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.
De-lurking to say I love your blog, and…hang in there. Cliched, but yes, it will get better. When Desi is 6 months old and sleeping better and you remember at least 90% of the time to take down the smoke alarm before cooking dinner. And maybe get (or make!) a heavy beanbag for the door instead of a bowling pin.Link / Reply
Man, first comments are always tough. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, and I’m compelled to admit it and comment and say thanks for writing after reading this post. Thanks for writing! I appreciate your candor and humor, and I really appreciate that you write about easy and not-so-easy things. Also, your baby is so cute. SO CUTE!Link / Reply
This is a great post. Very honest and brave. It’s hard to admit to things like this, but we all feel them. I myself spent the afternoon whining to my husband about pizza (which I never got). I guess that gravy train has ended!Link / Reply
Wow. You said it. And so eloquently and entertaining.Link / Reply
I hear ya. Personally, I prefer the old “Acting Like I’m Totally Cool With You Making Plans In Advance To Go Out, And Then Freaking Out Weeks Later When It’s Time For You To Leave Me Alone All Day With The Baby” routine. I never expected motherhood to make me feel like such a bitch.Link / Reply
Oh, and then there was the time 2 months ago when my husband was HOSPITALIZED with viral meningitis, and I got all passive-aggressively bent out of shape, like how DARE you get deathly ill and leave the morning routine solely to me?!?! Ugh. Horrible.
Another de-lurker. Coming out of my hidey hole to give unsolicited advice! I have a 12 week old, and putting her on a flexible kind of schedule and teaching her to put herself to sleep in her crib was life changing. We sleep more, she sleeps more, and all that sleep led to less tension and arguing. Not sure what your parenting style is (blech, hate that term), but the Babywise method stopped the madness for me.Link / Reply
Wow, you are in touch with your feelings! Talk about emotional scientist!! De-lurking to say you make the world a better place with your truth and honesty. Go Evany! Keep writing!Link / Reply
Relationships are what you make out of it. IF you want to fight and not have a romantic life that is what you will get out of it. If you what to be happily bliss and totally romantic that is what you shall receive.Link / Reply
Aren’t you glad Jeremiah took the time out of his busy relationship-building schedule to offer you his sparkling and sensitive gift of wisdom? Thanks Jeremiah!Link / Reply
Also de-lurking to offer (non-specific) moral support. I think your blog’s shift in tone is what brought the lurkers out of the woodwork. We wish to alleviate your apparent distress (excepting Jeremiah), however impossible it might be.
Historically, a baby was not the province of two people. Even in poor families babies belonged to legions of extended family and neighbors. This is the way it’s suppossed to work, not because it’s so much fun to have your meddling mother and selfish brother around, but because a baby is too much for two people. This is all to say that your feelings are so very reasonable.
perfect PERFECT description of the first months of parenthood….and how intensely your whole life revolves around how the baby sleeps (and poops). i remember getting angry at the cat for meowing and at cars for driving by our house too loudly when the baby just fell asleep. i also remember being mad at my friends w/ kids who did not tell me how hard it really was. the real details of it all.Link / Reply
when my husband gets home now i update him on sleep and poop stats. so romantic!
(we have two boys: 22 mos and 3 mos)
anyway, your boy is super adorable and you’ll come out the other side of all this soon. each age/phase has its challenges… but once desi sleeps more (and more easily), everything seems easier/brighter.
Just to let you know I actually didn’t think my marriage would survive the white noise machine phase, and here we are, three and a half years, two kids, and one broken white noise machine later, and I actually love him even more now (gag). Had someone told me that was possible 3.5 years ago, during the baby phase of #1, I wouldn’t have believed them, but there you go. It is a major low point in a relationship, but it bounces back. You are in survival mode, but it passes. Promise!Link / Reply
Thanks for being so candid. And I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and even in the hard times you are still there – because you capture even the crappy stuff w/ the sharpest wit.Link / Reply
I don’t have a baby, yet oftentimes want a baby. And often wonder what what would do to the delightful dynamic I have in my relationship. So, it’s refreshing to read such an honest account of such a real struggle when most people want to sugar-coat the cute and white-out the sleepless nights and stress and shit explosions (whether from your mouth or its diaper.)
Rock on. And thank you.
Love your blog…and your new house! You guys have such a good eye for decorating!
Found your blog via Mimi Smartypants and before I wax on about parenting and relationships, I just want to say that you just crack me up and I look forward to your new posts.Link / Reply
Ditto to most of what is posted above (except for the random Jeremiah lighting person post—not sure what’s going on there or that I care to know).
You’re dead on—parenting is so amazingly crazy in both good and bad ways that you just can’t know until you plunge right into it. And it absolutely sends even the best of relationships into a tailspin.
Rest assured that the craziness passes. And like all the other totally apeshit stuff in life that you can’t believe you dealt with in your past, all the insanity of the newborn/infant phase becomes vague memories that you can laugh at.
