If I had been as productive before I had a baby as I am now, I would have written five books by now. But for some reason, this level of multitasking requires a baby.
If you give me 15 minutes, I can clear a sink full of dishes, wash and sterilize six bottles, or empty my inbox. If you give me an hour, it turns out, I can clean my house.
This partly because I’m faster now that I feel the pressure of an impending diaper blowout or baby meltdown, and partly because my standards are lower. Like way, way lower.
A few weeks ago, Adam said to me, “I’m really enjoying how relaxed we’ve gotten about housekeeping stuff since the baby came.”
I whispered, “I feel like I’m dying.”
I’m considered a pretty relaxed housekeeper by family standards. But keep in mind that my dad has been known to stress-clean the shower with nostril-curdling amounts of bleach. In contrast, unlike my folks, I can go to sleep with a sink full of dirty dishes. But I never feel peaceful once I notice that piles of stuff are accumulating in the living room again.
And the piles accumulate. Mail on the table, shoes by the door, packages and shopping bags by the coat rack. It all builds up and builds up until I go insane and either clean it or report to Adam that my happiness is suspended until clutter goes away, and he starts tackling the piles.
This week, I attacked the situation myself and now I’m sitting here rocking the baby back to sleep after a night feeding and I feel like I might live. It makes things feel a lot more manageable, not seeing crap everywhere.
I’m sitting here on the couch with a baby in my lap, one tit out, and all of the mango slices we just bought. I’m going to sit here, feeding my lovely lamprey, eating expensive fruit right out of the container, and call everyone I know, starting with my senators.
I feel helpless, and it seems like all is lost. This would be a great time for reinforcements to ride over the ridge and rescue us at the last minute.
But I fear they’re not coming. We’ll have to be our own reinforcements.
This is a hard day, you guys. I hope you can get your hands on a snuggly baby … or at least some mango slices.
Just about seven weeks ago now, I had a baby, and I’ve been meaning to write something about all of that, but it turns out that’s it’s hard to get much done when you’re trying to keep a newborn alive. However, right now Baboo’s dad is bathing her and I’m hiding in the living room, finishing up my coffee from this morning (at 8:09 pm) so I thought I’d take a moment to catch up with you guys.
Having a baby is awesome, that’s the first thing I want to tell you. I’m not kidding. Yes, I’m sleep-deprived and feel stupid a lot of the time and worry that everything I’m doing is wrong. But on the upside: joy. I’ve never in my life been as happy as I am now, even if I’m also exhausted and worried all the time. In photos, I have the deranged expression of someone who recently joined a cult. One that uses heavy drugs to control their followers.
Babies — they’re good. The other day I took our new little person to the grocery store. While we were shopping, a lady of about my age walked by us and peered in the carriage.
“Oh, a little baby,” she said reverently.
That’s how I feel these days. We have a little baby, and it’s the best. I wonder if I’ll ever stop feeling surprised.
How frequently people remind me that things are much better than they used to be for women, which I assume means that my pissiness has reached reminder-inspiring levels.
The sheer volume of content on the interwebs about what to make for dinner, almost all directed at women, and not just women who work as full-time domestic engineers.
The latter makes me feel better about the former, because it shows that I’m not going crazy. Things are much better for women than they used to be. For instance, I’m not property, no matter what Donald Trump’s lawyer thinks. But on the other hand, all homemaking materials are geared toward ladies, and I think that stinks.
When I talk about this with my female friends who are partnered with males, I often get a lot of eye-rolling. The general feeling seems to be that it’s nice to be a feminist, but we really shouldn’t expect much of anything from the menfolk, poor dears. This annoys me not only because I don’t want to do everything, but also because I like a lot of the menfolk, and my own personal ‘folk is pretty darn competent at everything he turns his hand to.
Still, thanks to social conditioning or advertising or whatever, men frequently get an out when it comes to doing boring things like making dinner or picking up the place.
“They just don’t notice the mess,” several women told me. Or: “He’ll cook, but only if I hassle him repeatedly, and then he only makes two things, and dinner doesn’t hit the table until midnight.”
