by Maggie Lamond Simone
Excerpt from her book, From Beer to Maternity
Nine Months, 65 Pounds
“There she was just a-waddlin’ down the street, singing doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo, belly so big she could barely see her feet, singing doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo …”
Yep, we’re soon going to enter the somewhat terrifying realm of parenthood, as demonstrated by my changing body (amusingly reminiscent of Jabba the Hut) and my emotional state (not-so-amusingly reminiscent of “The Exorcist.”) It finally happened. Not that I was under any pressure or anything.
There’d been some concern, of course. My sister-in-law approached the baby race as an actual competition (and you can bet that may be a little more than I needed to know about my brother), while my mother developed a charming habit of looking at her watch every time I came home. As if anything’s going to happen when I’m visiting my mother.
My mother-in-law handled the whole situation very well, with only a very few impeccably-placed sighs here and there, while my dear husband spent more than his fair share of time pondering the possible tax effects of children heading to college as Social Security kicks in.
But everyone can now relax, except, of course, me. I can’t relax because a) I really, really liked being a size 3, and b) at the end of all this, an 8-lb. person is somehow going to leave me through an exit the size of an olive pit. I’ve therefore assembled some suggestions and observations for people who are not currently pregnant, to help ease the way for those of us who are.
1. Lose the dismissive, “Get over yourself, women give birth every day” attitude. People die every day, too. They still need support. It’s not like we’re asking for special treatment or anything. . . wait a minute. Yes we are. We’re growing babies here.
2. Fathers, imagine having the flu for three straight months and still having to work, cook, clean, and take care of the kids and dog. Help out. At least try to look busy.
3. Reading books doesn’t cause the symptoms we experience. If that were the case, we’d all have gone through “sympathy pregnancies” in sixth grade health class. The symptoms are real, so don’t try to convince yourself – or us – that we’ve imagined them. Trust me. That head-spinning routine is not a pretty sight.
4. Don’t blanche at the clothes we have to buy. This isn’t a day job that allows us to go back to our regular wardrobe nights and weekends.
5. Society likes thin people. Many of us have spent the majority of our lives trying to get or stay that way, so gaining weight – even for this – can be difficult. If you’re going to say, “You don’t even look pregnant,” you may as well add, “It just looks like you’ve gained thirty pounds.” Be tactful. Lie if you have to. Tell us we look great.
6. Resist the urge to snicker when we’re stuck on our backs in the bathtub like turtles. Remember that while the gravity problem that prevents us from performing certain basic maneuvers will soon fade, our memories will not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My husband and I have spent many evenings of late discussing the end of life as we know it, and we’ve concluded it’ll be the best thing that ever happened to us. But I’m definitely not handling the journey very gracefully, because beautiful though it is, graceful it is not. And if it’s going to come out kicking and screaming anyway, then darn it, this baby’s going to learn from a pro.
“Now I’m so nauseous nearly every single day, singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo, so just give me my crackers and get out of my way. . . , singin’ doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo. . .
“I hope you don’t take this personally, honey,” I said to my husband, “but sometimes I just want to run away.
It seems that the more pregnant I get, the more I miss being single, and living alone, and not having to take care of anyone but myself, and being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want.“
He looked vaguely hurt for a second and replied, “Why would I take that personally?” He then shook his head and walked away in his now-signature state of disbelief.
“Wait!” I called after him, “that’s not what I meant!” But it was too late. He was gone, presumably in search of that section of the pregnancy handbook that tells fathers-to-be to essentially ignore all the stupid things their wives say during this nine-month period. I’m pretty sure he’s made copies and hidden them throughout the house so there’s always one close by.
Yep, this thing sure is wreaking havoc on pretty much every aspect of life. I don’t know why, exactly, although I blame it on the hormones and that seems to work. It just seems to bring out every element of fear, insecurity, selfishness and immaturity that ever existed. He’s working on it, though – hahaha! Kidding. I was actually talking about me.
And just to set the record straight, let’s clear up a few scattered areas of apparent concern. No, it’s not twins. And I know – now – that when they say it’s OK to gain 35 pounds, they don’t mean in the first six months. And I also know, intellectually, that this child is not deliberately mistaking my bladder for a park bench.
