When she’s not grading papers or blogging at An Attitude Adjustment, Jana spends most of the day trying to escape her children by sneaking away to the computer. (And yes, she feels guilty about this. But a mom needs an outlet, right?) She writes about motherhood, marriage and life with occasional doses of literature and poetry.
A picture from last fall shows me raking our backyard leaves on an unusually warm November day. The size of my belly borders on the obscene. It is large, bulbous, and my shirt doesn’t quite cover it in 40+ weeks of pregnancy. This was the same weekend I had taken two separate doses of castor oil (one in my omelet, the other in orange juice) to make my baby girl appear. But she was too settled and comfortable in my pelvis. When she finally did arrive, with the help of Pitocin, the encouraging words of my midwife, doula, and hospital nurse; with my husband’s gentle hands in mine, after three fucking hours of pushing, I soon realized that the difficulty of labor was a relatively brief harbinger of the struggles that were to come as the mother of not one, but two children.
I’ve always had the idea that once I was an adult, my growing up was done. All I’d have to do was help my children along into this harried, yet mature space I and my husband inhabit. But my daughter’s first year has shown me that mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, I still have a lot of growing up to do. And while at times it’s difficult, it’s also very liberating, astonishing, even fun. I’m a pretty old, prudish soul. It’s nice to get out of my body for a little while, see the dust bunnies on the floor as not a sign of my domestic inadequacy, but cool fuzzy things that might feel neat in my mouth. Luckily, motherhood becomes me. I like to learn. My children teach me things every day, like how long spit-up can stay on the rug before it stains, and how quickly my cozy bathroom can smell like a port-a-potty, and how many chicken nuggets one should have in the freezer at any given time. These are valuable lessons. Also valuable, I guess, is how my identity morphs into something new and old and fairly beautiful as I age; how much having children allows me to be playful and imaginative, something my soul has longed for for much of my life; how inspiring yet overwhelming childhood can be; how I never quite knew joy until I heard my son and daughter cackle at each other; how marriage seems utterly simple until you add kids into the equation.
My son, Mr. B, is sweet and serious and quite empathetic for a three-year-old. He and I get each other in a way I’ve never been gotten before. I’m putty in his hands, and unfortunately, he knows it. My daughter, Missy Mae, has had a mischievous sparkle in her eyes from the first time she opened them and looked at me, covered in my body’s silk. She is a determined and willful and adorable redhead who I know will challenge me throughout the rest of our lives. I will love and cherish her for it.
After her first, exhausting year, I’ve come to the conclusion that Missy Mae is my second and last child. I’m young and, apparently, astonishingly fertile (which is why birth control figures prominently even in my daydreams), so I’ve been considering whether we should have more kids. But after some soul searching, I’ve realized that if I had more than two children, I’d lose my head. And I rather like my head. I have very nice hair.
So here are ten things I’ve learned in this short (long) year, one I expect to be the last of my experience with babyhood:
1. My second child is not a replica of my son, only with a vagina instead of a penis. Somehow, I thought she would be. She has the nerve to be her very own person.
2. Babies are merciless. Even when you’re the one who was practically ripped in half by a head in the 99th percentile for newborns, that newborn may come out looking exactly like the man who did it to you. Not fair. Maybe God is a man. Damn chauvinist.
3. Mommy brain also includes forgetting how hard a baby was the first time around, which is why you agree to do it again. I seemed to only remember my son sleeping anywhere and everywhere and being out for at least 6 hours through the night from day one. My husband reminded me that I was very, very wrong. People who say their babies sleep through the night at three or five weeks or even five months are fucking lying to you .
4. One kid is nothing. Breezy. Easy peezy. Two is a veritable tornado. Three is more than I could handle (without ruining my nice hair).
5. Despite what the American Academy of blah blah blah says, television, mobile devices, and computers are great babysitters. Why pay $10 an hour?
6. Yes, the going rate for a babysitter is $10 an hour. I wish I got paid for babysitting my own kids. That’s $120 a day x 5 days = (hold on a minute let me get my calculator) $600 a week, times 52 weeks in a year divided by 12, is a whopping $2600 a month. How much is that in a year? Only 31,000? WTF? Maybe I wouldn’t need to pay taxes, though? And don’t forget overtime. Waking up in the middle of the night would be 50 bucks a shot. Breastfeeding, extra. A lot extra.
7. Speaking of breastfeeding, guess what? Your kid won’t croak if you don’t do it! In fact, your baby can be plenty healthy and not appear at all to have a pallor of sickness if not given the precious golden drops of mama’s milk. Formula, my dears, is not poison. This I’ve learned. (In fact, my almost one-year-old daughter doesn’t seem to want to give it up, which is pissing me off.)
8. Formula! It’s all the same! Target brand, Walmart (though I refuse to shop there), supermarket brand, all must adhere to the same FDA standards of vitamins and minerals. So that $28 can of formula you keep buying? Toss it and go for the generic $13 a can. Seriously. You won’t be harming your baby. She’ll thank you for the savings in her college fund.
9. Not only are girls’ clothes cuter, they also allow us moms to live vicariously. While I may be frustrated by five kinds of jeans that don’t fit well, all jeans look fabulous on her. So I’ve been buying lots. And lots. And then some more, because she grows fast. Don’t even mention shoes. I might have to open a new credit card….
10. Parenting gets better and easier, mostly because I become more confident. When my wonderful, adorable family is together, giggling and gnawing on cookies and talking about deep subjects like Spiderman and Buzz Lightyear and pureed bananas, I am joyful. I am quite a lucky woman.