If this sounds like your situation, I submit to you that your experiences are both fully valid and total bullshit, and you should be upset about them. Dinner, if you haven’t noticed, takes time. It has to be made every single night, rain or shine, and it disappears in about a quarter the time it takes to make it, leaving only a mess, which also has to be cleaned up by someone.
In the time it takes to make dinner, you could write two bad blog posts and half a good one. You could practice a musical instrument, perhaps the one rusting in its case in the corner under a layer of dust. You could call a friend and connect with a human who doesn’t live in your household. You could read a newspaper and keep the industry alive.
I’m not suggesting that women should get off scotfree on the dinner rotation, or that there aren’t some women who love cooking and genuinely enjoy doing it, or that men are oppressing us with aprons and appetizers. I’m just suggesting that, if you’re a female and work outside the home and you usually cook, maybe you’re not doing it out of culinary passion. And maybe it shouldn’t be your job … at least, not by default.
Hello, there. I’m Jen. But if you’re reading this, chances are, you already know that, because you stumbled across this piece via a link on one of my social media dealies. That being the case, there’s also a chance that you’ve read a bit about my infertility bullshit (I refuse to use the word “journey” and have worn the velvet off “struggles”) and only a slightly smaller chance that you’ve offered me advice about it.
First of all, I want to thank you. I genuinely do. I know that everyone is busy and that you could be watching a YouTube video of a tiny goat in pajamas trying to jump over a bale of hay.
Instead, you’ve opted to give me some advice, because you sense my pain and want to do something to make it stop. I totally understand. I would also like to make it stop.
What you might not realize is that internet advice probably isn’t going to do it. The odds that you’ll come up with something my reproductive endocrinologist, regular endocrinologist, gynecologist, primary care physician, rheumatologist, therapist, nurse/husband, and nurse/mom haven’t come up with is mighty slim. By the time you give your advice, I’ve almost certainly heard it, upwards of 20 times. This is true even if you’ve been through infertility—yes, even if your decision led to a baby.
Still, I don’t mean to give you the impression that I think I’d do better. I give people advice they don’t want all the time, for the same reasons: I want to make their pain stop. Also, I think I’m pretty smart. Smarter than most people, even.
Chances are, neither of us is actually smarter than most people. The best we can hope for is that we pay attention, so I’m trying to pay attention to this, and remember it for the next time I decide I have the perfect solution to a friend’s problem. I hope you’ll do the same.
But just in case you’re not feeling me on this one, I’ve decided to compile a list. In it, you’ll find specifics about what we’re not doing, so that you don’t ever have to ask us again:
IVF worked for you, or for your friend, or for your friend’s friend. I’m really glad. We’re not doing it, however.
Our RE gave us a 15 percent chance, per cycle, of IVF succeeding. In our neck of the woods, IVF costs $20,000 per cycle. People often do two or three cycles before they succeed … if they ever succeed. We do not have $60,000. We are uninterested in borrowing $60,000, no matter what loan situation you got from your clinic.
But even if we were millionaires, we wouldn’t do IVF. Speaking of percentages, I’m 100 percent sure that my mental health would not survive the process. This is true even if you did it, even if you have your own special challenges that made it harder than normal, etc. I’ve had 40 years to figure out what I can and can’t deal with. You can trust me that I know IVF is on the other side of the line.
No, there aren’t “thousands of kids out there looking for a good home,” unless you’re talking about older kids with challenges … ones we’re not set up to meet. It’s OK for us to want a baby. It’s OK for us to want a baby that shares our DNA. Adopted kids deserve more than being a “what about…?.” (“What about adoption?”) Also, if you feel that strongly about adoption, I have wonderful news: you can adopt. You can! If the next words out of your mouth are, “But we were able to have a baby,” then there you go.
Please, and I say this with gratitude and also desperation, please stop offering me your womb, ladyfriends of mine. Every time someone does this, I feel like getting on a bus and starting my life over in a new place, where no one knows me. What do we need me for, if I can’t even carry our kid?
Before you step in and console me that I’ll have plenty to do when the baby is born, listen to what I’m actually saying: as far as we know, my uterus is fine, so we don’t need anyone else’s. And hearing about how easy it is for you to get pregnant gives me a sad.
