By Katherine Stone
I don't do babies well.
I'm not sure why. I love my children. I dare you to even question that. Double dog dare you. But the baby part? Not so much. If I could have someone deliver more of my progeny to me only once they are able to talk and sleep through the night, I'd have eleventeen more kids.
I think it may have something to do with my need to control things. If there's one thing you can't control, it's a baby. When they say the only things you can be sure of in life are death and taxes, they should add that you can also be 100 percent sure that you can't make a baby do anything. Not nap. Not sleep through the night. Not eat baby food. NOT if they don't want to.
In fact, I found my babies were likely to do the opposite of whatever I wanted them to do. I didn't want my son to have a pacifier, so he was obsessed with it. I wanted my daughter to take a passie once in a while, so of course she always spit it out. Is it me? Do I send out baby radar that says "Don't trust me. Whatever I say, don't do it?"
I also didn't much like the baby "stuff." Like umbilical cords falling off and diaper blowouts and tub poops and spit up. Macabre. Not a fan.
There's also the issue of communication, or lack thereof. If there's ever a problem, I like talking things out. I find that babies don't use words. They use crying, and I don't speak crying very well. Yes, I eventually learned that certain cries meant it was time for a diaper change or a scenery change, but there were some cries that I never learned to understand. There were also those I did understand but couldn't do very much about, which left me feeling helpless. The cries of my first-born during his colic often meant "There's actually nothing you can do to help me other than walk me around incessantly and feel immeasurably guilty that you can't fix this." Check.
I envy the women who enjoy the first year of motherhood. While I think little babies are adorable, and I love the way they smell and how they look when they're sleeping, I never felt purely at ease during that period. The combination of lack of control and difficult communication left me spinning in a vortex of helplessness. I felt like an impostor ... like you do when going to a bar when you're 18 with someone else's ID. I was always looking over my shoulder, expecting someone to figure out at any minute that I had no business being there.
I can't believe they left me in charge of these people. I have no training. I don't speak crying. This can only turn out badly. AUGGGGHHHHH!
I say all of this only to contrast it with the fact that I'm having such a great time being a parent now. My 4- and 9-year-old children are great communicators. We talk. We smooch. We hug. We laugh at each other's jokes. We use words. They tell me when I'm blowing it. I tell them when they could be doing better. Also? They have to do what I say, and they can't pretend they don't understand me! I don't feel like I'm going to break them. I know how many ounces of milk they're getting, and I don't need to check the consistency of every bowel movement, if you know what I'm saying.
I love the interaction between us, as well as the feeling that I have the tools I need to be able to figure out how to help them and support them. Perhaps my mom card doesn't need to be revoked after all. While I don't have full control over their every move, nor should I, I no longer feel like I'm in the vortex of hell. More like a fairly mild roller coast that only makes me queasy every so often.
This is awesome.
Katherine Stone blogs at Postpartumprogress.com.