even start? Too big from the front view, too long from the side view. It was simultaneously too skinny at the bridge yet too bulbous at the nostrils. If some girls had button noses, I had a jacked up, gigantic, old lady brooch on my face.
I was the love child of Jimmy Durante and Dumbo.
Oh, if only it weren’t for my nose. I then might have had a shot at being kind of pretty. Not cute, of course. And certainly not beautiful. I was nothing if not a young realist. But with enough makeup and hairspray and overpriced Urban Outfitter sweaters, I could pass for kind of pretty if you were squinting.
If only it weren’t for my nose.
It really was a kind of Greek tragedy on a micro-scale. Because when I was 11, if you couldn’t even pass for kind of pretty, it meant you were ugly. And being ugly meant life was over.
Over the years, of course, the culprits changed. If only I wasn’t so pale. Clearly I was also meant to be a blonde. My naturally dark hair washes me out. And these crooked teeth. The only girl in my junior high school without braces and now I’m paying for it with a smile that would put Steve Buscemi to shame. Obviously I also need to lose 10 pounds. Although 30 would be better.
As I got older, entirely new regions became problematic. Was that the beginning of a forehead wrinkle? Where did this arm flab come from? Apparently these under-eye circles are permanent now. Cellulite? It cellu-bites. Then there was the fateful day I discovered going braless was clearly no longer an option.
There was always something preventing me from living the perfect life of the women in the perfume ads.
But the most disturbing thing of all is how this kind of vicious tearing down of every aspect of our appearance is so ingrained into so many of us women that we no longer see the absolute absurdity of it. It’s completely normal. I mean, talk about multi-tasking. From a very young age, this internal monologue runs through our heads as we earn top grades in school and play three different sports and act in plays and create art and start our careers and earn accolades and fall in love and volunteer and travel the world and get published and rescue shelter pets and raise our kids and buy our own home.
But who has time to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished in life when our unruly and patchy eyebrows aren’t perfectly plucked into an arch?
And I’m sure I would have skipped happily to my death with this Imperial March of Imaginary Facial and Bodily Deformities continually running through my head if it weren’t for one small thing. One very small thing, in fact.
Here in a few months I will be giving birth to a daughter. A beautiful, perfect little girl. A sweet, pink-cheeked tiny angel.
Who is going to emerge from my body as the devil herself.
Yes, apparently my wonderful not-yet-born baby girl is bound to be difficult. Because, according to multiple sources, girls are so much more difficult than boys. My closest family members tell me this. My good friends tell me this. Complete strangers who ask the gender of my swollen belly feel the need to tell me this as they are awkwardly rubbing me like I’m a breathing, bloated magic lamp.
Boys will be boys. But girls? Well, girls will be brats.
Of course, not everyone believes this. But it sure feels like it. And it makes me so utterly sad.
Because whether or not you believe raising girls is more difficult, the fact remains it is more difficult to be a girl. Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. And the poor lady was still expected not to sweat her makeup off or muss up her hair.
This is the world my “bound-to-be” difficult daughter is entering. Complete with a “I feel naked without ten pounds of eyeliner on” mother raising her to boot.
She doesn’t stand a chance.
Which is why I now realize something has to change, starting with me. Because I don’t want my daughter wasting any time sitting in front of a mirror hating her face at the tender age of 11. Not when there are books to read and trees to climb and adventures to begin and secret giggles to share and songs to belt out off-key and races to run and ice cream on hot afternoons to eat.
I want her, when she even bothers to notice her face, a face that I gave her, to realize that it’s just one small part of the amazing whole that makes up who she is. As are her bony knees and loud laugh and curly hair and love of dogs and freckled shoulders and all the other actual elements that will make up who she is that I can’t even imagine yet.
I want makeup and fashion to simply be something creative she gets to play around with, not something that determines her self-worth. I want exercise to be fun, not something she has to do to be considered desirable. I want food to be delicious fuel, not a life-long battle she always thinks she’s losing. I want success to be how she defines it, not how the boy she likes defines it, not how a magazine defines it and not how the more terrible elements of the Internet comments section defines it.
But that can only happen if she has a good role model. And I’m determined that she will.
Because as it turns out, my nose was actually perfect this whole time.