April 17, 2013

"We thought it would be sitcom-style hard — not necessarily with a feel-good resolution at the end of every episode..."

"... but at least punctuated by those frequent moments of uplift indicating that, in spite of everything, life really is beautiful, isn't it?"
I'm pretty sure it's like that for some people, but for many of us, it's not. For many of us, it's not good hard, as in a "good hard workout"; it's bad hard, as in, it sometimes feels like something bad is happening to you.

But does anyone really remember this? I don't. I only know it's true because I remember saying it out loud, and because I wrote the previous paragraph almost three years ago, with Rosie sleeping at my side, in a typo-filled document titled "Before I Forget."

48 comments:

Shana said...

"Being raised in a family of psychologists"...well there ya go.

Tari said...

One of my roommates at Colgate used to come home from class every day, sigh deeply, throw herself in a chair with the back of her hand pressed to her forehead and exclaim "my life is SO HARD!"

She's somehow related to the whiny, pitiful woman who wrote this, isn't she?

C Stanley said...

If you are good at just being in the moment and taking your life as it comes, there can be a Zen-like quality to your days with baby. But say you're someone like me—someone who likes the feeling of planning out your day, both what you're going to accomplish and when and how you're going to relax, and then executing that plan--then you will probably find that the long, aimless weeks of waiting on and reacting to your newborn are unsatisfying, frustrating, even depressing.

Parenting should teach you to recognize and adjust these rough edges of your own temperament. If you're too high strung, learn to relax and live in the moment more. If you are too loosy goosy, the baby needs more structure so buck up. this process is also known as "maturity."

TerriW said...

Motherhood is hardest when:

* You don't live near your extended family.

* When you don't have much of an extended family to begin with, even if you do live near them.

* You grew up in a family with few siblings, so you didn't get much experience/training dealing with children when you were growing up

* You delay childbearing, because remember all those years that you spent out at clubs or parties until late and hardly slept and then were able to go to work the next day? Do you think we evolved that ability for a reason? Kinda sucks when you wait until those years are over.

* You delay childbearing, because the more years you spend with all that freedom, self-determination, and cash to burn, the more you are going to resent not getting to go to the bathroom solo anymore.

* Motherhood is hard because there has been this strange disconnect in handing down our cultural knowledge and for some reason people buy books and read blogs to try to figure out how to parent.

* Motherhood is hard because people are so insecure about their parenting choices that they have to vilify other people's choices.

* Motherhood is hard because it's always been hard, and for the love of God, buck up, call you mother and tell her you love her and appreciate her.

tiger said...

Wow. I guess raising children *is* hard when you expectations for it are based on it being like a sit-com.


CJinPA said...

"Before I Forget."

Lady, I doubt you were ever in danger of forgetting how difficult it is to be such a wonderful, awesome, selfless woman.

EDH said...

Where's Dr. Gosnell when you need him?

CJinPA said...

TerriW, good stuff.

MadisonMan said...

Set the bar low for expectations with your life after the baby is born. You'll probably still be disappointed. It's a long slog, but totally worth it -- at least for me.

She seems to have had very unrealistic expectations. I wonder why.

Freeman Hunt said...

If you think of the beginning as an endurance test, you will not be so put out. Think of troops in wars. Think of pioneers.

Geoff Matthews said...

Parenting is challenging. Why didn't anyone tell us?
Youth is wasted on the young, life is wasted on the living, and so on.

Nonapod said...

Motherhood was pretty hard for O-Lan in the The Good Earth too.

edutcher said...

Most women seem to think it's beautiful because they can see past themselves.

MadisonMan said...

an endurance test

Exactly. Very occasionally in the first few weeks, the kid will deign to give you a small respite. An extra 90 minutes of sleep. A diaper that hasn't leaked. A feeding session that doesn't end in a huge geyser of burp all over the rug.

I do miss the smell of a newborn. And the joy my kids took in their baths, even at 3 weeks.

Shana said...

FH said, " Think of troops in wars. Think of pioneers."

Bite your tongue. Relics of repressive patriarchy.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Jesus H. Christ.

She's married
To a man.
It's just indecent.

Lesbian journalist Masha Gessen, in a recent radio interview:

It’s a no-brainer that (gays) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.

