Let’s be straight: This new baby stuff is pretty sucky at times. When sitting is unbearably uncomfortable because of your wounded nether regions but there’s a tiny creature needing you to sit and feed him about a quarter of the time, or maybe more. When you fell asleep two minutes ago and the tiny creature cries because he needs a nappy change, is hungry and also has painful wind, so intends to fight you every step of the way for the next hour while you try to meet his needs. When the tiny creature is sick into your t-shirt and bra, so you get changed, and then poo leaks out of the nappy down your clean top, so you get changed, and he wasn’t done being sick on you yet. When you know sleep deprivation is turning you into a shitty version of yourself but there’s nothing you can do about it. When your words come out as nonsense and you already forgot what you were trying to say. When you feel like hell and remember that you forgot to eat or drink all day, so you head to the kitchen but the tiny creature tells you he needs to eat/drink now.
Just to name a few instances.
And there isn’t necessarily any ‘reward’ for all this. Sometimes the tiny creature might be unbearably cute or beautiful, that is true. But having a baby does not in any way guarantee joy. Some people are more inclined to baby joy than others, I think. I have responded in typically understated fashion to our new arrival. Once I was described in a Workaway review as ‘even-keeled’; it wasn’t a word I’d ever associated with myself but it seems to hold true in many regards.
Mostly, for me, being a parent is neither good nor bad, it just is. I’m sure some people would find that statement disturbing. But I have not had the experience of simply being overwhelmed with joy at the tiny stranger in my life – our bond is developing as he does – and if I needed that to make this ‘worth it’, I would be in a tricky position right now.
In these early days, while the tiny creature is very necessarily much more about taking than giving, I find my joy in other places. Places I found joy before. And I find joy in the peaceful moments when life is like it used to be, only more.
My greatest abundance of joy is found in E. And it leaves me wondering how anyone doing this alone or in a shitty relationship manages to safeguard their mental health. Because even though he can be infuriating to my irritable self, and I regularly infuriate his irritable self, and even though we both have our own shit to deal with alongside the new burden of nappies, those precious moments where I get to hold him melt away whatever else I’ve been holding on to. To not have that must make this infinitely harder to survive, let alone do well.
Perhaps I am a small minority, but new motherhood looks to me to be overly romanticised. And if anyone is looking to their tiny creature for anything, that seems dangerous to me. If the sight of a baby never fails to make you gleeful, it might work out. But I don’t know.