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.