Thursday, December 15, 2016


As I was riding down the street the other day, I saw yet another Nativity scene in the neighborhood and I had a flash of a connection. American society treats childbirth and Christmas in exactly the same way. There is a lot of excitement in the preparation, but when the baby actually comes, no one sticks around for long.

I explained my theory to my husband and he found it a little overwrought. Perhaps it is. I do think there is a connection, though. We put a lot of emphasis on hype and rarely linger in celebration. I spent some time trying to think of anything where we spend more time in the event than we did preparing for it. Thanksgiving, maybe?

The real question is why would a Nativity scene lead me to think about postpartum America. I am not exactly postpartum. My "baby" is three and a half years old. I think I might have some postpartum trauma. A nativity scene shouldn't be triggering.

I've touched on this topic in the past: the utter abandonment I felt with Grace, the trauma of Olivia not taking a bottle, the crushing return to work after Marian. Sam was fine, as best as I remember. In a lot of ways, I feel like in spite of having four children, I have put in a lot of infant work while rarely reaping the infant reward. I love babies, but my time whiled away enjoying them has been short indeed. Time has always been pressing in. Is that the normal way of things?

And what to do about it?

At what point do you say that the choices you made are what they are and you just missed out. I didn't know I'd feel robbed, but I do and that's life. Grow up and move on, right?

Or do you get on the roller coaster again? Do you take the chance of misery and heartbreak to grasp those fleeting moments, to rock a baby with confidence and competence, without a clock unceasingly ticking? Even if you know you probably wouldn't punch that ticket if you had gotten the chance to do it even once before. Is it even reasonable to think it would make a difference?

What's the line between selfishness, unrealistic dreams, and fear?

I've built up in my mind what the non-working, postpartum months should look like. I'm likely wrong. Is it worth finding out? 


entropy said...

Things rarely go the way you imagine they will. Well, you know that, you had what coming home would be like built up in your head and the reality is a little different from that.

If you have another baby, I would let go of the expectations of others . You never know what everyone else is going through and maybe they had the good intentions to bring you food but life just got away from them. Although, it sounds like maybe "acts of service" might be your love-language and it's not mine so maybe it's easier for me to dismiss.

It is lovely when people bring you meals though. *sigh* I've had 7 children and we've had meals for maybe 3 of them. My mom even said to me once, "well, you know, you've got Derek" (my husband) So, I guess that meant, "don't expect anything from me" It's ok though, there was plenty my mom did do for me and I know that she loved me.

It seems when you have a lot of kids, people get tired of being excited for you.

Jenny said...

I wasn't being exactly clear. Nobody, except our parents and siblings, was excited about our first baby and the bloom is definitely off the rose in that quarter. Our parents live in dread of the moment we might announce another pregnancy.

My only baby shower with my oldest was two weeks before birth, hastily thrown together by my sister after being instructed to do so by mother, when it became abundantly clear no one else was going to do it. It broke every etiquette rule in the book, but I was poor and desperate. When there is that level of non-excitement for a first baby, less than nobody is going to get excited about a fifth. I know that.

So that isn't really what I meant. The only baby I was home with was the first. That time is marked by bafflement at infants and the demands of motherhood, feeling abandoned by those around me, being intensely lonely, and constantly stressing about the fact I should have been looking for a job and wasn't. I was reminded that I was supposed to be job hunting frequently. It was a crash course in motherhood, as the first usually is, and I felt guilty about taking time to do it when I obviously should have been at work.

Fast forward to the other three babies and I had gained the skills but lost the time. Caring for the babies was easier, but I didn't have time to enjoy it. Maternity leave was a very loud and short ticking timer. A blur where sleep was scare and waking hours were spent worrying about getting the baby to take a bottle, worrying about pumping a freezer supply, worrying about getting the baby to stop crying when other people held her because soon I would not be there to hold her.

By the time the physical stuff started to get easier, it was time to go back to work and then it really got hectic. I truly did not have time to sit and hold the baby most days. Someone else had to do it because I had other demands that had to be met. There wasn't time to linger.

I think I cried every day during Marian's first six months of life because I was missing it, I knew I was missing it, and there wasn't a dang thing I could do about it.

So this is the expectation I have built in my head: Is it possible to have an infant and not be racked with guilt of one kind of another while spending your days caring for it? Is it worth taking a chance, given there are no guarantees, on another pregnancy for the chance to rock a baby for six months without other time commitments pressing down on me? I feel like if I could get it right once, it would make up for all the times I got it wrong.

Or do I just accept I had four chances at it and blew it? I'm not exactly a spring chicken.

I have visions of contentment and I am not sure it is realistic, complicated by the fact that I am fairly certain I would not be feeling this baby fever if I had had a peaceful time with any of the others. Or am I just scared to do it again?

Jenny said...

And I think my comment explaining the post is longer than the actual post. Sorry. :/

entropy said...

I don't know. I seem to always find something to feel guilty about. If we had another baby now, I would just feel guilty for snuggling her while decidely not taking my bigger kids anywhere. I do not have baby fever right now though...I have baby chills, or baby hypothermia.

I guess I would advise you to try to enjoy what you've got and make the most of the time you have and let the past go. And if you want another baby, go for it.