(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.
"

Audio here. Go to 06:30.

Freeman Hunt said...

Bite your tongue. Relics of repressive patriarchy.

Heh.

Howard said...

The examined life is such a bore

Shana said...

CStanley said, " this process is also known as 'maturity.'"

Edutcher said, " Most women seem to think it's beautiful because they can see past themselves."

There is nothing the modern, published-in-The-Atlantic, writer can't make all about herself and her feelings. Her life is harder than any human ever before.

Freeman Hunt said...

Seriously, every time I thought nursing was difficult, and it is difficult at the beginning, I thought of women throughout the ages who had no other choice than to make it work, women who lived hard lives too, maybe out in some field working or out traveling long distances on foot or in wagons. That kept things in perspective, made it seem much easier, definitely doable.

Pogo said...

"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life—the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way.

It finds reasons to be unhappy, when all the world is shining around it, and love is smiling through all things.
"

Shana said...

Plus the fact that, if nursing failed, I knew there was always formula at the grocery store. That tends to take some of the pressure off, knowing your baby won't die if you can't produce enough milk.

Also, I didn't have to deliver the baby in the field and go right back to picking cotton or plowing the back forty.

CJinPA said...

Seriously, every time I thought nursing was difficult, and it is difficult at the beginning, I thought of women throughout the ages who had no other choice than to make it work, women who lived hard lives too, maybe out in some field working or out traveling long distances on foot or in wagons. That kept things in perspective, made it seem much easier, definitely doable.

Between my daughter's big, beautiful, ah, big head and my wife's trouble breastfeeding, I think often of what childbirth would have been like for us in generations past. It would have been difficult in the most extreme sense.

EMD said...

What's weird is that the author's kitchen table only has three chairs, and the open side faces an unseen wall ...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What?!?! Life isn't a sit com? Who knew.

TerriW, nails it.

virgil xenophon said...

About a decade ago a historian produced a study of all the dairies of women pioneers who trekked west in conestoga wagons in the settlement of the West. He claimed that the thing that stood out most in ALL the dairies was the fact that, half-way thru the running commentary, he would come across a statement TOTALLY out of the blue with no predicate commentary whatsoever like: "Gave birth to baby Jessica this am." with no explanatory comment followed by the continuation of the narrative of daily life on the trip, i.e., without referring overmuch to the birth again The women had evidently thought the "perils and hardships" of motherhood so ordinary, so unremarkable, that compared to all the other hardships of the trip, their pregnancy was thought to be such an ordinary fact of life as to not even be remarkable enough to deserve extensive comment.

Does the phrase "people were made of sterner stuff back then" ring a bell? Remember, this at the same time the phrase "Iron men and wooden ships" was born..

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Upon reflection the study is well over 20 yrs old--time flies when you're fossilizing, lol.

Joe Schmoe said...

It appears our intrepid adventurers Ann and Meade have stumbled upon the exotic Navel Gazer, a species that thinks it is terribly unique despite their near-identical appearance, much like a flock of flamingos. They aren't very difficult to approach in their native habitats, usually hip urban enclaves and towns dominated by higher academic institutions, because their infatuation with themselves makes them unaware of much going on around them.

virgil xenophon said...

PPS: A clever, humorous radio ad campaign for a breakfast product (whose name I can't remember) was based on this study in which the wife apologizes for the late breakfast because of the little fact she had to plow the north forty, do the days wash, split logs and fight off a marauding band of Indians--and more--all before breakfast. LOL

Joe Schmoe said...

Or as my late beloved grandma would say, "Get over yourself, honey."

Inga said...

Yes, it was damn hard, be honest.

Then it got easier. Then it got hard again. Then it was nice and easy. Then it was great. And then it was terrific when the grandkids kissed you hello and after a wonderful day with them, they kiss you goodbye and go home with their parents:). Then you get to go out with your honey, if you still have the energy for it.

Ah, life is good.

Rocketeer said...