I also know that I’m really happy to be pregnant. It’s just that everyone always talks about how beautiful the process is (and it is, in a theoretical, textbook kind of way), how sexy a pregnant woman can be (which she can, if she’s Elle McPherson), and how joyful these nine months are (and they are, particularly if you consider planning any given outing around proximity of toilets to be a joyful experience).
No one talks about the other stuff, the realities and fears that first-time moms can experience. For instance, sometimes pregnant women can’t exercise like they used to. I can no longer run or take karate. All I can do is walk, which was always enjoyable with my dog but which now seems painfully like a day job. I walk my dog his two miles, and I walk me my two miles, and I look like the neighborhood moron going up and down the street all day long.
And the closer I get, the more I realize I don’t know any of the songs kids like, or the games they’re supposed to play, or the shows they’re supposed to watch, or the books they’re supposed to read. Heck, I have a hard time remembering high school. I mean, sure, I watch “Nickelodeon,” but it’s for “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Bob Newhart.” Oh, all right. Sometimes I watch “The Brady Bunch” too, OK? Jeez. Tough crowd.
Oh, yeah, and what is this Barney phenomenon all about, and how come every time I see him, I think fondly of football season and what it must feel like to punt him across the yard? I’d better have some input in that area, that’s all I can say.
See what I mean? There’s a lot more to think about here than I ever imagined, and though much of it is really nice and warm and fuzzy, some of it is just plain scary. I’ve got to believe my husband understands this, that it’s just a little overwhelming sometimes, and sometimes I just want to hide. I bet that deep down, he knows I don’t want to run away.
I bet that deep down, they both do.
“Hop on,” my nurse said.
“Can’t I use the other one?” I asked. “This scale always makes me about fifty pounds heavier! Can’t I use the one in the hall? Please?”
She tried not to glare at me because she likes me, but I knew she wanted to.
“There is no whining in this room. Get on the scale.”
Pouting, I did as I was told, because I really respect this woman and didn’t want to irritate her. That, and she had access to what I assume was an entire drawerful of needles. This being my third trimester, I’m pretty familiar with where they keep things. . . LIKE THE LIGHTER SCALE, I thought to myself, pouting some more.
And of course when I got on the scale, she had to keep sliding that blasted weight to the right and more to the right and more to the right until I finally had to point out that it had no place left to go. Apparently I had gained more than the allotted three pounds this month . . . according to that scale. Which, of course, was wrong.
She duly noted my chart and brought me to the examining room, somewhat pleased, I think, that she didn’t have to hurt me, and closed the door.
Ah! But she didn’t lock it! Her mistake! I stealthily slipped off the examining table (as “stealthily,” say, as a beached whale making its way back to water, but you can’t blame a girl for trying, OK?) and slowly, silently opened the door.
With “Mission: Impossible” music playing in the background (in Muzak, of course, but darn good timing nevertheless), I slipped out the door, ducked under the nurses’ station to avoid detection, and scurried along the hallway in search of The Good Scale. I was determined to correct this glaring error before the doctor had a chance to see the chart.
I had one close call when I heard my nurse’s voice coming from another exam room. In retrospect I must have looked pretty silly flattening my back against the wall when my stomach reached clear to the other side, but I tingled with the danger of it anyway. Sad, but true.
When the coast was clear once again, I scurried around the corner and behold! There it was! The Good Scale! Justice was in sight as I approached it and carefully climbed aboard. When I was sure the needle had stopped moving, I opened my eyes . . . and almost fell off the darn thing. How could this be? The Good Scale had gone over to the dark side! I stood there, paralyzed, transfixed by the exact same number shown to me by the Demon Scale! It was a conspiracy. It had to be.
I stepped off and back on again. No change. I took off my socks. Nothing. I took off my watch. It didn’t budge. I was about to take off my clothes when I heard the doctor’s voice around the corner. I fled back to my room, heaved myself back on the examining table (which was neither easy nor pretty, I might add), and waited, defeated.
Afterwards I ran into another nurse friend.
“I don’t understand it,” I said. “I’ve done everything right. I take my vitamins, exercise, I’ve kept my keen sense of humor, and I’m still packing on the pounds. I just don’t get it.”
“There, there, now,” she said, sympathetically. “Tootsie roll?”
