You pop out a baby. You get one cut out of your stomach. Or maybe you adopt. Whatever the case, you now have a baby. The world is very excited for you. The world would like to tell you this in great detail. But first, it has a million questions.
First, how is The Baby eating? Not are you breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, which is a whole separate issue everyone would like to discuss with you in great detail with cited statistics, folktale, helpful hints, shaming, and voodoo. No, the entire world would just like to know if The Baby is eating whatever food you are currently shoving in its facehole.
Next, how is The Baby sleeping? No one really cares about the answer, because we all know that babies don’t fucking sleep. This is because they are fucking babies and are programmed to wake up every two hours for boob and/or bottle. People just want to see what kind of answer you’ll give: if you’ll lie and say The Baby is sleeping great, thanks (lying liar who lies) or if the baby never sleeps, so help me god and can you please hold him for three minutes while I fall asleep against this Target shopping cart?
This is really all anyone wanted: to get their grubby little paws on The Baby. Then they can exclaim over its eensy-weensy toesies (and ask The Baby where its socks are), tickle its soft poky baby tummy (and note that it hears some gurgles and are you sure you’re feeding it the right stuff?), and pet its soft baby head (both to point out some cradle cap and ask if you don’t think you should stick a cap on its noggin).
And at some point, you will want to ball up your fists, snatch back your infant, and scream, “I EXIST TOO, YOU KNOW!”
This is the howl, voiced or unvoiced, of every postpartum mother. She has it the worst, because she’s not used to it. She’s not used to being ignored in favor of the squirming, crying, barfing, pooping hunk of adorableness clutched to her chest. No one will approach her after the birth, except maybe older moms, practiced moms, moms who have been there, and say, “How are you feeling?” And if they do, she will probably break down because they are the only person other than maybe her partner who’s given a fuck since someone placed that baby in her arms.
All of a sudden there’s a ice pack in her crotch and stitches on her hoo-ha, or she’s sewn up like a football from end to end, or she’s finally reached the culmination of a years-long, hellish rollercoaster of adoption and no one is there to ask how she’s dealing with it all. They just want to get their (probably germy) paws on the baby, and she’s left empty-armed and bleeding out of some orifice or surgical wound.
And even if she doesn’t want to talk about her personal physical travails, even if she’s cool not sharing the details of her mesh panties and supersized maxi pads, still no one wants to talk about her. No one wants to know if she’s managed to catch up on This is Us. No one wants to know if she’s into the new season of Queer Eye. No one cares about what’s going on in that head and heart of hers.
Nope, all anyone cares about is the baby.
Congratulations, Mom — that’s your name now, by the way, often preceded by your child’s name as a possessive. No one gives a fuck about you anymore. It’s all about the babes. Unless it’s all about your postpartum body, which is partially all about the babes, anyway. You have no more musical tastes, pop culture preferences, interests in art or film. You have not read any good books lately, unless it was about babies and/or child rearing. You have not read any good articles on the internet unless they were about babies and/or child rearing. You can no longer say the f-word, even outside of polite company, and forget that love of artisanal cocktails. Forget your hobbies — no one cares about them anymore. So you sewed that skirt yourself? Yawn — are you doing baby-led solids?
This baby is a cockblock between you and the rest of the world.
This is why you need other mom friends. This is why you will crave mom friends, real or virtual, especially mom friends who have been there, done that. Because not only will they be able to answer your rookie momming questions in a non-judgmental way, they will also care about you. You can share your love of knitting with them. You can talk to them about your garden. You can talk to them about the salacious romance you just read, about sex toys, about how your dog tore up the garbage again. They will care. They will want to know more. They will ask pertinent questions and follow along. Because they, also, know what it’s like to be erased. And when they hold your baby while you vomit words at them, it won’t feel like they’ve stolen something from you. It will feel like sweet release. It will feel like coming home.
And suddenly, you will remember that you do, indeed, exist.