I’ve settled on a word for how having a baby makes me feel: peeled. If I’m not lurching from one room to another in underpants I haven’t changed in three days and a maternity bra wide open on both sides like some kind of fetish gone wrong, my post-pregnancy belly hanging out like a plastic bag full of pizza dough, I’m staring into a pair of deep gray eyes that are staring back just as intently and feeling my organs rotate because I don’t have room for so much love, or, best of all, imagining all the horrible things that can happen to my baby — things so medieval and graphic that I’m in turns awed and repulsed by how creative my brain can be.
I literally go to bed thinking about The Blair Witch Project because, as the last horror-ish film I saw (I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK, 1999 HAD OTHER THINGS GOING FOR IT), it scared the crap out of me. My brain is priming me to be terrified so I won’t sleep for very long or very well and I can always be at the ready to combat the one thing that’s guaranteed to kill my baby:
It’s been five long weeks since SJ and I got back from the hospital. We got along spectacularly well before the baby came. We navigated some pretty tricky territory with grace and patience, and we liked each other so much we decided to go for it and get pregnant after six months and married after eleven.
Now, we have new nicknames for each other.
My nickname: Mommy Monster.
SJ’s nickname: SIDS.
The first couple of days back in the house, I was on a sleep deficit of nearly 40 hours from labor, plus an extra day and night in the recovery wing with no more than a half hour’s sleep at a time. At the same time, I was so blinded by love for my new baby I couldn’t see his face. And somehow, amid the sensory overload (or deprivation — I imagine it feels the same), I was managing to stay awake most days and nights, because either my baby was awake and needed feeding or my baby was asleep and needed me to watch him sleep so he wouldn’t suffocate.
Or the baby was asleep with SIDS/SJ on duty and I needed to stay awake so SIDS/SJ wouldn’t kill him. This was challenging, but I managed through a series of useful tactics, including the following:
- Standing at the foot of the couch and screaming out a list of behaviors that, according to the internet, lead to SIDS, at least one of which SIDS/SJ was doing.
- Kicking the vibrating baby bouncer for emphasis, leading to a welt on my ankle bone that throbbed for more than a week.
- Kicking the yoga ball for emphasis, which led to the yoga ball hitting one wall of the living room, then the opposite wall, so my effort did not have the intended effect.
- On a different night, throwing the co-sleeper for emphasis, which led to SIDS/SJ saying with remarkable calm and a complete lack of sarcasm, “Do you mind putting the co-sleeper back?”
Also useful: Whenever I sense I’m losing an argument, I scream, “MY HEMORRHOID IS BLEEDING. THE HEMORRHOID I GOT WHILE BIRTHING YOUR CHILD IS BLEEDING. BLEEDING HEMORRHOID BLEEDING HEMORRHOID BLEEDING HEMORRHOID.”
My complete panic at the thought of killing my baby has also led me to a mad dash to gain the favor of a middle-aged lactation consultant with a charming North Carolina accent whom we both like and whose advice we use as ammunition against each other. We met her the week after the baby was born, and the following conversation is the only example you’ll ever need of the opposite worldviews SIDS/SJ and I have of how to keep our baby alive:
Lactation consultant: Babies are really … (Pauses to find her word, during which time SIDS/SJ and I helpfully respond simultaneously with the words we think she’s searching for, which turn out to be different words.)
FRAGILE. DURABLE. NOT THE SAME THING. KIND OF THE OPPOSITE IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
SIDS/SJ does occasionally say things like, “Jenny is an amazing mom,” but he has his own case for why I’m the one who’s going to kill the baby. I maintain his case is thin: He’s come home numerous times to find me taking a crap while holding the baby.
LIKE YOU HAVEN’T DONE IT, SANCTIMONIOUS HARPY MOMS.
In my defense, WHAT ELSE WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO I NEEDED TO TAKE A CRAP AND NO ONE ELSE WAS HOME. Also, if front carriers were not designed to help moms take craps while holding babies, then WHY IS IT SO EASY TO WIPE YOUR BUTT WHILE WEARING A FRONT CARRIER.
Back to why I’m the superior parent:
I still have an ongoing to-do list that includes a thousand domestic tasks. One recent day, I had to hold the baby for 12 straight hours because he was either eating or, instead of immediately falling into a milk drunk, fussing. Although I was surrounded by family who’d traveled thousands of miles, I couldn’t get up from the couch. At one point SJ left the house to water the front garden and trekked back through the living room holding a massive agave leaf. I barely registered him bantering with my family that agave leaf could be used to make rope.
Days later, after everyone had gone home, I carried the baby into the backyard to calm him and saw a pile of shredded plant material on the picnic table. My eyes didn’t focus on it; I just stared at whatever was in my path as I rocked the baby. But slowly I realized what the pile was: Rope. Fucking rope. Fucking rope made from agave leaf. Which meant that at some point during the past few days, as I’d stood or sat or lain (“HAD LAIN” IS THE CORRECT PAST PARTICIPLE OF “TO LIE” AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW THAT AND YOU MARRIED A COPY EDITOR WELL YOU MADE YOUR BED SJ) inside the house feeding or calming or rocking the baby, my husband, the father of my newborn child, had stood in the pleasant breeze of our backyard beneath the loquat tree, perhaps sipping an ice-cold beer, perhaps listening to Johnny Cash on his iPhone, and slowly and happily shredded an agave leaf to make ROPE. ROPE. Which meant that while I was doing something that NEEDED to be done, he’d done something he WANTED to do. I HAVEN’T DONE SOMETHING I WANTED TO DO IN THIRTY-FIVE DAYS. Given the phone calls to be made to chase down maternity leave payments, the meal deliveries to be coordinated, the package to be returned to Target, the diapers and wipes and toilet paper and dishwashing liquid to be replenished, the bag of dirty diapers to be taken to the garbage cans, the other garbage and recycling to be taken to the garbage cans, the cardboard boxes to be broken down and taken to the garbage cans, the laundry to be done, the dishwasher to be loaded and unloaded ETCETERA ETCETERA FUCKING ETCETERA I DID NOT FIND MAKING ROPE OUT OF AN AGAVE LEAF A PRIORITY.
And yet. Given all this, I have my eye on next Tuesday.
Next Tuesday, September 5, 2017, is the day my OB has cleared me and SIDS/SJ to have sexual intercourse. SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. It’s been MONTHS since SIDS/SJ and I had sexual intercourse. I went from being preponderantly pregnant to being stitched together and having my hemorrhoid slathered with Preparation H, a refill of which my husband was recently dispatched to buy (Not Foreplay: SJ: “I got you the big tube”).
But with any luck, SIDS/SJ may once again become my provider of intercourse. I’ve made my move: I removed the hospital-issued bottle of stool softeners from the living room table and stuck it on the bathroom shelf, where it’s out of view, behind the economy-size bottle of Metamucil.
Your move, SIDS/SJ. Your move.
For this daily breakfast in bed, you need:
- 1 amazing father
- 1 piece toast, buttered
- 1 pasture-raised egg, over medium
- 1 small glass orange juice
- 1 cup PG Tips tea with 1 TB homegrown honey and 1 splash organic whole milk
You need to:
- Grit your teeth, amazing father, and go out there and try to make this bitch happy.