Tuesday, dec. 8, 2009 | 148 comments
One of the things that so freaked me out when I was pregnant were the (always sourceless) romantic-doom statistics that people kept quoting at me. Couples fight eight times more frequently after they have a baby! A couple’s split rate is highest in the baby’s first year! And so on and on. It got me worrying that by having a baby, I was recklessly gambling with my heretofore happy relations with Marco, and I wasn’t entirely sure I would prefer what lurked behind Curtain Number Two. Harmonious little family? Buxom blond astride cantankerous burrow? Matching bedroom set?
And having this baby has indeed been hard on our relationship. There are all the obvious reasons: the crippling lack of sleep, the crimped sex life, the sudden inability to hit the town at will. But also I’m not…entirely…at my best right now? Rather I’m an unkempt shrew with confusingly large and leaky breasts, snapping clichéd complaints at Marco (“Don’t Wake the Baby,” “Why Are You Spending Time with The Boys (and Not Helping Me at Home),” and “Money”) through clenched, unbrushed teeth.
My unattraction goes beyond the poor hygiene and poor-me whining. On a deeper level, I fear I’ve gotten into the bad habit of letting my lesser, more selfish self take the brain reins.
As a pregnant woman, you’re given the green light to be bitchy and whimsically needy. Bring me the black rose from the top of Mount Impossible! And some marzipan ice cream! Over the duration of my pregnancy, the basic human lessons I mastered in kindergarten — how to be nice, how to share, how to temper my tantrums — slowly began to unravel.
I keep thinking of this irrational pregnancy behavior as a deer run. Despite the No Trespassing signs, you let yourself go down it again and again, and eventually the overgrown little trail becomes a beaten path. Then a road. Then a freeway. Until finally it’s the only route you ever take, regardless of your destination. Crave a delicious morning bun(s) for breakfast? Don’t ask your pardner nicely if he would be so kind as to get them for you, provided he has time, or (crazy) go get them yourself. No! Stamp your feet instead! Weep! Wave your scepter! Until the world bends to your will and those mawesome rolls are placed, as if by magic, at your swollen feet.
Oh but then the baby pops out and suddenly you’re deprived of the blank check a swollen belly gives you to be a complete monster. Unfortunately by that time you’ve developed nasty habits of voicing your every frustration and expecting to have every whim satisfied. But weirdly your mate is no longer in any way willing to indulge these habits? Especially now that there’s a new kid in town, screaming and wailing out his every whim and frustration?
Another small but not insignificant part of the problem is that Marco and I are now spending more time in each other’s company than ever, never before. Constant togetherness is nice if you’re on vacation, sunning your parts on the Lido Deck. But it can be nerve-wearing over the longer, less-sunny haul of parenthood, especially during these dark newborn days, a frantic, sweaty time steeped in ineptitude and self doubt, and getting increasingly tense and pressurized. And when I’m finally ready to blow my top, a state I achieve at least five times a day, the only adult in range of the molten vileness is Marco. And vice versa!
Best of all, we exchange the majority of our petty hissing while desperately trying to get the baby to sleep, a time when we can’t actually hear anything due to the brain-fraying murrr of the omni-constant white noise machine — fuzzy static being a key aural ingredient in out constant battle to get and keep the baby asleep.
Evany, muttering: [Some sort of complaint wrapped in criticism infused with passive aggression.]
Marco, in a whisper-yell: “What?!”
Evany, eyes rolling: “Huh!?”
Miami Sound Machine: Murrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Until we just about want to stab each other’s brains out with forks. Quietly.
Of course it doesn’t help that the door to our bedroom is being propped open with a bowling pin, which randomly topples just as the baby’s drifting off to sleep. The hair-trigger smoke alarm isn’t doing us any favors, either.
Still, I think we’re doing okay, despite the alarm bells and hissing fits. We manage to find things to laugh about every day, and there are definite bright spots…sipping coffee in bed, decorating the tree, singing at the baby. Good, cockle-warming days! But for the first time ever, I can understand how something as small as a baby might unravel an otherwise happy twosome. Just as I can now see how a woman might go so crazy as to drive her kids into a lake, something I could in no possible way fathom before. Not that I would ever do such a thing. (Relax!) But I can sense the first icy glimmers of how such things could go that far.
It’s scary! But it’s a helpful scariness, the kind that keeps me alert and watchful and determined not to let things spiral downward. It also gives me a new empathy and forgiveness for parents, or anyone who makes bad decisions, or lets their lesser self take charge, or lets a good thing come to an end. And I kind of like this kinder, tender-er view of my world? But yeah: More sleep, please, and a pinch less petulant shrieking and kneejerkiness.