“OK!” I cried happily. “Thanks!”
“Do you know what you’re having?” the salesman asked helpfully. “Sometimes that’ll make your decision for you.” I was looking somewhat doubtfully at a pink snowsuit, wondering how we reached the millennium without having addressed this color issue.
“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “I don’t like pink. I don’t like it on girls, I don’t like it on boys, I don’t even like it on flamingos, where it actually belongs. Nor am I particularly fond of blue, come to think of it. And I may as well confess that yellow and mint green don’t really do it for me either. I just want a teeny white snowsuit.
“Until this child can provide thoughtful feedback (with supporting arguments in a double-spaced brief) on the merits of pastels, then I believe the choice is mine, and I choose white. I don’t understand why I can’t find it. Are the color people afraid I’m going to drop the poor thing in the snow and lose it until spring?”
He skulked off, apparently deciding that he could not, in fact, help me. Well, that was certainly smooth, I thought. I’m completely lost in this unknown territory, and I just dissed the first person to offer guidance and support. Weeeeee! Good for me! On to the next department!
“Do you know what you’re having?” chirped the irritatingly perky woman in bedding. “That will help you pick a theme for the nursery! We have Winnie the Pooh, Barbie, and of course all of the Disney characters!” There were about a zillion to choose from. This-is-the-fun-part, this-is-the-fun-part, I silently chanted.
“Do you have any plain animals?” I asked, “I like animals. I watch the Discovery Channel. I’d like a blanket with animals on it. An elephant, a lion, maybe a bear. Normal animals, such as you’d find in the woods. Can we do that?”
“Well, of course,” she stammered, “but, er, what if it’s a girl?”
I was reminded of the Little League World Series announcer who said, “And next up is little Johnny Doe, whose mother is a dentist!” The emphasis was a dead giveaway that the guy was over ninety, and so I let it pass with merely a chuckle. This woman, however, was younger than me. A chuckle was not going to make me feel better.
“Oh my God,” I cried. “You’re right! What was I thinking? Imagine – a girl surrounded by such masculine images! What a moron I am! We certainly wouldn’t want her to grow up to be a – gasp – vet!”
And off she went. I was beginning to notice a distinct scarcity of fresh salespeople. Jeez, I thought – talk about no sense of humor! This is how I handle stress! Come back!
There was, thankfully, a nice young man who told me about breast pumps and the advantages of nursing and the paraphernalia involved. I admit I was somewhat uncomfortable discussing such an intimate part of my anatomy with him, until his complete disinterest in me as a woman convinced me that it stopped being an intimate part the day I got pregnant. But then, total strangers rub my stomach. I should realize that intimacy isn’t what it used to be.
I am realizing, finally, that nothing will be again. This really is just the beginning – the car seat, stroller, crib, bassinet, diapers, little tiny bathtubs and washcloths and booties and those one-piece things with the snaps. . . but what a blast it’s been so far. It’s a whole new world, one that I am, at last, unbelievably thrilled to be invited into.
And every time I get frustrated or scared, I just stop for a few minutes and feel this little thing squirming and dancing and playing with its feet and kicking me for leaning too close to the sink. And I laughingly remember what everyone asks – “Do you know what you’re having?”
Of course I do. I’m having a baby.
If there is one thing I know about childbirth, it’s this: It will happen. Somehow. If you’re pregnant and due, the baby will come out. It’s a physical impossibility to be pregnant with the same child for the rest of your life.
Of course, if you’re having a normal pregnancy, you don’t know when it will come. That’s not up to you. You can’t will it out. You can’t bargain with it. You can’t reason with it. You can’t bribe it. It will come out eventually, when it’s ready. This is what I know.
Unfortunately I tend to forget it when faced with the inevitable inquiry, “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” It’s a harmless enough question to the average Joe, but to the nine-months-pregnant woman it comes out as, “What the heck’s the matter with you? What are you doing wrong? Have that baby, for Pete’s sake!”
It’s almost as painful as hearing, “Did you have your baby yet?” a month after giving birth. Almost. Not quite.
Anyhoo, if I were to do this again, I’d probably ask the doctor to lie about my due date, even to me. I would ask her to say that it’s actually past when it really is, and then even if I went late, everyone – including me – would still believe I was early. End of dilemma.
