Mushroom Clouds

A few nights ago I saw a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years, and discovered she is pregnant. It’s her first child and I was super happy for her, it’s great news.

Also, I think I showed amazing restraint in that I asked only a few questions about her plans and totally did not offer any advice. At all! I know! No horror stories of births gone wrong, no tales about stitches and swollen legs, no warnings to “sleep now, because you’ll need it!” I was all rosy cheeked and happy and supportive – as one should be.

It was extra hard because we were getting together for the purpose of planning a reunion that we’ll be co-hosting on the August long weekend here in Ottawa. And her due date is just 10 days before the reunion.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Okay, I admit, all mothers are different, all babies are different, and every combination isn’t exactly like my own situation. Some moms are made of tougher stuff than I, and are able to attend social events with a week-old baby. I myself definitely could have done it with Gal Smiley – her birth was a breeze, and I was an old hat at motherhood by then, nothing phased me. Even Little Miss Sunshine, who was a C-section, was a pretty easy addition to the household and I was up and about after a couple of weeks of recovery.

But the Captain. Oh, the Captain.

Nothing against him – from all accounts he was a pretty easy baby and we had a relatively easy time with the breastfeeding and diapering and all that. But our first baby was still such a huge, epic, massive change to our lives, something no book or movie or anecdote from a friend can prepare you for. Women often spend a lot of time worrying about and preparing for the birth, which I totally understand, but then it can be quite a shock when they hand you a living, breathing, screaming, pooping baby a few seconds after labour is over and you realize you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.

Our friends would ask us how we were doing those first few weeks, and Sir Monkeypants and I used to say in all seriousness that it was like having a bomb go off in your house. The whole world was changed, destroyed, and we were fighting to deal with the fallout. There was a massive range of emotion that we were unprepared for. There was an incredible amount of stress as we zoomed up the steepest learning curve of our lives.

I pretty much spent the first four weeks after the Captain was born either a) crying in the nursing chair with my shirt open, b) sitting in the rocker in front of the TV with a sleeping baby in my lap, with my shirt open, crying, or c) sitting gingerly on a massive pillow at the table while I tried to shovel muffins in my mouth, with my shirt open, crying. I don’t think either the Captain or myself wore anything other than pajamas for the first six weeks.

And the first time I had to take him out of the house – gah. It took me an hour and a half to pack up and get ready, to arrange his sleep schedule to fit into the right break, to make sure he was changed, fed, changed again. To pack a bag with a hundred diapers and wipes and changes of clothes and everything else I might need in case of a post-nuclear winter. Eventually I got to the point where I had a diaper bag packed and ready to go by the door, and I could grab it and the baby and be out the door in 15 or 20 minutes. But those first few times required planning and packing on the scale of an Everest expedition, and made it clear that the days of cavalierly dashing out the door were behind us.

Of course there was good stuff too. There’s the way they change every single day, the way they make eye contact with you in a way that makes you feel like the most important person on earth. The way they smell and the way they cuddle right into you with no hesitation and the way their little socks are so so adorable. But even that stuff changes you, and instead of being able to have conversations about work and movies and politics with people at, say, a reunion, all you want to talk about is your birth story and how your baby made the cutest little smile yesterday and how their poop was shaped like the Eiffel Tower, which you think is a sign of sure genius.

It changes you, parenthood does.

So while I do admire my friend for planning to attend three days’ worth of dinners and boat cruises and city tours with her week-old baby – I really had to bite my tongue not to issue any warnings. And maybe she will take it all in stride, and everything will be super easy, and she’ll throw on some pre-pregnancy clothes, toss the newborn in a sling, and party the night away.

But I’m thinking the bomb exploding is the more likely scenario. Good luck, honey.

10 thoughts on “Mushroom Clouds

  1. CapnPlanet

    Heh, I remember many years before we had kids, going to a party where some mothers of young children were going on and on about their children, about the most inane, boring details, and it just annoyed the crap out of me. Now I am one of those people, or at least it’s easy for me to fall back into blathering endlessly about our kids. It’s true, parenthood changes you, and I think most people without kids just have no idea what an endlessly rich experience it is. It’s frustrating, annoying, inconvenient, and did I mention frustrating? But more than all of that, it is awesome.

    (And yeah, even though I’ve obviously never breastfed myself, I think I empathize – Mrs CapnPlanet had a tough first month with both of our kids, and that’s another thing that those without that experience simply can’t appreciate. So much pressure to breastfeed, so much negativity if you don’t, so much frustration and pain as you figure it out. I am so glad that’s behind us, Mrs CapnPlanet all the more so I’m sure.)

  2. Oh dear. I am totally the type who did NOT DO WELL WITH A NEWBORN. More like I was a sobbing zombie, with bleeding nipples. I can’t imagine doing anything with a week-old baby other than zonking out.

  3. MrsCarlSagan

    Ooooh the bomb exploded here too. I vividly remember just after The Captain was born and a few weeks before my W was born and I was full of questions for you about the labour and delivery. You said something like, “don’t worry about the labour and delivery. That’s the easy part….it’s when you bring the baby home that is really hard”. You were SO right. I barely left the house for the first few months and was pretty much melded to the couch with a sleeping baby or half asleep in the rocking chair. I had no idea I would be so tired and emotional ALL the time. It definitely got easier with subsequent babies – it helps so much to know that you will survive and that things will get easier. You don’t necessarily know that with the first one. And the many, many joyful moments definitely outweigh the tough ones…mostly. 🙂

  4. When my first was three days old I remember sitting down, sobbing, in the middle of the living room, gathering the cat into my arms and saying “Why couldn’t we just have been happy with you?”

  5. Baby #1 kicked my ‘I’m so prepared and ready for motherhood’ a**!! I wanted to put him back in after my first two days at home 😉

  6. Count me as one more for nuclear winter. I was weepy, insane and paralyzed with fear. But I have seen people emerge days after the first birth, composed and cheerful. I try not to hate them.

  7. so true and good for you for refraining from the horror stories.
    Those early days were so so challenging.
    Can’t even imagine having a big social function to attend.
    good luck to your friend!
    and lucky you to be able to just enjoy this phase of your life actually be able to talk work, movies and politics.
    Though maybe not politics (always a bit of a conversation killer at a party)
    have fun at the reunion.

  8. Though I know of whom you speak, and it totally shocked me too, oh well! I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s pretty unflappable most of the time… We had our first overseas and I was a wreck (but I was also dealing with a rare pregnancy-related disease, unbeknownst to me…) but hey – hope springs eternal!!

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