Sweet Little Lies

One of the first lies Yancy and I told ourselves about becoming a parent was that our lives would not change that much. Unlike the parents who had taken the plunge before us, we would stay the same. We would not alter ourselves and our lives so dramatically. We wouldn’t turn into different people once we had children. I vowed we would be different. It couldn’t be that hard to do. It was simple. We would just be the selves we had always been plus a baby.

At about four months into our pregnancy, we watched the movie Into the Wild and got hooked on the story. One night Yancy discovered one of the major locations in the movie was only a few hundred miles from us. We were ecstatic. Without a second thought, the next weekend we threw our camping gear and guitars into the back of our car and headed out. We drove to the middle of the desert to Slab City. Slab City is an old WW II base where hundreds of concrete slabs are left behind. It is occupied throughout the year by RV owners and squatters. It is a place welcoming to drifters and wanderers. Among the tents and campers are two stages hooked up with makeshift generators and seats made out of old tires and trash cans. Christmas lights encircle the stage. We pitched our tent on the dessert rocks and spent the night performing on stage with other musicians who were so messed up they thought they were still at Woodstock. Some still were.

We had an absolute blast. We performed onstage and laughed our asses off the entire night. We kept making references about how we would return the next year with our baby. We actually thought it would not only be possible, but also a good idea to take our infant son into the dessert to camp on the rocks with no electricity, cell phone service, or running water, and be surrounded by washed out hippies on drugs. Our baby would love our adventures.

I held onto the lie that my life would not be that different all the way through pregnancy and delivery. It was really important to me to stay as true to my old self as possible. My first awareness of how dramatically different my life had just become began the instant we were released from the hospital. The minute we stepped through the hospital doors with Gus in his new child carrier that I had had for months, I felt as if the entire world opened up to swallow us as we stepped out of the safety of the hospital cocoon. I have never felt so powerless. I knew all of the terrors and dangers that existed in the world and it was if we were suddenly going to be assaulted from the skies with them.

I furtively looked around me for enemies like I was Jack Baur in the latest 24 episode. I was so anxious I could barely breathe. I couldn’t wait for Yancy to arrive with the car and to get inside. My relief was very short lived. As soon as we began to pull out of the parking lot, my stomach dropped to my feet as if I was on a rollercoaster and I started to sweat. The car drive home from the hospital felt like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

“Drive slower,” I cautioned to Yancy. “You’re going too fast. Look out. Watch that car over there. They don’t see you. Slow down. Yancy, slow down. You have got to slow down.”

I was sure we were speeding. I kept looking at the speedometer and was convinced it wasn’t working correctly because it kept saying 50 mph and I knew we had to be going at least 70 mph. All of the other drivers seemed to have done a line of coke prior to getting behind the wheels because they were all flying and darting in and out of the lanes around us at record speeds. I was certain at any moment one of them would come slamming into us.

And the bumps. There were so many bumps on the road. I didn’t remember the freeway being so bumpy. But each bump jostled Gus’s head from side to side in his car seat. I had made another grave mother error. I had not bought him one those little u-shaped protector things that go around babies’ heads because it seemed so impractical. Now I saw why they were so important. Each time his head slid to the side I was certain he was going to have Shaken Baby Syndrome and by the time we reached our apartment he would be a vegetable. I was covered in sweat by the time we turned into our parking garage and pulled into our spot. I couldn’t get him out of the car and into the apartment fast enough.

I had the realization as I walked through the apartment door that my life really had changed. Forever.

It is nearly impossible to be yourself plus one. It just doesn’t work. The only way to remain your single, independent, unattached, carefree, and reckless self is to stay childless. You will look for your old self, but your old self will be nowhere to be found. It took me a long time to accept this fact and an even longer fact to acknowledge that it was okay to feel a bit sad about the loss of my old self and my old identity. It is a pretty significant loss. And even though it is replaced with a new life, it takes some time to get over. Some mothers get over it rather quickly and for some of us it takes longer. Needless to say, we still haven’t been back to Slab City.

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7 Responses to Sweet Little Lies

  1. The loss of freedom is something that has just recently really hit me. I used to climb mountains, I used to rock climb. But by the time my youngest child is old enough for me to do those things again… I’ll be too old! On a more sedate note, I recently realized that I will be at least 50 by the next time I can sleep in on the weekend. : (

    But they’re worth it.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Jadzia. I know, right? You know you’re a mom when getting up at 7:30 is sleeping in!

  2. Rach says:

    I had my first baby rather by accident (you know when they say to take your pills daily? Yeah, they mean that…) at 24. Talk about terrifying!

    I cried all the way home from the hospital. I remember sitting on the couch one evening just sobbing because my life as I had known it was OVER. My mom, so sweet and understanding, just let me sob my heart out as she took care of my baby. I know part of it was due in part to hormones, but so much more was due to grieving the loss of my former self.

    I also remember turning to my husband and saying, “So, when are this baby’s parents going to come and pick her up?” That’s how odd it felt to me. I mean, I *knew* we were her parents, and yet, it seemed so strange that we *were* her parents. Am I making any sense?

    It was SO much easier to add babies two and three to the family. My life had already changed so dramatically, I already had a rhythm and routine to life with children that the next two just slipped right in.

    I’m only now–ten years in–taking time to find ME again. I’m still not the “me” I was (and frankly, never will be), but I’m taking back some time for me and, you know what, I’m just fine with that.

  3. Mercy says:

    Oh, I get this. I remember thinking the same, that I would be able to continue life as usual. I don’t think reality hit until I saw my preemie son in his incubator 4 days after he was born. If we go anywhere, it is with the kids. I think the last time hubby and I went out alone was when Logan was 1 when a friend offered to keep him so we could see a movie.

    (Here is the link if you want to read it.) http://amommytoamommy.blogspot.in/p/logans-story.html

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Mercy. In the last year, we have really made an effort to go out more without Gus. It has made a huge difference in our relationship as well as our stress levels. We’d do it a lot more if babysitters didn’t cost so much!

  4. Shawn says:

    Thank you for saying it’s ok to be a little sad. And yes, it IS a significant loss. My daughter is now 14 months old and I finally feel like I have settled into my new self. I spent the better part of the first year missing my old self and then, of course, feeling guilty for that.

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The Mommy Psychologist TM