Why does the last month seem so long? It’s as if time. . . simply. . . stops. By this point I’ve almost completely lost sight of the miracle at the end of the tunnel. My last appointment went something like this: “I don’t care if I’m only 37 weeks. I’m 170 lbs. Induce me.”
Ah, well. It’s pregnant women like me who give pregnant women everywhere a bad rep, I know. And I know that people ask us The Question out of concern, and of course we’re grateful.
I also know, however, that I’m very hormonal with way too much time on my hands this week, and have therefore taken the liberty of providing some possible responses to the inevitable inquiry for future generations of pregnant women everywhere. The question, of course, is “Are you still here?”
– “Yes, and apparently so are you. Now what can we do about that?”
– “Well, there’s a funny story there. Turns out I’m not really pregnant after all. I just wanted to see what it was like to weigh more than my husband.”
– “You know how it is. The baby and I are still bonding. . . apparently with some sort of permanent adhesive.”
– “No, I’m a figment of your imagination. Weeeeee! Look at me! I’m a pink elephant!”
– “Yes. And you’re still irritating. The difference is, someday I’m going to give birth.”
– “No, actually you’ve reached my answering machine. Please leave a message after I – er, the – beep.”
– “Rumor has it the baby’s heard about my culinary prowess. It’s hiding.”
It’s ironic, really, because I have such mixed emotions about the whole thing. Sometimes I lie in bed thinking, Please let me go into labor. Please let me go into labor. Please let me go into labor. I want to see the baby, and to get on with life. There was a moment a couple weeks ago when I thought I was in labor and all I could think was, no. No. No. No. No. Not today. No. No. Please. No.
So I guess I know two things about childbirth. First, I know it’ll happen. And second, whenever it does. . . I know I won’t be ready.
I think it’s time to introduce you to my son. And from all of his squirming and chatting and fussing, I get the distinct impression he’s ready to meet you. Or he has gas. Sometimes I can’t tell.
Regardless, before we make these elaborate introductions, I’d like to make a few simple observations about the whole “baby” experience, now that I’ve actually had it. So pull up a bouncy seat and gather ‘round, kids. Mommy Maggie has the floor.
I will begin by confessing that he is so absolutely beautiful, I spend most waking moments just trying to memorize his face. He has this clear-eyed, innocent look which leads me to suspect that I will deny him nothing. It leads me, as well, to the inescapable conclusion that he was worth it.
Worth what, you ask? Well, that is certainly an interesting and worthwhile question; moms, maybe you can help me out here. How’s this: He was worth nine months of body-damaging pregnancy, constant worry about his health, and the mental trauma associated with a complete lifestyle change – oh, and THE MOST EXCRUCIATING PAIN I HAVE EVER ENDURED.
That about sum it up, d’ya think?
Yep, suffice it to say that calling it “labor” is like saying the Sistine Chapel has “pretty pictures.” I still can’t believe people experience that kind of pain and live. Either my threshold is somewhat lower than I had anticipated, or women who know are afraid the truth would result in the end of the world – which, incidentally, it would. Must be that post-natal amnesia syndrome, which I personally don’t envision happening absent a blow to the head.
Besides, I don’t want to forget, not any of it. Not the nurse who attached my hospital bracelet, to whom I offered my home to plunge her scissors into my chest, or the one who actually recorded the profanities I invented during contractions, or the first words I heard after the birth of my child, the doctor’s consolation to my husband – “Don’t worry; it’ll go down,” talking about his head. I’m assuming.
That said, how can I now explain the miracle of him? How can I describe his little button face, or how he purses his lips into a tiny Cheerio when he’s thinking really hard? I simply can’t, any more than I can convey the look on his face when we met for the first time. It either said, “Hey! Nice to meet you!” or “Egad! What’s up with the hair?!” My response, I fear, lacked a similar passion. “Hi. OK, can I sleep now?”
But I’ve gotten better, I think. I mean, look what I’ve learned already! For instance, spit-up, sans obstacles, can actually travel several feet. “Leak-proof” diapers aren’t. Poop, of the proper color and consistency, can actually be a source of joy and celebration. And sleep, contrary to popular belief, does not come naturally to all infants.
