I have experienced two kids worth of labor. One was nearly 30 hours of pitocin-induced contractions, wrapped with a bow of an epidural that may just have saved my marriage, but also made my active labor like watching Pearl Harbor: awkward, with some crying, and so unbelievably long.
My second labor was average in length, but my delivery was so fast my midwife almost didn’t make it in time. Which, after 9 months of dreading another labor was refreshing. The only issue was that I couldn’t have even had an epidural if I wanted one.
Both were fairly awful, in their own special way. But guess what? Parenting can get even more … special.
The Hospital Stay After
I’m a wannabe crunchy mama. I’m like the person who goes indoor skydiving. I like the concept of labor as an all-natural experience and that’s why I use a midwife, but only if I know that if something goes wrong the OB on call is just down the hall.
If you don’t have a kid here’s a pro tip: There’s a 99 percent chance your kid will show up between the hours of midnight and dawn. Source: Me.
And you know what they do in the hospital? They check on you. Sounds appropriate, right? But, if you’re sleeping? They. Wake. You. Up. Newborns are ticking time bombs, and they’re much like the cute little bombs that Mario battles: they just keep coming and blowing up. Or, more accurately, they just keep waking up and crying.
But so do you since you’re in the hospital and your otherwise angel of a nurse wants to make sure your blood pressure is A-OK at three in the morning.
And just when you make bail you get to — gingerly mind you — ride home to a stack of bills only outdone in size by the stack of dirty diapers you’ll construct next to your bed like a misshapen Jenga tower. I thought labor would haunt me forever; instead it’s turning out to be the medical bills that, apparently, won’t just go away if I ignore them for long enough.
Bye Bye Sleep
I’ve pointed out before: parents lose approximately 44 days of sleep the first year of their child’s life. I remember once my childless sister-in-law who works an evening shift said, “I can’t remember the last time I got up before 8 in the morning.” When she said that my eyes rolled back in my head where they stayed until I woke up from my impromptu nap 11 minutes later.
I can’t remember the last time I slept past 8 in the morning. I can’t remember the last time I got 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep either.
I remember when I was in college and I pulled a few overnighters during finals and I felt so hard core. But that was, all puns intended, child’s play. Sleep deprivation is a legitimate form of torture.
Parents fill the bags under their eyes with cold black coffee and keep trudging on, dreaming of the day we will be able to sleep in, only to find when that day arrives our 5 a.m. wake up time is now actually hardwired.
Family “Vacation” Travel
“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.” — Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation
It should be said I’m not talking about vacations in general with little kids, I’m talking about the travel itself.
Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do. You can buy out the Dollar Store toy section. You can download every Pixar movie ever made onto your tablet. You can have 32 of the best snacking options middle class money can buy, and it won’t be enough. If the drive is long enough (and it will be), they’ll get bored. So bored, they’ll scream.
You scream, I scream, we all scream wishing this was only a bad dream.
Feeding kids in the car is like turning a leaf blower on in the back seat. Only instead of leaves, it’s nugget fragments, and they’re permanently attaching themselves to the dress you had carefully hung next to the car window. You’ll still wear it for the family pictures, because you’re traveling and have nothing else to wear, but there’s now a small brown smear in the shape of T-Rex right about where your belly button is. Lovely.
They say one of the worst mistakes you can make vacationing with kids is panicking. Which is unfortunate given the fact that the fight or flight response is the only thing keeping us going since at a certain point we’re just fleeing what’s going down in the back seat.
Cooking For a Pint-Sized Food Critic
The layers of pain that come with cooking for kids are more numerous than those in the best layered dip you’ve ever laid eyes on. Take everything you know about food — and logic while you’re at it — and put it down the garbage disposal with the rest of your kid’s uneaten meal.
I once prided myself on being a slightly-above average cook. What a fool. If your sauce is the wrong consistency, your protein too dry, or your plate organization off by a centimeter you’ll know.
And if it seems you’ve found a magic meal they actually love, you’ll be tempted to add it to your weekly rotation. Don’t do that. The second you think you’ve got a winner, what you’ve actually got is, as I said earlier, garbage. It’s enough to make you pine for the hospital yogurt you scarfed down during the part of your labor the staff told you wouldn’t have an appetite. Amateurs.
The Mom Shaming
I knew so much more about being a parent before I was one. It was simple. Parents who had different opinions from mine were ding dongs and misbehaving kids had simply not received the right instruction.
And then I realized that, for the most part, parents are all doing their best. Even if we’re not actually doing “the best,” we’re doing what we can with the emotional, financial, intellectual resources we have. Not only that, parenting isn’t like math. There are no problems wherein the answer is clear cut. And what might be best for one kid will most likely not be for the next.
I don’t have as much control of my kid as the haters would like me to believe. I’ve been locked out of my phone and my house. I’ve left my fridge crammed full of veggies for the warm embrace of the the drive thru attendant. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a recommendation for how much TV little kids should watch. It’s cute.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no qualifications to make the following statement.
Sometimes, it seems like parenting is so hard, we look at the real, or even just the perceived shortcomings of other parents so we can believe we’re doing a good job. So we post the bejeezus out of our essential oils, and our kale chips, and our waldorf-inspired toys, hoping that the likes will fend off the fear of failure.
But, really, our kids just need us. And I think we need us too. We need other people, because we all fail some of the time. But, we also love all of the time. I think there are moments when we really are in a slump and struggling to do our best, and having people in our corner could be the pivotal thing that helps us. Childbirth hurts enough for one lifetime; let’s do more helping.
There you have it. Five things to look forward to after you successfully endure childbirth. As my extensive reporting demonstrates, childbirth’s reign as queen of pain may not actually be a title deserved. Far worse horrors await you on highways and in highchairs. Godspeed.