Reflections at six months. With pie charts.
About a week before Bun Bun was born, Mr. Bunny and I were having a conversation we’d had many times before. People had been telling us that having a baby was sooooooooooo hard, harder than we could eeeeeeeeeever imagine. And we were wondering why. I mean, how bad could it be? Was it really true that we should get paper plates because we’d be too exhausted to wash dishes? Would we really be so desperate for help that we’d wish we had people around and regret asking them to stay away for a month? Could two people really not care for one baby without falling apart? Weary of having the same conversation, we decided to take a quantitative approach. We’d write down all factors that we thought contributed to the whole babies are so hard business, and then estimate their impact. We did it, and then we sealed it in an envelope and agreed to open it in six months.
|There it hung on the fridge. We decided to open it when Bun Bun was six months old, rather than six months after sealing it.|
Bun Bun’s six month birthday was this weekend, so we opened the envelope. Here’s what we predicted.
Sleep deprivation, incompetence, and lack of preparation are self-explanatory. With isolation/ resistance to change, we were thinking that people who like to go out would have a hard time being trapped at home, and that people might resent the loss of their old lives. You hear about people being all waaaah, I never get to have beers with my buddies anymore. That kind of thing. We decided to create one large category called “baby hard.” We wanted to capture the various ways in which caring for a baby might be genuinely hard, but in the end we felt they all boiled down to…crying. So “baby hard” included the following items that might change the equation considerably, depending on how they worked out.
- Baby temperament. Colicky baby = harder.
- Baby health. Sick baby = harder.
- Breastfeeding. If it goes poorly = harder.
- PPD. In this case, I’d be the one crying.
With self-aggrandizement we were thinking a tendency to be hyperbolic about things so you can feel good about yourself. I’m sure everyone’s met parents who wail and moan about how haaaaaaard it is and then you find out they have six nannies and you wonder what the fuck they’re whining about.
So, our chart shows that we expected sleep deprivation to be the major portion, with baby hard coming in second, and a few other things playing minor roles.
When we considered the reality we were pretty pleased with our predictions, overall. But we did do a little revision.
Self-aggrandizement, incompetence, and lack of preparation no longer figure in. Naturally. And baby hard has not grown at all, because our baby is fucking easy. The surprise was that the whole isolation / resistance to change was a factor for us. Despite never really wanting company before, I went through a very intense longing for just one friend with a baby. This lasted from months 2 -5 or so. I still like the idea, but I no longer consider accosting random women with babies. So isolation turned out to affect me after all. And the resistance to change I’ve described here: we both like time alone, but figuring out how to arrange that proved more problematic than expected.
So it was an interesting exercise. But we also decided that the chart fails to capture an important feature of our experience, which I’ve tried to show here:
I’m not sure what the pies are even made of, but it’s been clear from the beginning that having an easy baby is a whole other universe from having a typical baby, let alone a hard baby. For instance, yeah, we would like more sleep, but our sleep deprivation is a tiny little crumb compared to the giant wedge that is the sleep deprivation of the average parent. Ditto the baby hard. As much as I struggled with nursing, I can see that my experience was pretty normal, and so much easier than the battles many have faced. And yes, there are times when I am crawling out of my skin because of the crying, but it’s, like, the easiest possible version of that phenomenon.
In conclusion, the one piece of wisdom I have for prospective parents is this: You have no idea what it will be like until you meet that baby. It might be rainbows and flowers, it might be like being boiled alive.
Oh, and be sure to get an easy baby.