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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.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. So true. The things my husband and I thought would be difficult were different from what actually was so I can relate to this. I'm all jazzed up about this use of pie charts. Perhaps I'm visual when it comes to quantification. Natural adaptation is an amazing phenomenon.I'm three weeks ahead of you and I still follow random strangers at the grocery store who have babies with them that look about six months old. Seriously, I just want one friend who has a baby the same age as mine, preferably a girl so the child and my child won't be held to the same standards, and preferably someone who has gone through IF. Hmm I wonder if this will flame out?Happy six months!

    November 10, 2011
  2. Oak #

    I have a theory that people who bitch about how hard having a baby are never really thought about life WITH A BABY. Hell, if you think about the fact, for just one stinking second, that you're going to have a human that can't talk, walk, feed itself or wipe its own ass and you're its primary care giver, well, you get a pretty solid idea of what life is going to be like. Is having a kid hard? Sure, compared to taking care of myself. But honestly, its not THAT hard to figure out life is going to change. But heck, I have an easy baby too. So maybe that has something to do with it. Well an easy baby that climbs onto everything and moves at the speed of light.

    November 10, 2011
  3. JB #

    I love science and pie charts and QUANTIFYING! Hooray!And for our next (hypothetical) baby, I'm penciling in a request for an easy baby on the order form. I may have forgotten to check that box for Jackson. (I kid, he was a medium-hard baby and a pretty easy toddler.)

    November 10, 2011
  4. This is awesomeness. And seriously, the people with six nannies, a house manager, a chef, a toilet scrubber, a gardner AND a pool boy who complain about motherhood being hard?Makes me want to strangle their real-housewife necks.I, uh, don't know any of those people. I just watch them. Egad. Daytime TV has officially rotted my brain.

    November 10, 2011
  5. And, it's interesting to also consider the interplay between those factors, too. Like, sleep deprivation can make your baby feel a lot harder than he really is, and it can amplify those feelings of isolation and resistance. On day following good sleep (and self-care) Baby Hard could just feel more pesky than crawling-outta-your-skin-crazy. (Or am I not operationalizing Baby Hard correctly?) There are days when my kid feels impossible, but he's not at all. I'd wager that he's a medium baby, and his harder days are mitigated when we are rested and our bellies are full.And, OH MY, Bun Bun is SIX MONTHS OLD!?!?

    November 10, 2011
  6. Ha ha! Seriously my new BFF stoped me while I was out walking with my dog and baby and said "can I talk to you I just had a baby and don't know anyone around here who has kids". And once I figured out that she wasn't a psycho and did in fact have a baby we having been hanging out ever since.

    November 10, 2011
  7. Oh the wisdom of that last line! I'm glad that you not only were blessed with an easy baby but that you also recognize your good fortune. Some people have a tendency to take things for granted. Take my mother for example, her supportive response to many many hours a day of seemingly unmotivated screaming on g's part, i.e. colic, was: "my babies never cried like that".I also like Trinity's point about the complicated way that all of these factors interact. In the early days I sometimes used to play the game which came first the PPD or the colic? Happy 6 months to Bun bun! May parenting continue to feel this way to you for a long time to come!

    November 11, 2011
  8. Pie charts. So great.If I had made a pre-baby pie chart it would have been about 1/3 incompetence. I really worried about having hours of just not knowing what to do. It hasn't been often though.Six months of Bun Bun! How lovely!

    November 11, 2011
  9. So.very.true. You really have no idea. My son just turned 5 and with every day comes something different/unexpected…whether it makes me laugh, want to cry or want to yell. You just never know! Two things that I know for sure at this point: 1)I love my son more than I ever thought possible and 2)Raising a child is really, really hard/ease/hard/scary/hard/easy/hard….but you can do it! It's been 5 years and so far, he's still here so I must be doing something right!

    November 11, 2011
  10. Happy six months, Bun Bun!! I have to admit that I think I managed to get myself one of those easy babies, too. Sometimes it freaks me out to think about a potential #2 because surely this one has spoiled me. But then of course I realize how ridiculous that thought even is and that I'm putting the cart before the whole darn herd.

    November 11, 2011

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