My long time friend H recently had a baby. Like, last week. She’s recovering from a C section, so I thought, what better time than now to take advantage of her vulnerable state and ask her what it’s like to produce and be in charge of a human? Here’s our conversation,which took place over Facebook.
Me: Oh my Gd, how are you? Are you sleeping?
H: I’ve been telling people motherhood is "Dickensonian" (Is that a word?). "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I am exhausted, but am getting some sleep. I think he slept 4 hours at a stretch last night. And A (husband) usually holds him early in the morning since he sleeps more while I’m feeding, and gives me more time to sleep with no baby in the room. This is all definitely a team effort! I feel really bad for women whose husbands make them do everything. I haven’t even changed a diaper yet. I’m recovering from a C-section so that makes things a bit harder. (Also, I’d been intending to write back and say "I never understood what love was or my meaning of life until I had a baby." Those statements piss me off now more than ever now that I have a baby!)
Me: You thought maybe you would have to have a C-section, no?
H: I was expecting I might have one. It’s kind of weird, vaginal births are almost revered, but they aren’t always the best choice.
Me: Why do you think so?
H: So many women for vaginal births and see C-sections as a kind of “failure.”
Me: Because you should be able to push the baby out?
Me: Isn’t that kind of why women died so often in childbirth? Because of, like, nature’s infections?
H: Exactly. Vaginal births are generally easier to recover from, until they’re not. There’s a lot of “competitive birthing.” Luckily, most people I know aren’t into that.
Me: WHAT IS COMPETITIVE BIRTHING? Is it like competitive eating? Please say no.
H: Ha ha, that’s my phrase. Just the idea that "my birth is more natural than yours."
Me: Oh, yes. I’ve heard of that.
H: I’m more of an earth momma, etc, etc. Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t have to push anything out of my pelvis or vagina.
Me: I feel like it’s the beginning of the whole martyr complex for mothers. Like, if you love this baby, you will not think about yourself or the pain.
H: Yeah, also, the whole "I’ve found meaning now"- we had some old college friends visiting today, and I said it makes me wonder how meaningless your life was if you didn’t find meaning ’til you had a child! I love him and my life is going to be very different, but geez, of course I had love and meaning before too!
Me: Can I ask about the love? Did you feel it immediately? Like when they handed him to you?
H: Nope. And it’s still growing. Honestly, the C-section was surreal, I had labored 24 hours, I was tired, and shaking from the morhpine when A showed him to me. My first thought was "that is an attractive baby."
Me: Well, he is. That is true. Okay, this is another possibly asshole question, but are you scared?
Me: Did you know you were ready to start trying when you did?
H: Kind of. I was like "I’m 32, better get cracking.” It won’t get any easier as I get older.
Me: Right, like if you want it, you just have to jump.
Me: Are you both taking a leave thing from work?
H: I’m going down to part time so I left my full-time position. (H is a social worker.) They told me I’m welcome to come back when I’m ready, I told them 3-6 months. It’s great that they are so flexible. A is taking 3 weeks. My mom flies back when he’s back to work, so I’ll have someone here for 4 weeks.
Me: That’s great.
H: I don’t know how I’d do it otherwise. Too much pain.
Me: Based on what other people have said, it seems like it gets boring at some point.
H: Yes. And tiring. So glad we have Netflix on Blueray.
Me: Haha. Are you breastfeeding?
H: Yes, I am, and luckily no major problems there. I was whining to another friend about how I can’t chat with friends online when feeding and then she told me her story about improper latches, and feeding tubes and what not. I was like, oh, I’m not having problems, sorry. " She didn’t mind. She said I can complain about whatever I want.
Me: I feel like part of the martyr thing is that you’re not supposed to complain.
H: Yes. Or that you should be staring adoringly in your baby’s face all day.
Me: Are you doing that?
H: Not all day, just sometimes.
Me: I can’t even imagine being a baby. Everything must be so scary.
H: I’m sure. He often has this worried expression on his face. He likes music, so I was playing some Dido today. I do feel this crazy sense of urgency when he’s crying and I know it’s because he needs to eat. If he’s not hungry, his crying doesn’t really bother me.
Me: Do you know what the cries mean? Or is it guessing?
H: Guessing. With hungry, you can often see him rooting and sucking and looking for a breast. Like, he’ll start sucking on the arm of whoever is holding him. And the clock also helps me guess. Being a baby is stressful. I wouldn’t want to be a baby again. And I totally can’t imagine doing this without a supportive partner.