I understand that you’re now offended, because you/your sister/your best friend used a surrogate or was a surrogate. I’m sorry about that. The last thing I want to do is pick on your choices, which seem like really good choices—for you. They’re just not our choices.
Also, if we used my eggs, I’d have to go through egg retrieval, which is one of the reasons I don’t want to do IVF. That shit is gnarly.
I know, I know. Genes don’t make a family. But here’s another thing: if we use Adam’s sperm, and someone else’s egg, my lizard brain says that it’s like he had an affair, and I agreed to raise the child, like some sort of sad secondary character in a Regency romance novel.
“Choosing” a child-free life.
We might well wind up there, but please stop telling me how lucky we are to have each other (we know) and how tough and expensive kids are (we know that we don’t really know) and how we can go on fabulous vacations now. It’s really not helping.
If we wind up not having kids, we’ll be very grateful to have each other and we’ll enjoy our life. But we’ll always be a little sad, even when the real gut-twisting grief fades. It’s not the same as deciding, right from the get-go, that Kids Are Not for You.
In closing, I would like to say that I understand that by titling this “A Complete List…,” I’ve set myself up for advice on options I didn’t think of this morning when I sat down to write. Do me a favor and just mentally tack on whatever you’re thinking. We don’t want to do it. Really. We don’t want to do reiki or acupuncture or guided meditation or fertility coaching or prayer or mega-vitamins or going gluten-free or working out a lot or working out never or standing on our heads and envisioning Kundalini energy while we try to create a dependent. We’ve got this. We’re good.
Ladies of the earth, in order to move forward, I fully believe we must take inspiration from menfolks, and demand that our needs be met. For starters, we deserve to have our physical pain taken seriously, and not ignored like the natural consequence of our wombs roaming free all over our bodies.
For example, every medical test for women is horrible: squish this between two plates, scrape that with a stick, etc., and if you ask if it will hurt, you’ll hear, “It’ll be uncomfortable.” (Which means yes, and shut up.)
Do you think for one second that men would put with this shit? They would not. If you told a man, “We’re going to screen you for testicular cancer right now. The process for this is to put your nuts on this plate and wait for them to be squashed by this other plate. No crying,” what do you think he would say?
I think his response would be a resounding, “Fuuuuuck yooooou. I’m gonna get out of this dump, and do anything else but that. In fact, I’m going to race out of here, still in my plastic-paper gown, and head toward the nearest woods. There, I will fight a bear, and if I live, I’ll take that as a sign that I don’t have ball cancer … AND IF I DIE, I SHALL GO TO VALHALLA WHERE THE BRAVE LIVE FOREVER.”
(See that, dudes? I like you a bunch. Don’t believe what those MRAs tell you; we hostile feminists don’t want to destroy you, we just want some of that cultural acceptance mojo. But I digress.)
My point is, women’s pain needs to matter. It’s not a question of male doctors vs. female patients, because all genders have to deal with unconscious bias, since it’s apparently part of the human condition. But for God’s sake, if you’re a healthcare provider, please ask yourself one question before telling a woman that a procedure will be “uncomfortable”: would you say the same thing to a man? And even if you would, might you not offer him some pain relief to go along with it?
For the rest of us non-doctors and non-nurses, the way forward is equally challenging and necessary. Women, we’re going to have to demand to be treated and taken seriously. And men, when your favorite female people tell you that they’re in pain, you’ll have to believe them.
Every so often, my brain shorts out toward the end of my work day, and I fall into an internet hole and find poetry at the bottom. This Wikipedia entry on terms that don’t translate is possibly the ultimate example of one of those holes.
A few examples:
cafuné: Brazilian Portuguese. The act of fondling someone’s hair.
pinchar: Spanish. To call a mobile phone once and hang up, either so that the other person can call you back and save money, or so that they can store your phone number. Could also mean to sting, flirt (or be flirted at), puncture, pierce, prick, or fuck. (I can see how the progression worked from puncture, but I’m wondering who was the first person to suggest that someone, uh, pierce their phone by calling it once, if you see what I mean.)
Sitzriese: German. A person who appears tall when sitting.
saudade: Galician or Portuguese. The feeling of missing something or someone.
Language is amazing and beautiful and enough of a miracle for anyone, really.