35

So today is my 35th birthday.  Yikes.  I’m not complaining; life is really good, and I’m happy.  But 35 sounds CRAZY grownup– so much more than 34.  34 is still, like, I’m a cool young professional who goes to gallery openings and does tequila shots. 35 seems more, I dunno, “get off my lawn, hipsters!”

One of the cool things (read: the ONLY cool thing) about a birthday on January 2nd is that it dovetails nicely with the new year.  New year for the world, new year for me.  What it lacks in wild celebration (since everyone is partied out and still hung over, and there’s always some kind of sleet/ice/shit storm), it makes up for in fresh start.  This birthday has me feeling a little introspective (whaaa?  A blogger thinking about herself??):  a lot has happened in the last year, and I guess there’s no arguing my way out of the fact that I’m totally, officially, no-turning-back a grownup.

When I was a kid, I decided that I would get married when I was 23 and have babies when I was 26.  I don’t know, it sounded good at the time.  23 came and went, and thank the sweet baby Jesus I didn’t get married.  I didn’t know my ass from my elbow when I was 23, and I am positive that I didn’t know anyone who was husband material.  Pretty sure the guy I was dating at 23 told me he liked to make me cry.  26 came and went and was a crapload of fun–living with best friends, karaoke every Thursday at the same dirty dive, and a little career starting to take shape.  Still, though, not at ALL ready to be responsible for another life.  Not when Thursday nights started with chardonnay in the shower (which is, incidentally, what I am calling  my band).

My 12-year-old self would be shocked to know how late in life all the big things happened.  So here I am, 35, reflecting on life as it stands now:

  • I am married to my favorite person in the whole world.  However, it took me FOR FUCKING EVER to find him.  It was totally worth it, given that some of the highlights of my relationship history include the bipolar yogi, the totally-fine-but-zero-chemistry-NJB, and the shit bird  who stole my identity (true story).
  • I have a gorgeous, sweet, brilliant baby, and in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t have TOO hard a time making him.  On the other hand, though, he’s 14 months old and being kind of a whiny jerk these days.  Also, I might never get a full night’s sleep again as long as I live, none of my pants fit the same as they did before, I have stretch marks, and I interact with feces on a daily basis.
  • I have more money than something like 99% of the world’s population, but I have less than 99% of the people in my immediate circle of friends, which makes me envious (my petty, tragic flaw) and self-conscious.  And I live in a basement apartment.  With a baby.
  • I have amazing, patient, helpful family around me all the time.  On the other hand, I have family around me all the time.  To quote my best friend, “you spend more time with your parents than the average third grader.”
  • I am able to plan for a life that includes two kids.  My brother and I are super close, and I’d love for N to have a sibling.  However, as I found yesterday, as of today, my uterus is considered “elderly.”  ELDERLY.  Awesome.

So there it is.  Happy new year, everyone, and please be sure to check out Chardonnay in the Shower’s first single, entitled Elderly Uterus.  It’s a chart topper, for sure.

A view from the basement

I assume I won’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom.  A friend says to me at some  point, “I LOVE my kids, but I don’t want to hang out with them all day long.”  This seems totally right to me, totally reasonable.  I’ve heard stories about people who go weeks without having an adult conversation, grown-ass women describing their one-year-olds as “my best friend.”  I like work.  I like productivity. I will love my baby, but surely I will want to keep the rest of my life the same as before, right?

Keeping life the same is, of course, a ridiculous notion in itself. It is, to quote Monty Python, “an act of the purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place.”

In the first weeks, I am a weepy mess, swearing that I will never remove him from the Moby wrap, let alone leave his side for even one second. A little later, postpartum depressed, I can’t stand to be away from him, but I can’t care for him myself.  My new life will be lived watching my mother watching the baby.  She’ll just have to quit HER job.  After proper chemical calibration I think, sure, I can go back to work in 3 weeks.  I can totally go back to work in 2 weeks.  Work in a week?  Um…yeah!  Work tomorrow? OH HELL NO.