Keep on keeping on!
hi – you don’t know me.Link / Reply
mine is now 4yrs old, and i am still married!surprised? yeah me too.
half the battle is admitting there is a battle!
that little man of yours is a doll!
enjoy those cheeks. yum
evany—I’ve been reading your blog for ages—before and after I popped out two kidlets of my own (now 3 yrs and 18 months old and finally sleeping the night away)—and always, ALWAYS you have made me laugh out loud and impressed me that you indeed KNOW what the hell is going on. Thank you, good Lord, thank you for writing this.Link / Reply
I’ve been there (and we all sleep in the same room so the hissing fits probably infiltrated dreams) but now-here is the cliche-things are so much better, relationship-wise. Lots of talking and to be honest the cutting of slack (maybe my parenting style is just always going to completely different than his, oh shit) has helped us. Those first months are so fucking nuts—all those horomones that simultaneously hook you (literally) to the baby but also keep you psychopathic and ever-worried and jumpy. Then, the lack of sleep which for me was enough to drive myself into a river.
Read Sandra Tsing Loh’s “Mother on Fire.” She tells about a time early in her first baby’s life when she (always being awake or post/pre-nursing session) turned all the lights at 3:00 a.m., got in her (beloved) husband’s face and screamed FUUUUUUCCCCK YOOOOOOOU! as loud as she could in his snoring face. In my case, we could both do the screaming (husband was up as much as I)—but that burden of nursing and always having to worry that someone might stop breathing? That seemed to be mine alone!
Now, we are a sleeping family of 4—happy and in love (still).
You should write a book—a guidebook to this whole experience. You are a talented writer and know that there are many of us out “there” that went through the same thing.
Evany, I really like your blog and your new dining room. Thank you for expressing such an honest take on life.Link / Reply
delurking to say, LOVE your blog! and boy can I can relate- I have an 8 week old!Link / Reply
Delurking too to also say thank you for your post and for its honesty. I think what you describe can be extended to apply to any stressful situation between a couple. My husband and I (and particularly I) had an ectopic pregnancy recently and, as you commented in your post, it was the first time I really realised how a shared stressful situation could make think you might want to split up. It’s comforting to hear that others can feel the same way and, from other commenters, often do get through it. Thanks, and you have a lovely blog.Link / Reply
I second, uh, amanda’s comments above (Two out of two amandas agree!) that you should write a book. Later, though. Maybe next year. :)Link / Reply
It’s cliched, but true — things will get better. There are crappy times, yes, and kids put a strain on a relationship like nothing else, but there’s an amazing opportunity for connecting over kids too. The trick is to keep enough of yourself (and yourselves as a couple), while also reaping the benefits of this crazy shared adventure you’ve embarked upon.Link / Reply
Nothing useful to say or tell you except that plenty of us have been there (or are still there to one extent or another) and it doesn’t have to spell doom to your couple-dom.
Good luck! I very much enjoy reading your writing!
Just get through each day, Evany, and it will grrrrradually get better and better until one day you can say to your son, “Bring mama a ham sandwich.” Seriously. My son is 10 now. The sleep deprivation won’t last forever. I promise.Link / Reply
PS I’ve been reading your blog forever. When I first stumbled across it, I thought, “This guy is sooo funny!” I actually thought you were a guy because you’re so funny! Then I was like, huh? She’s a GIRL? Girls can be that funny? You’re funnier than dooce!
so concisely and hilariously put, i would have 100 of your babies and fight with YOU at naptime!Link / Reply
I didn’t even know my voice came in that hissing tone until my twins were born. Oh dear, it is so, so hard sometimes. But it mellows out. Once you start to sleep again the world will be a brighter, shinier place. But—and I used to HATE it when people said this to me when I was preggers—having kids really does change everything. You sort of have to refigure it out. But get some zzzzs first. xoxoLink / Reply
I like to tell people “I don’t shake the baby, but I understand why some people do.”Link / Reply
Reading this makes me feel a lot better. About so many things. Keep posting, you’re like my post-partum bandaid.Link / Reply
I’m seeing your blog for the very first time and I got here randomly from a craft blog – I don’t even remember how! I know this is an older post but I still want to say, Give yourself a break, girl! There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture (and all new parents should denounce this practice as they know how unholy it is!) What I love about this post is how your experiences have given you compassion for others. I haven’t had a baby but I had a chronic illness involving nerve pain among other things. In my prior life I was known for my otherworldly patience, compassion, and listening skills but I also arrogantly assumed that people lost it due to an unwillingness to “temper their tantrums”. Well, girlfriend, let me tell you. I know from frayed nerves and they will make you REACTIVE. Afterwards when I saw a crazy mom in the parking lot I thought, “oh her nerves must hurt” and my heart beamed out love. Getting sleep will make you feel like yourself again. Don’t be hard on yourself! Also, our dear Jeremiah might be more understanding if he ever had to nurse a baby with nipples that were so dry and sore they actually split open – like, in half. Happened to my friend. Might make him a leeetle crabby. Just maybe. (sorry so long, sheesh!)Link / Reply
You nailed it. But the good thing is that you’re approaching the golden baby age – and things do get a lot better after the 6 month mark. I could not possibly be nice to my husband until Tillie turned 5.5 months old. I resented the hell out of him for not being able to breast feed (I know. Ridiculous!!).Link / Reply
But then it got a lot better. I stopped resenting him and ordering him around. Not exactly sure why, but I did.