Well, hell has officially frozen over — a small child has been left in my care and it’s just dawning on me that I am literally responsible for her for the rest of my life. In the beginning, after accepting the horrific physical ailments I was left to overcome, I started to settle into this parenting thing I’d heard of. I had acquired virtually no parenting skills, nor had I picked up any tips throughout the duration of my life, so I was very much going in blind. All I had in my arsenal was a series of beliefs I had developed while single.
First and foremost: I Am Not Going To Let A Child Keep Me From Living My Life!
As an adolescent, I would scoff at sad women wrestling with strollers on busy city streets. I felt sorry for them and thought to myself, “I will never let having a baby keep me from living my life and having a good time.” This seemed like a reasonable and achievable ideal but I’m sad to say I’ve fallen short. It’s unclear whether I’ll be able to overcome my current obstacles or if I should just get a Kate Plus 8 haircut and throw in the towel.
To be fair, things started off wonderfully. Within a week of having Perfect Daughter ripped from my abdomen, I was sauntering over to Target to pick up a few things I needed. In the beginning, I took Perfect Daughter with me everywhere. If she was sleeping and someone commented on what a good child she was, I took full responsibility as though I had already imparted some sort of parental wisdom onto her — when, in all reality, the smaller the baby, the more they sleep. Regardless, I felt pretty proud of myself for all I had accomplished. It could not have been easier and I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it was the pain meds talking, but I started calling all my friends and telling them to go ahead and have babies because it was easy As Fuck. Perfect Daughter and I were living life to the fullest. We went shopping, we went for walks, we cooked dinners, we napped. It was glorious.
From there, things devolved into total pandemonium. The thing about fatigue is that at first it’s cute — you have an extra little buzz going as you move through your day and it’s just the kick in the rear that you needed. After two weeks, you’re wired but it’s kind of nice because you feel sort of high and you realize you can survive solely on cigarettes and espresso and you start to feel very European. After a month you realize that having a baby was a huge mistake and you would complain to your friends about it but you no longer have time to talk to them nor are you able to shower or get dressed. One day while I was sitting in my apartment, covered in my own filth and trying to figure out how to sleep and eat at the same time, I wondered how things had unraveled to such a degree.
Then I returned to work. And all hell broke loose. On day one I was struck with the realization that in order to get my kid to childcare and myself to work on time, I’d need to wake up at 5:30 a.m. I’m someone who has historically stayed out until 5:30 a.m. In Chicago, there are 2 a.m. bars and 4 a.m. bars and on Saturday everything is open an hour later so 5:30 a.m. is typically when you get in a cab with your friends and go looking for drugs. Nowadays, 5:30 a.m. is dedicated to the extraction of milk from my bosom, assembling the gajillions of baby accoutrements required for day care, feeding and dressing child, feeding and dressing myself and then inevitably realizing that I’m running late and have forgotten a multitude of steps that needed to be accomplished. Most mornings I realize that I’m a horrible failure by around 6 a.m. At that point, there’s no hope in trying to save the day so I just start looking for french fries and counting down the hours until it’s bedtime again.
As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, my hateful “friends” eventually started inviting me to do things. It was a huge slap in the face and I was furious.
My Friend Josh: Hey lady! I’m going to be in town next week. Would love to get together for dinner!
Me: Oh, that’s out of the question. Perfect Daughter goes to bed at 7 p.m.
Josh: No, I totally get it. I’m happy to come to your apartment instead of us going out to a restaurant.
Me: I don’t know if you heard me. I get home at 6 p.m. and she goes to bed at 7 p.m.
Josh: Riiight. I guess I just thought we could have a little nosh and catch up.
Me: Catch up? CATCH UP?! I AM TRYING TO RAISE A PERFECT DAUGHTER, JOSH! I DON’T THINK YOU’RE GETTING IT. Are you aware that babies need 10-12 hours of sleep each night and that perfect daughter wakes up several times over the course of each evening meaning I never know exactly how much sleep I’m going to get? I don’t know if you’re aware, JOSH, but I have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning. FIVE-THIRTY! Literally no one in the course of history has had to wake up as early as I have to wake up every morning so I would really appreciate it if you could respect that.
Josh: Totally, I just…
Me: I don’t think you’re getting it, JOSH. I am a mother…A MOTHER! I’m SORRY if I’m trying to put my daughter first. I’m sorry if studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to a weakened immune system thereby making it more difficult to retain certain lessons throughout the school day making it harder to get into a good college which makes it more difficult to be gainfully employed which then leads to a higher mortality rate. DO YOU WANT PERFECT DAUGHTER TO DIE, JOSH?!
Josh: I’m confused. Is your six-month-old in school?
Me: THAT’S NOT THE POINT! GOD, YOU JUST DON’T GET IT BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A PARENT, JOSH!
Here’s the thing. I have become unreasonably obsessed with my child. I no longer live my life or do things that don’t involve teaching my child some sort of monumental life lesson. This shouldn’t really be all that surprising. I’m a horrible alcoholic with a bad attitude so it was safe to assume childbirth was going to go one of two ways: 1) I was going to reject the fetus and expect it to make it on its own; or 2) I was going to become overbearing and protective of the most Perfect Daughter in the world, readjust my schedule in order to accommodate her flawless life, and reject all things that didn’t support the betterment of her journey to be the most well-rounded, well-adjusted, brilliant, supportive, unblemished, curious, healthy Perfect Daughter in the world. It’s safe to say I’ve fallen into the second category.
I’m not sure how I let this happen. I barely had a social life to begin with. I have had incredibly unreasonable excuses every time someone asks me why I can’t leave my house and the sad part is, I literally believe myself when I’m talking.
Hateful Friend #1: Hey, we’re all driving to Santa Barbara this weekend. Do you wanna come?
Me: Perfect Daughter doesn’t really like being in a car for long periods of time.
Hateful Friend #2: Yo! I’m in your neighborhood and thought we could go for a walk.
Me: Ya know, I’d love to but Perfect Daughter isn’t feeling well.
Hateful Husband: Sex?
Me: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! I’M EXHAUSTED, YOU MONSTER!
I’m a shell of my former self. After a mere seven months, I have removed everything in my path that does not immediately fulfill some part of Perfect Daughter’s life. So I tried to think back to that surly twenty-something that was literally pushing pregnant women over in the street and I realized that that woman was just as ill-informed. I suppose this is what Oprah refers to as “balance.” Currently I have none. I’m trying to find that cushy spot between daily drinker and pathetic shut-in. I’m sure it’s best to start small. Husband and I have a date on Friday night. We hired something called a babysitter. From what I understand that’s a person who watches your baby while you go try to save your marriage. To be honest, this entire experiment is already causing me a lot of anxiety. But Perfect Daughter needs to buck the fuck up and I need to be awake past 9 p.m. Turns out it’s slightly difficult to make no changes to your life once a baby arrives.
There are a few things that will likely never return like going on a last minute trip, staying up until 4 a.m., and the suppleness of my vagina. But there are lots of new things that are fun in a different way like watching your daughter grow into a person who can run errands for you and teaching someone to swear. It’s a give and take really. My life will never be the same. But I don’t have to die in the transition. Twenty-something me was fun and she made some good points. Sure she drank to blackout proportions, slept with strangers, and judged her elders. But she knew that you could still be a fun-loving and effective person even if you never showered. I love her for teaching me that.