But then comes the magical day when you start to differentiate his “Hey, I’m starving here!” cry from his “Could you put a more stupid outfit on me?” cry. And he smiles his first real smile (read: “unaccompanied by gas”). And one day he’s looking up at you and his head doesn’t flop against your chest, and you realize your little man is growing up. Way too fast.
I don’t know where this journey will take us from here, but I do know that I never again want to face life without this little person by my side. I’ll always try to do the right things, but even when I make mistakes, he’ll forgive me because he knows, somehow, that I love him more than life itself. And I know, somehow, that he loves me back.
So here he is. World, I give to you my son. And my son, I give to you . . . the world.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we knew what he was saying?” my husband said, as we listened to our son’s babyspeak. “I mean, it’s so obvious he’s trying to tell us something – the facial movements, the expressiveness, the laughing – he’s really talking!”
I have to admit it would be nice to know what he’s trying to say. We have doctors and books and friends and family to make sure we’re doing all the right things – or not –
and yet the one person who can really tell us if we’re doing OK . . . can’t. I think it’d be great, just once in a while, to hear our son say, “Hey, guys! Nice job!”
And while he may not speak five languages yet, as we may have erroneously suggested to our family, he’s definitely on a verbal roll. It’s no longer just the occasional coo or gurgle, either, no, sir. This kid is Chatty Cathy. He babbles on and on, with or without an audience. You gotta love someone who can carry on entire conversations with himself, don’t you? Or worry about him, I guess.
At any rate, I’ve been thinking about this little situation so much that I unfortunately can no longer listen to him without imagining a cartoon cloud over his head containing the translation.
For instance, I was quietly watching him tell a whopper of a story to his hands. His face got solemn, he furrowed his little brow, he made all sorts of serious noises, and then burst out laughing, like he just cracked himself up. “Well, mister,” I said perkily, sitting down beside him, “sounds like a good little story there. Would you like to share it with the rest of the class?”
He looked at me with a little irritation, I think, as though I interrupted him or something. “Gee, I would,” said the bubble above his head, “if I thought ‘the class’ would get it.”
Ouch. That hurt.
Then there was the dinner table last night, where our little guy enjoyed our riveting conversation. He sat there yawning, contemplating his lot and watching our actions, and when we were finished he gave us a beautiful smile which said, “How was that, huh? Did you enjoy it? Are you really, really full now? Good! Now come over here and let me beat you until you burp.”
And of course there are those precious moments by the crib in the morning, when I try to ensure that he wakes up in a good mood by being incredibly happy myself. “How’s my little baby this morning, hmmm?” I coo, “How’s my little baby this morning?” And then that blasted bubble appears. “Hey, mom, you know what? You don’t have to say everything twice, OK? I’m a baby. I’m not an idiot.”
Oh, and let’s not forget the changing table, where we spend a good part of the day making sure my little angel is always clean and dry. Even these precious moments are now tainted by this little game I seem obsessed with playing. “Gee, mom,” I envision, “I appreciate your enthusiasm for what is truly a dirty job, but can I make a small suggestion? See those red lines around my stomach and thighs? Well, I’m just guessing here, but I think it means THE DIAPERS ARE TOO TIGHT.”
And of course we can’t forget Decker, can we? We’ve made sure the baby and dog have gotten to know and love each other just as we love them both. The cloud? Yep, it’s there, every time I let them spend time together. “Yes, yes, I love the dog. Now, would you be a dear and get the hair out of my mouth?”
I believe my husband is right. This baby is definitely trying to tell us something with all of his chattering and weird-baby-noise-making. The difference between us, though, is that . . .
I don’t want to know what it is.
“Honey,” my husband said gently, “I think it’s time to call somebody. I think we need some help.”
“What?” I was stunned. “What are you talking about? We’re doing just fine. Really! I think we’re fine!”
“I know we’re fine,” he said, “but I think things could be better. Come on – I know you know what I’m talking about. I know you’ve noticed it. I know it bothers you just as much as it bothers me.”
“But . . . but . . .” I was blubbering. “I’ll do better, I promise. Please. Just give me another chance!”
“I’m not blaming you, Mag – I’m just saying it’s time we got some help for it. That’s all. No one’s judging you here, especially me.”
