If I had known how much more immensely interesting I would become by gaining fifteen pounds and running around in clothes covered in vomit, I would have taken up binge drinking years ago. After years of living a fairly solitary life unfettered by in-laws, long distant realities, and advice giving strangers, having a baby has turned me one very popular zombie-lady.
Never in my life have so many people displayed such a passionate interest in my day-to-day routine. How much sleep am I getting? Am I breastfeeding? How old is my daughter? Doesn’t my baby need a sweater in this weather? Am I sure the baby isn’t overheating in her sweater?
It is not just requests for information, there are also the endless stream of well wishers who want to hold the baby, and talk to the baby, and try to make her laugh. People I don’t know have begun introducing themselves as “Grandpa Joe” and “Nanny Suze,” and while the stranger sponsored belly rubs have stopped, the new mom diet patrol has picked up the slack. I’m often approached by other WWC’s (women with children), asking me how much I gained, how much I’ve lost, and how I’m planning to deal with the rest.
It is driving me crazy. Seriously, if one more person asks me if my nipples ever chapped I’m going to move to Alaska and become one of those crazy crab fishermen I saw on Deadliest Catch. On those boats men are men and no one cares about your feelings on organic baby food.
I thought I had built a bubble; one similar to those lovely little pink ones that Glinda the Good Witch travels around in, except mine was more practical and came with a car seat. My husband and I have been on a team of two for so long it feels strange when other people want to sign up and sit on our bench. When I we found out that I was expecting, I imagined what our family would be like after the baby was born. I didn’t see a herd of people gathered around a dinner table or the emotional coming home to a house full of family. It is not that these things disgust me or I find something intrinsically wrong with these scenarios, we’ve just never had that kind of relationship with either set of our parents. But everything changed when we announced the pregnancy. Everyone suddenly wanted to make plans for their “role” in the birth process. My mother-and father in-law wanted to be there for the whole hospital fanfare, while my mother offered to come to our house, dog sit, and make me lasagna. Our respective siblings claimed “privilege” when we told them we’d be keeping the name a secret because, as my sister-in-law said, “I’m this baby’s aunt.” Phone calls and emails increased to mammoth proportion and, in all honesty, this new found attention was jarring.
To be thrust from solo act into a Menudo situation is a little much.
The night I went into labor we didn’t call a single soul until the she was out, safe, clean, and fed. I was in labor for almost sixteen hours, I’d pushed for two, I’d had major abdominal surgery—I was not up for visitors. This urge to cocoon myself and my child stretched from hours immediately before her birth into the weeks that followed our homecoming.
I’d like to say my desire for privacy was strictly emotional, some desire to hole up with my husband and new baby and spend all the precious hours of her first moments on earth together. And it was … kinda.
It was also because having a baby makes your tired, grumpy, and gross I didn’t want anyone else to see me. I wanted to just lie around like Jaba the Hutt and have my husband bring me food and hand me the baby. For the first four weeks of Emery’s life my husband knew that if I was wearing a shirt, any shirt, even my old gross white T-shirt with the hole in the armpit, I was getting dressed up. If it had been up to me, I don’t think I would have even tried to wear pants until Emmy was five weeks old.
But it was not up to me.
Wearing nothing but a pair of granny panties in front of your husband is one thing … in front of your father-in-law … quite a different story. You don’t really have choice but to strap on a hodgepodge outfit of whatever is A) clean and B) fits. This is a list of things I have now worn in front of people because it fit the aforementioned categories:
A too short nursing nightgown under a matching robe. It was not appropriate to stand in this so I had to remain seated for the entire length of the visit. If I had not, I would have treated my in-laws to the latest in hospital mesh underwear technology.
A sweater I bought as a joke for my husband. I got home from the hospital and it was the only thing in the house that was warm, not maternity, and fit. I looked like someone drank a lot of Kool-Aid and then got violently ill on a sweater.
Jeans covered in baby spit-up because my other pair of jeans was covered in cat spit-up and I figured that human vomit was “cleaner” … or at lease more palatable.
I wrapped myself up in a blanket when a friend came over one time. She surprised me—don’t surprise a new mom.
I’ve worn a pair of old black dance pants from college, and old concert T-shirt from high school and a headband from grade school. I wore an outfit so horrible it took decades to build.
And its not just the pressure to wear clothes, where we spend holidays is more controversial, whole months worth of weekends which were once ours to do with as we pleases are subject to drop-in visits, eager pleas to see our blessed child, and heavy handed suggestions of increased parental visitation. Before Emmy, we saw my husband’s parents once every three months, usually when there was an event we couldn’t in good conscience avoid. When I was seven months pregnant my mother-in-law suddenly announced that she would be visiting us every other weekend once the baby was born.
This is an increase of 600 percent.
That is a jaw dropping amount.
You know what? I take that back.
Six hundred percent is 500 more percent than jaw dropping. Increasing something by 600 percent borders on insanity.
To be fair, it’s not just my husband’s parents. I don’t remember my mother sending games, toys, and gift certificates before we had the baby. If she did my husband certainly kept it quiet. I think she just lives farther away and the increased visitation is halted by large mountain ranges separating her house from ours.
I am told this is how it is most families. Babies make an entrance, people want to be around the them in some vague hope that the new baby smell somehow cures cancer or staves off aging, and the new parents are shoved to the side, left to pick up the torn wrapping paper and ice cream bowls. I know I should be grateful that my child will have a relationship with her grandparents that so many people want to care and love my baby, but there is a part of me that is sullen and a little angry. I was a pretty great person before Emmy was born. I was interesting with skills, hobbies, and fun stories about variety of subjects. I know a really good joke about a duck. And while I love being a mom and adore my daughter, I am far more than just a vessel for baby and there is more to me than some ovaries and other part of the umbilical cord. I don’t want to be so guarded, but I just can’t trust a relationship based on my ability to act as an incubator; rather, I’d like to have a relationship based on my duck joke.
It’s a really good joke.