Of COURSE there comes a time in the first few weeks of your newborn's life when you think: "Dear Lord, can I keep doing this?" And then the kid smiles for the first time, and you're good for another 8 or 9 weeks. If you're paying attention as a parent, you'll notice these little "pick-me-ups" occur almost on schedule, as needed. Thing is, you have to be paying attention to your CHILD, and not staring woefully into a mirror singing mournful sprituals about yourself, to pick up on it.

Henry said...

There's a lot of truth to that article. I have a few foggy memories of sleep-deprived-baby-crying-all-night-despair. Now they're more like pseudo-memories: the stories I've told myself about myself. They're not sad memories at all.

But the article makes me sad in another way. Why do people set up checklists of expectations for every experience? Even the author's reference to Zen sets up a damning expectation.

If you are good at just being in the moment and taking your life as it comes, there can be a Zen-like quality to your days with baby.

It's not enough to just do the work as the work needs doing. You have to good at "being in the moment" so it can be "Zen-like."

Being Zen-like is yet another hurdle. As the man said, what you really need to do is just show up.

ricpic said...

The notion that children are delicate flowers who will be forever ruined by you named it, hearing a bad word, seeing something ugly, having their bottoms slapped, not being stimulated, being over stimulated, and on and on, that's the mistake that makes motherhood hard. They're not delicate hothouse flowers, they're weeds.

Sam L. said...

The power of forgetting...one of the reasons for child #2. (I have 2.)

Sam L. said...

And with #1, I told my wife I couldn't understand why her oldest sister-in-law had 6 (and 2 more later).

EMD said...

Does her baby have colic, or acid reflux?

Because, if not, she's one weak-ass parent.

Shana said...

I have five. Now, where did I put my car keys?

Freeman Hunt said...

My first had acid reflux. This made the next two seem pretty easy.

C Stanley said...

My third has been the easiest (learning curve, in part) except for the fact that I was 45 and was in an out of the hospital after a life threatening infection at the site of my C section incision. Came home when she was three weeks old and had to carry a wound vac pump around along with her...gave me an appreciation for what it would be like to care for twins. Gave me an appreciation for a lot of things, actually, like being alive.

ken in sc said...

I remember getting up to give my oldest son his 3 AM feeding and let my wife sleep. I made myself a cup of instant coffee with a big spoonful of mayonnaise instead of Coffeemate. It did not taste right. Ah, good times.

furious_a said...

I don' know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies.

And getting them through infanthood alive and undamaged is starting from scratch, re-inventing the wheel for each one. Not like following grandma's apple.butter recipe.

On the upside, nothing grosses me out anymore. Tending the DiaperGenie took care of that.

furious_a said...

there can be a Zen-like quality to your days with baby.

It got Zen-like when her eyes focused (they kind of look through you right after they're born) and we could tell she recognized us.

wyo sis said...

I recognize a lot of the emotions she mentions. I remember telling myself "In a week you won't remember how tired you are right now." It really was difficult.
For a while.
But I got over it.
So did she. She just wants mothers in the throes of it to know it doesn't last.
I thought about sending my niece with her 3 week old baby the link, but when you are in it you really don't want to be told to buck up.

Synova said...

I have no memory of the year my youngest was four (and I was telling everyone she was five).

I almost don't remember being so tired with the second that I didn't dare sit down. In order to stay awake I had to stand.

(I'm told my grandmother once fell asleep at the kitchen table when the pastor was visiting.)

The later ones were easier, though. Partly because I figured out that when I held and rocked my first while he cried himself to sleep, he was still crying himself to sleep, and if I'd put him in his crib and let him cry himself to sleep once he wouldn't have been awakened three times every night when he fell asleep in my arms and I tried to lay him down only to cry himself to sleep again.

I don't think the girls cried as much as he did at that age, but it could well be that they were easier because I was less likely to become distraught and irrational when they cried.

sydney said...

I would never say this among a company of women doctors, but next to internship and residency, and even bein on call as a practicing physician, being home with my newborn babies was a cakewalk. I did it four times and each maternity leave seemed like a long vacation to me. Two years after I had my final baby, I found myself longing for a really long break from work. Took me a while to adjust to the fact I would never get breaks like that again. I think of those as my golden years.

Steve Koch said...

Linked article was boring self centered logorrhea.

Sydney may be super woman.

Post by virgil xenophon about the pioneer women was fascinating.