“Well, you shouldn’t, because it’s not just my fault, you know!” Time for a counterattack. “You try staying home with a toddler who doesn’t stop moving for fourteen hours and see how much energy you have!”
He sighed, obviously not impressed with my dramatic range of histrionics. “Maybe we should talk about this some other time.”
“OK,” I said, victorious. “How’s never? Is never good for you?” I then walked away.
What’s the big deal here, anyway? I never cared much about it in my younger days, could take it or leave it, actually. I just wasn’t one of those girls. Heck, I could go weeks – months! – without giving it a thought. But when I met my husband, I guess it did become a little more important.
At first I just wanted to do it for him, to make him happy. But eventually I did it for me, too, because it made me happy. I liked it. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. Then, of course, along came the baby, and that changed everything. Just like everyone said it would.
Oh, sure, it was still just as important, and it was still pretty easy when he was smaller. But the older he gets, the more difficult it gets. We either don’t have the time, or don’t make the time, or I’m too tired, or he’s too tired, but whatever the reason, it’s just not getting done.
But get help? Bring a stranger into our little world, expose ourselves in all our shame? I don’t think so. The fact that I carry a Tigger key chain does not mean I have no pride.
And how could I explain the problem, particularly if this outsider has no children? The hours upon hours of playing, the toys, the clothes on the floor, the plethora of meals and snacks . . . how could I ever convey the profound sense of weariness and frustration at the end of each day as I decide, again, that it’s easier to just sleep?
Maybe I’m just lazy. In fact, I’m reasonably certain it’s a good possibility. And let’s not forget that before my husband arrived on the scene, I couldn’t care less about this sort of thing. Maybe I just have to accept the possibility that I regressed somehow. I went to break the bad news to my husband.
“But don’t you remember the good old days?” he cajoled. “Remember how it used to be? The kitchen . . . the bathroom . . . the floor of the . . . “
“All right!” I cried. “Stop! Enough already! You win! You’re right! We have a problem! Do what you have to do!”
I stormed out of the room as he dialed the phone. Well, I thought, it’s out of my hands. And it’s for the good of the entire family. Of course I wish it hadn’t come to this, but it had.
“Hello?” he said. “Acme Housecleaning?”
Some things never change, I thought to myself as I lounged in the bathtub, still the only truly peaceful place in my world. Slowly, however, my gaze was drawn to a little yellow rubber duck, so composed and tranquil in the corner of the tub once reserved for my musk-scented body wash.
(Sigh.) I guess some things do.
Everyone said this would happen when we had a baby. They said it when we got married, too, that things wouldn’t be the same between us. And the funny thing is, I always got the impression that they said it like it was a bad thing, like they were trying to scare us. Big bullies.
Sure, things have changed. And maybe at the beginning it didn’t seem that it was necessarily for the better, as I recall the night my mother babysat so we could go out to dinner. If I remember correctly, we spent the evening, um, “discussing” child-rearing techniques and whether to have another baby. And by dessert we weren’t discussing anything at all.
Lesson learned: If your memory of having a baby still prompts you to curl up in a fetal position and scream for drugs, you’re probably not ready to discuss having another one.
But we were just getting used to the little guy, so that one doesn’t count. What counts are all the other changes, the ones that people don’t talk about, the ones that occur when you trust someone so deeply that there’s nothing left to hide. And let’s face it – after you’ve experienced childbirth together, there’s nothing left to hide.
For example, I’ve discovered that my husband likes to cook. Well, actually, I think he likes to eat, and I don’t always have time to cook. Whatever. But he’s doing it, and he’s pretty good at it, too, if he does say so himself. Which he does.
Yep, Chef Raphael has entered the building. He even has his own hot sauce collection, stored on a custom-made Wall of Flame to which he occasionally invites spectators. I told him he should start his own band, the Spice Boys, and he could be “Old Spice.” Either he wasn’t amused, or he didn’t get it. I’m not sure.
And me? Well, it turns out that I’m somewhat of a nurturer after all. This was one of my bigger fears when I was pregnant, that when my baby cried my instinctive response would be, “Get over it.” I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the patience to care for an infant, and I was reasonably sure I’d have a problem with nighttime feedings.
