So, one of the bartenders where I work just became a father…to a baby boy. Yesterday was his first day back since the birth and I swear, he looks different. You know, he kinda has that ‘new car smell’. Alright, let me just say the shit out loud, he looks exhausted! Ha-ha. Seeing him and hearing the love and pride in his voice (cause yall know…he ‘did this” all by himself; right?), started me thinking about babies; but more specifically, the first few months of, not really the baby’s life, but the first few months for the parents, in the baby’s life.
Okay; I neither have the time or the inclination to spend either your or my precious moments re-stating all the wonderful, clichéd-driven words and phrases that most automatically sprout when referencing new birth; we’ve all heard and recited them over and again. What I would like to highlight, is the lesser admitted and spoken about reality that is the presence of these little creatures. So, let’s address this:
The first few months (and oh Lord, for some even longer) suck! Let’s start here – there is no amount of cuteness that can replace the need for a good night’s sleep! And sometimes, you’ll even pray and settle for a decent one! All this rah-rah about how “blessed” you are and how “absolutely wonderful” parenthood is (and hear me, it is), needs to be spoken in conjunction with how absolutely horrible it can be! Truly. We need to start with (when applicable) the labor-foolishness and end with…well, when they’re about nine months old (look at that…almost just the length of pregnancy time).
You may be laughing at what you may think is my latest outrageousness; but even as it may inspire a chuckle or two, the truth is that I am addressing this for an extremely important and serious reason; even for, Lord help us, a life saving reason. Listen people – from the medical professionals, to the already-parents, there is a responsibility to impart knowledge; and dare I say, the ‘gory’ details are more important than the ‘glory’ details. No doubt.
First of all, brand new parents need to realize that that ‘just got out of the oven’ look of a newborn may only be precious to them and their families. Truth. Unlike driving a new car out of the dealership, there is little that is showroom-ready about most babies that have just gotten here. Trust me when I tell you that I am not just possibly speaking about your baby – I sure did ask the nurses at the hospital to keep mine for a few days, iron her out and let me know when she was less wrinkly and pink – I would pick her up then. I sure did! This is not news to her, poor thing; I told her (now that she is all smooth and gorgeous). Her response when she could find her voice? ‘Mommy, that is NOT nice!”. I agreed; but stated, “But, it was honest”.
Okay, so I was forced to take her right home J . But you mothers know this is when the parenting-hell truly starts! They seem to behave so very well the day or two at the hospital; then you take them home and they begin their reign as little bitches or bastards that last, well, it can last! Hahahahaha. But seriously. That supposed “every two hours” thing they talk about is not so; what it is, is if you’re lucky, every forty-five minutes! Okay; by the time they start to cry for something to eat, then eat, then fuss till they burp, then quiet down for a minute, then shit, then fuss some more (like they had to wipe their own stinky asses), then fall asleep – trust me, an hour and fifteen has passed! They may then sleep for forty-five, then demand you do this all again (and, this is the less-fussy baby!).
So you’re operating on very little sleep and what you do get is fitful at best. On top of that, you need to ensure that you eat (because how can you feed the baby if you’ve not fed yourself); but really, when? Sometimes it takes you two days and a very misguided partner to make your realize you have neither showered or brushed your teeth, since, well, do you give a fuck?! Your damn nipples are sore and chafed and the baby is no longer latching on as he should; so, back to the pediatrician you go who ill hides their disdain in pointing out that it’s something you’re doing wrong (oh, and you’d better get it right; because, a “breast fed baby is a best fed baby”). Well-intentioned parents/grandparents arrive to coo over this “most beautiful baby in the world”, but while they’re at it, they sniff and point out all that you’re not doing just-right and regale all within earshot about how easy it was for them to feed, burp, change, get you to sleep, comb your hair and have you and themselves always show-ready, back in their goddam day!
Trust me, it’s not funny. And the reason it isn’t and the reason it’s important to let new parents know about these things, is to eliminate or lessen their feelings of failure – oh, and depression. You see, we do a disservice when we only glorify parenting; (1) because a big part of the shit sucks and (2) because if all I hear is how good and easy it is, then when it is difficult and bad for me, my thinking is that I am a bad parent. But see, no; you’re not a bad parent, you’re a parent.
Postpartum Depression is a very real illness; it is nothing to ignore or to take lightly. The feelings of being overwhelmed, under-supported, exhausted, isolated (even with a room-full of well-intentioned folks), the lack of feeling at times toward your newborn, the inability to initially bond while so many have exclaimed how “automatic” it is/was, the loss of personal time and attention – all these feelings can and do lead to harming oneself or the infant.
We have an obligation to highlight both sides of the (new) parenting coin. Yes, becoming a parent is absolutely a miracle and quite the blessing! Unquestionably. But, navigating the first few moments, minutes, days, weeks or months of all your new lives is oftentimes extremely difficult, unpleasant and not always happy. Allow for that. Say it sucks when it does. Let that shit be okay. If one day you look down at your baby that has been crying incessantly for the past few hours (for no apparent reason) and truly do not like him in that moment; that is okay. That is healthy. What is unhealthy, what is dangerous, is if that ‘moment’ persists. If that happens, talk to your partner, talk to your doctor, and seek help. Take care of you so that you can take care of your child.
Listen, do not let anyone tell you that once you give birth, “it is no longer about you”. Quite the contrary! It actually has never been more about you!