Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baby Bomb

A couple months ago a friend of mine, whom I have not seen in a few years and whose biological clock is ticking like mad, was trying to get the real scoop on parenthood from me and Chris. She asked me if having a baby really does change your life as much as everyone says it does. I suppose she was hoping I would debunk the myth of the life-altering, bubble-bursting, dream-shattering baby. The baby that shows up, disrupts your sleep and your sex life, causes a third of your conversations to revolve around poop, and guarantees that you will never see a movie in a theater again.

I could have lied. I could have sugar coated it. But, I had to come clean with a resounding “Yes!”. Yes, a baby will knock your life upside down. Yes, everything you’ve heard is true. And yes, it will all be worth it because you will love that baby more than blah, blah, blah. I mean, you know the drill. It doesn’t matter what I tell her anyway because, as I now know, no words of wisdom can prepare you for what is in store for you as a new parent. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from trying.

But, it got me thinking about what has changed for me. And, I decided that the biggest change has been in my friendships. I never thought I’d be that mother who smugly proclaims, “I pretty much just hang out with my friends with kids these days”. And, I’m not. I try to make time for Charlotte-free activities whenever I can…ish. But, it’s true that since Charlotte was born I have become a lot closer to a couple of my mommy friends, and there has been a noticeable divide between me and my single and/or child-free friends.

Oh, how that last statement made me feel dirty! Add it to the long list of things I never thought I would do or say once I became a parent. And the worst part is that I can vividly remember what it was like to be on the other side of the stroller. I remember wanting nothing more than to catch up with a friend on the phone and feeling frustrated by the screaming children in the background and the constant interruptions as my friend scolded or comforted her kids, depending on the situation. I remember commiserating with a fellow childless buddy about how annoying it is when people use their kids as an excuse not to do anything. I remember swearing that I would be the kind of mom who would not let a baby slow me down, that I would be more than happy to dump the kids off at Grandma’s so I could run off to Vegas, the club, wherever.

I hated the accusation that people without kids just “didn’t get it”. I found it condescending and insulting. And it is. So, I’m not going to say that. All I can say is that I have learned to eat my words. I didn’t know that being away from my daughter would make me feel physically ill at first. And that even when it started to get easier, I could never completely be at ease until we were reunited, which means I would rarely agree to anything that took me away from her for more than a few hours. So much for Vegas!

I didn’t realize how much I would change as a person. My priorities, the things I worry about, the ways I chose to spend my time, all changed. And it stands to reason that it would be easy fun, fulfilling even, to surround myself with people who could relate to my experiences. People who wouldn’t judge me for letting my newborn take all her naps on my shoulder because they remembered what it was like to not want to let go. People who would find my stories about teething interesting and could give me advice about diaper rashes. I love my friends with kids. They reassure me, inspire confidence, listen to my banal stories about Charlotte, and go out of their way to be there for me and my daughter.

But, my friends without kids do all these things, too, sometimes even more so. So, the challenge is to not get hung up on the times when they are mad at me for not coming out or making fun of me for being overprotective, and try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I don’t want to alienate people who care about me because they don’t have kids, just like I would hate for my friends to give up on me because I have one.

So, I have set up certain ground rules for myself. I try not to talk exclusively about Charlotte in conversations (This is a good rule no matter who I am talking to). I try not to give people a play by play of what she is doing when I am talking on the phone, no matter how scintillating it seems to me. I NEVER put her on the phone. Seriously, please don’t put your infant or toddler on the phone with someone, unless it’s a grandparent or unless you are specifically requested to do so. PLEASE. I will always consider an offer to go out and will make a sincere effort to make time for my friends, even if it isn’t always easy to leave the baby behind.

I’m not perfect, and I may slip up and do something obnoxious. But, I will try to be a good friend. In return, I hope my friends will cut me some slack if we have to hang out at my house with the baby sometimes instead of going to a movie, or if I tell one too many “Charlotte did the cutest thing!” stories.

Luckily, I am privileged to have some of the most amazing people in my life. I think we’ll make it work.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


When Charlotte was born, Chris and I had just celebrated our tenth anniversary as a couple. Naturally, in that time, we had experienced our fair share of sexual peaks and pitfalls. First came the exhilarating and necessarily clandestine stolen moments of two people living in the respective homes of their parents. We had to be creative, which was frustrating, but also exciting. We had sex in his car, in my car, up against his car parked in front of my mother’s house (Sorry, Mom. Too soon?). This was that “have to have you right now no matter how likely it is that we’ll get caught by our parents, a cop, or some stray cats” stage in our relationship, and it was awesome!

By the time we were engaged we had been living together for a year or so. I had sunk into a mild depression, and it was not uncommon for Chris to come home to find me still in my pajamas at 5 P.M., unshowered, and drinking milk from the carton. Needless to say this was not the highlight of our sexual career. Nor was the infertility sex, laden as it was with fertility monitors, calendars, basal body temperature thermometers, and everyone’s favorite aphrodisiac: despair.

So, it was a nice surprise when, after my second failed in-vitro cycle, and we had decided to stop trying for a baby while we regrouped, our sex life became rejuvenated. It was like being teenagers again, only this time we were drunk! Suddenly, we were going at it in the back of the car again. We spent our fourth wedding anniversary at a bikini bar, slipping dollar bills into g-strings. Together! As a team! Sex was fun again. And just as it was getting really good, when car rides home involved foreplay, when we rarely made it as far as the bedroom, when every shower turned into a quickie, I was pregnant.

We were elated, of course, but while we were celebrating the news that we were finally going to have everything we always wanted, we also quietly mourned our renewed lust. Nausea, fatigue, and paranoia entered the scene, and nine months later I could count on my fingers the number of precariously positioned, gently maneuvered, brief rolls in the hay we had managed. And once the baby was born? Forget it.

About two months into parenthood, when I wasn’t feeling completely overwhelmed and wasn’t as convinced as I had been in the past that Charlotte would surely stop breathing unless I was looking at her, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle, as it were. We needed to be a couple again, not just a baby squad. I may have had spit up in my hair and poop on my shirt, but I was still a woman, damnit!

So, one day I splashed on his favorite scent, a thong, and put the baby down for a nap. But not in that order. That would be creepy. I walked up to Chris, pressed my body against his, and whispered into his ear, “I’m not wearing maternity underwear”. At which point, he took me in his arms, looked deep into my eyes, and breathed back, “Don’t say maternity”.

We’ll probably never be quite where we were a year and a half ago, but it’s all worth it. And it just keeps getting better and better.