I don’t have kids yet, but a few weeks ago I got a sneak peek into what it might be like, when my friend Miriam came to visit me for a few days with her baby Zane.
Miriam gave birth to Zane – her first baby – almost a year ago, and Zane is a total charmer – crawling everywhere, babbling with gusto, and smiling for everyone. I was curious to pick Miriam’s brain about what pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is like.
So one night, once she had tucked Zane into bed, Miriam poured the two of us glasses of wine and we dove in to a discussion of what nobody tells you, winging it, and how to get through the very early days of motherhood.
What should one do to get ready, or, what should one do before a baby arrives?
I think you should have as much fun as possible. If there’s some place that you’re just itching to go, go there. If there’s some hobby you want to try – I don’t know, maybe you’ve always wanted to jump out of a plane or ride a motorcycle – do it. Just enjoy life. I mean that’s the same advice for once you have a baby too. It’s just harder.
What changes once the baby arrives?
Everything changes. In those early weeks, all you’re doing is attending to a baby. “He’s crying. He needs a diaper change. He needs to be nursed.” That’s everything you do, for weeks and weeks. [But] I wasn’t resentful. I felt like, “I’ve done things.” So now I can just focus on him.
How did you know you were ready? Did you feel ready? Or did you just not care if you were ready or not?
I was ready in the sense that I wanted it really badly. I’d feel jealous if I saw someone who was pregnant. But in other ways, I was totally not ready. I had no idea what I was getting into. People say, “it’s so hard” and I was like, “Ok, sure, it’ll be hard.” But I had no clue.
You’re trying to do everything right, but there’s not really a right way of doing it. But people tell you there’s a right way. Like, “you’re supposed to breastfeed.” If you don’t breastfeed, you feel as if something terrible will happen. Nothing terrible will happen. Your baby will be fine. I think I was really worried about getting it right. Is he reaching his developmental milestones? Or, “oh my god, I left a blanket in his crib! Is he going to die because I left a blanket in his crib? Oh my god, he slept on my chest! Oh crap! Is he going to die because he was in bed?”
Maybe there’s something in our culture – women work really hard to keep it together and not tell people what they’re going through. Some people have pretty easy pregnancies. But I felt bad the whole time. I read all these birth stories, but I didn’t read about what is pregnancy like, and what is it actually like to have a baby? We need to share more.
What is pregnancy like?
It’s both wonderful and…I mean there literally is somebody sucking the life out of you. I love my baby and I’m so glad I went through that, but I was so tired all the time and I couldn’t really sleep. I remember waking up many many times at night to pee or because I was nauseated or because I needed to eat breakfast at two in the morning.
But then there are also these amazing moments where…he would kick.
What helped you in those very early days?
Everyday I made sure I had some kind of human interaction – other than just [my husband]. I counted things like chatting with somebody online, texting, or calling somebody.
[And] I always made sure that I got to shower. Showering is a really big challenge. Even now, it’s a challenge. I make sure I shower during his nap or something like that. But at first it’s like, you emerge from pregnancy, you come home from the hospital after you’ve had nurses helping you, and you’re like “holy fucking shit. I have to do this now?” Somehow you just have to wing it and figure it out. I used to bring his car seat in the bathroom, and I would shower while he sat in the car seat.
How have you changed since the baby was born?
I think maybe I understand life a little bit better. I look at him like “oh my god. We all were that way.” I get my parents a little bit better, I understand people a little bit better. Because you have this connection.
It’s just this crazy thing. We created this little person, who looks a lot like my husband. But then at the same time, he’s totally different than us. I sort of joke with people, “I don’t know why he’s so good natured!” Or, “I don’t know why he’s so sociable.” “Where did he get that?” Which is so wonderful. It’s not just loving another person or feeling loved. It’s being witness to something so beautiful.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Miriam! I had so much fun hanging out with you and Zane, and am really looking forward to watching you and your family continue to grow.