Even my husband was a little nervous. When people set you up on a blind date, you know how you’re generally in trouble when the description involves the words “nice personality”? Well, people would ask him how he thought I’d be as a mom, and his response was, “Well, she has a nice personality.”
But I think I’m doing OK. I change a mean diaper, I no longer stub my hip on the corner of the bed in the middle of the night, I’m learning the little songs, and I would drop everything if my son needed me – except, obviously, my son. AND I’ve got a nice personality.
And what’s all the brouhaha about loss of romance after having a baby? So our definition of “passionate” is now “both awake.” So our main topic of conversation is poop. So our previously spontaneous afternoon outings now involve packing a small suitcase. So what. I don’t care what they say. The most romantic thing I’ve ever seen in my life is watching my husband with his son.
Sure, I might miss my sensuous body wash from time to time, but if I had it to do all over again . . . well, what can I say?
Rubber ducky, you’re the one, you make bath time . . .
“Honey, have you changed any poopy diapers today?” I asked.
“No, why? Hasn’t he gone yet?” my husband answered.
“Nope. Don’t think so.”
(Sigh.) You know you’re married when, huh?
But that’s not really a fair assessment. I mean, it’s certainly not that my husband and I have nothing left to say to each other. It’s just that if conversation is really an art, then what used to be a Picasso has taken on more of a hotel-room quality these days. But darn it, hotel room paintings are underrated.
Oh, sure, the witty repartee was generously sprinkled throughout our early years. It was easier then. How could it not be? New relationships hold tremendous mystery and surprise. He doesn’t know you, and you don’t know him, and so absolutely everything about each other is new. New, and therefore exciting.
It takes weeks, months, even years to get to know one another. You share all sorts of information and history about yourself, and he shares all sorts of stuff with you, and neither of you even stops to question the fact that all of these stories are essentially uncorroborated. Hey, you’re in love.
You tell each other about work and school and growing up and past relationships and goals and dreams and fears. You take trips and go out to dinner and see movies, and all of these things inspire more anecdotes and cute little vignettes of your life that cannot be verified without an awful lot of digging.
And then you get married and have a baby and go visit your brother and you say, “Hey, Joe, remember the time we were fishing and I accidentally pierced your ear with a fish hook?” and he says, “You didn’t do that. I did that. I don’t even think you were there,” and you say, “No – really? Hahaha . . . oops,” and suddenly you realize that there’s a very slim possibility that you may have, unintentionally, of course, exaggerated a story or two over the years.
You don’t do it to be cruel or misleading; you just, in your mind and therefore in your conversation, make things a little more exciting than they might actually have been. You want to impress this other person. It’s perfectly natural. Of course, it’s probably not as natural to start believing the embellishments as truth, but we’ll leave that one to the professionals.
At any rate, I think what happens is that once you hook up with someone for an extended period of time, you pretty much have to lose the embellishment angle because the truth is way too obvious. The other person’s there. Even the most talented among us would be hard pressed to put an exciting spin on an event that our spouse actually witnessed.
For instance, if I said, “Hey, honey, our infant son spoke a complete sentence today – in Spanish!” he’d know right off the bat that I was exaggerating. I mean, everyone knows the baby’s taking French as his second language – doh! There I go again!
And I thought “making an honest woman out of me” was about virtue. Silly me.
The good news is, we’re not at the “So how ‘bout them Bills?” stage. We both happen to find our lives quite exciting right now, and we’re making a concerted effort to ensure that our conversation reflects that excitement, the way it did when everything about each other was new and, it turns out, inflated. Hey, we’re dealing with reality now, and if you don’t think reality’s a hoot, then you haven’t been to our house lately.
“Honey, you won’t believe this diaper! I mean it! You have to see this!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maggie Lamond Simone is a national award-winning columnist and author. Her humor and observational essays have appeared for seven years in Family Times, an award-winning monthly parenting magazine and for nine years in The Advertiser, a weekly newspaper. Her columns also appeared in the Sunday edition of the Syracuse Herald American (circ. 250,000) from 1995 through 2001. Her essays are included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution (2008), Chicken Soup for the New Mom’s Soul (2007), and Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause (2007).
From Beer to Maternity can be purchased from www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and through any major bookseller.
One author’s journey into the somewhat terrifying realm of parenthood.