I extend my leave twice.  I change the arrangement so that I go back half days at first.  After all this generosity, I am allowed telework 2 days a week, indefinitely.  I am lucky (for the U.S. anyway.  I’m totally moving to Sweden before my next baby), and for a while it’s going ok.  Eventually, though, he starts to get more fun.  Like, WAY more fun.  They should really make you go to work right after you give birth, when the baby is basically a good-looking meatloaf, and let you take maternity leave from like 8-11 months, when the party starts.  I get to a point where I’m missing him all day, and I can’t believe I’m leaving those eyelashes and giggles and first words to come deal with the cloak-and-dagger drama of my workplace.

I talk to C. I ask him if there’s a way to make it work.  Many discussions later, with each other and with our families, we decide.  There is, in fact, a way to make it work: we will sell our condo and move into my mother-in-law’s basement apartment, so that we can afford to live on one salary.  I know– but truly, she’s fantastic; this is not an arrangement I’d recommend for everyone.  I feel like a deadbeat sometimes, being a full-grown adult living in a basement with my husband and a toddler. My childless friends look at me like I’m batshit insane, although how much this has to do with their mothers-in-law, I don’t know.  Some of my friends with babies, though, are quick to tell me that they would do the same thing if they had the option.

I know there will be times when we all think it was a terrible idea.  I know there will be times when I will long for a giant coffee, the internet, a door to close, and sweet, sweet silence.  But last week, I quit my job.

Because who knew?  Who knew I’d feel so strongly about being with this little person as much as I can, while he’s still adorable and not yet a douchebag teenager? Who knew that watching a baby thread dry noodles through the holes in a colander would be every bit as fascinating as a fancy job?  Who knew that even on a bad day, when there’s whining and bitching and food-throwing, seeing him point to the cat and say “GA-TO!” would make it all worth it?

I sure didn’t.

Truth is one, paths are many.

“You know best what your baby needs.” This baffling statement turns up in a lot of the kinder, gentler baby books, generally as a last resort.  When none of the books or pediatricians are telling you what you want to hear, listen to your gut.  You are the mommy and you know best.

Seriously? I call bullshit.

I want to say I know best roughly 17-24% of the time.  Tops.  Mostly, I have NO FUCKING IDEA what my baby needs.  I’m sure there are some women who have this innate sense of what each whimper and sob and squeak means, and what needs to be done about it.  In all but a few cases, however, I do not.  And being new at this, I’m totally ok admitting that.  Enter my friends with kids.

Throughout my pregnancy and my first year of motherhood, I’ve had three friends who serve as a sort of Greek chorus of mommy advice and comfort.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten advice from many sources, including my mother, C’s mother, people in line at the Container Store, all my facebook acquaintances, and the ENTIRE INTERNET, but these are the three that I go to most frequently for help, for counsel, or for a firm slap upside the head.

I know each of them from a different chapter of my life (high school, when we were stupid; college, when we were smart; and post-college, when we were the STUPIDEST but really really hot).  Below are their thoughts on several parenting topics, which I no doubt presented to them via panicked text message in the middle of the night.  They have three very different styles, which is good for me; I get several perspectives to sort through before figuring out how to proceed.  Because really, God forbid I make a decision on my own.

On sleep training:

Mommy 1) Dude. Don’t be a wiener.  You have to be the parent and he has to sleep.  Lock yourself in another room, have a bottle of wine, and let him cry.  It’ll suck, but everyone will be happier in the morning.

Mommy 2)  You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right in your heart. It’s not a problem until it’s a problem for you and your family. Your son knows he is loved and safe and whatever you decide will be the right thing.

Mommy 3) …ummm…it’s probably fine.

On skin rashes:

M1) Dude. I’m not a doctor.  Google it.  Call the pediatrician.  Put some Aveeno on that shit.

M2) It’s so scary when that happens!  Poor little babies.  It’s so hard on your heart when they are uncomfortable and you can’t help.  Do you need to talk?

M3) …ummm….it’s probably fine.

On occasionally feeling angry at the baby:

M1) Dude.  Sometimes they are jerks.  Just because they are babies doesn’t mean they aren’t jerks.

M2) That’s the worst feeling! Just apologize and give him kisses. It helps them learn that everyone makes mistakes and should say they’re sorry!

M3) …ummm…it’s probably fine.
Thing is, in spite of the thoughtful responses and varied paths to the answer, in the end, it’s Mommy 3 for the win.  She’s always right.  No matter how we get there, they’re probably fine.