When you tell me you are pregnant, and I say “Congratulations,” what I mean is: You’re screwed.
There is actually no way to prepare for parenthood. It is important to take the birthing class and to practice diapering and swaddling, and you should go ahead and read Spiritual Midwifery and What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Positive Discipline and The Vaccine Book and You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and French Kids Eat Everything and Raising Your Spirited Child.
But there is no way to really know it in your bones until it’s 3:26 am and you are covered in mustardy baby poop and cannot find the snot-sucking thing and your baby is barking like a wounded seal.
Either I have lived a lifetime in the six years since my first child, Milo, was born, or my relationship with time has changed. I do not remember 24 hours ever feeling as long as those new-parenthood marathon days that began before dawn and were a series of explosions of bodily fluids.
I was spent by noon.
When my husband Mike came home from teaching at 5 pm, I was so resentful of his time outside the home that I would basically throw the baby at him and shut myself in the bathroom crying.
Why don’t people warn you about new parenthood like they do about stealing, lying, or sex?
I remember being called out by my parents for taking something that didn’t belong to me — I had to return that girl’s thin gold necklace in person, with a written apology.
I remember the awkward conversations about sex we had when I was a teenager. Between my mom and me on our laps was a pop-up book about the miracle of life with curvy pink fallopian tubes in three dimensions. I remember being warned about contraception, consent, my reputation.
My mom seemed so calm and matter-of-fact as she spoke the words ejaculation and slut. I flashed on a memory of going downstairs past my bedtime and seeing her at the kitchen sink in a black lace lingerie romper thing that covered most of her body but left her — let’s call it pelvis, or maybe vulva — exposed. I rushed back upstairs hoping she hadn’t seen me see her.
Anyway, hearing my mom talk about sex made me imagine her having sex, and that just shut down all my receptivity to the important health/safety wisdom she was trying to impart.
Why didn’t she sit me down when I told her we were “trying” for a baby?
Why didn’t my spiteful mother-in-law tell me that Mike was a terror as an infant, that karma was coming to bite him — and by extension, me — in the ass?
Maybe they did. Maybe both mothers reached out to me in subtle, gentle ways. Maybe they were even forceful. I can’t remember. I forget my age and social security number half the time. But I wish the mothers had shaken me, even smacked me in the face.