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.