aving children really rocks your world. But having your first child after age 35 is like experiencing a 7.0 on the Richter with constant aftershocks. While I hate comparing parenting to a natural disaster, it is like an earthquake of love – with other whacky jolts thrown in to crumble you and thwart even the best-laid plans.
My theory is this: Having children in your twenties has to be easier because you are still relatively naïve and not completely set in your ways — and your body doesn’t need sleep. Leaping into parenting pushing 40 is quite a trick. On one hand, you have the benefit of experience and confidence; on the other that same experience and confidence can bite you in the mommy behind. Maternity can transform a smart, savvy and confident women in to a pathetic, ill-prepared puddle.
— “When will I be able to get some sleep?” This question came from my 42-year-old girlfriend who had just delivered her first baby. She wanted my motherly wisdom [sic]. Cough.
— This from another girlfriend, 39. “He cries a lot and I didn’t think it would be so hard.”
— Then came my high-powered executive friend, also nearing 40. “I feel like I can’t do it all. And my breasts are killing me.”
My sage-like answers to these questions and ruminations were as follows:
- Sleep? “Never.”
- Hard? “Uh huh.”
- Do it all? “You can’t… oh, and get some cabbage leaves for your rack.”
It’s daunting being suddenly stopped in your tracks by a six-to-10 pound bundle that pretty much depends solely on you for its livelihood. Your previous life stops and your rug of personal confidence is torn from underneath you. And there you are — on your derrière without a clue or an instruction manual.
You are weak and vulnerable, and suddenly every breathing organism with two feet has a very strong opinion about what you should do with your baby. And they want to share. That was at least was my experience. I heard at all:
- “Let the baby sleep far away from you so he doesn’t smell you,” one woman told me, “that way he won’t wake up for middle-of-the-night feeds.”
- “Your babies feet are cold,” said a man on a bus. “You need to cover them.” Never mind that he never touched my son and it was a hot summer day.
- “Maybe your son vomits a lot because your breast milk is bad… you should have it checked.” (I wanted to serve this woman a knuckle sandwich, but smiled at her instead.)
Being bombarded with unsolicited advice is often unhelpful and makes for extra “mental fornication.” Most new mothers second-guess their every move anyway without help from the word.
Moreover, there are dirty little secrets that no one told you about hidden at every turn. I was shocked and amazed at what I didn’t know my first time around.
So, in the spirit of sisterhood and unsolicited advice, here’s some… unsolicited advice. It’s free.
— Mother is a word often followed by an expletive. This expletive should be used sparingly around small children — unless you live in a non-English speaking country as I do.
— If you feel you need to self medicate (and you will), please do so. In moderation.
— Hemorrhoids. Even if your husband rolls his r’s, they are not as much fun as they sound.
— If your child is kicking and screaming on the floor because he can’t have ice cream at 7:30 a.m., try playing The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What you Want.” The music very soothing — for me.
— The first few months of breastfeeding… not so easy. It makes you eat like a horse and sucks away at your stamina. (Later: You only wish your child’s every problem could be solved by sticking him on your left breast.)
— If you can’t remember your own phone number at doctor’s appointment, consider it normal. Make one up. A baby can snatch both body and brain.
— Human feces are not your friends. And washable diapers are for guilt-ridden suckers (like myself).
— Arts and crafts time for children is often ruined by said children.
— TV causes speech delay and sometimes learning disabilities. But what do you care? You’ve already been to school.
— Benedryl makes many children drowsy. But it can sometimes do the opposite. Beware of that when trying to sedate your young ones. Try grappa.
— About your “other child” (i.e. your baby daddy): If your libido takes a nosedive, consider hiring a pro for your man. Everybody wins.
In closing, the best advice I can give any woman is this: “Do whatever you’ve got to do to get through the day.”