When I first got pregnant, everyone warned me that I would shit on the delivery table. They all told me this in hushed tones, as if the penalties for revealing this indignity were unspeakable. No one warned them, they all said, but they were warning me.
While I started out appreciating the spirit of this warning, it started to irritate me. Is shitting that bad? Isn’t it obvious you’re going to shit? A skull is coming through the next lane, everything’s gotta pull over. It’s not like the nurses and doctors and midwives aren’t ready for it. And if pooping in front of my husband was going to destroy our intimacy, well, I would think I married the wrong dude. I started telling these people I was having a water birth* because it made their eyes bug out.
We offer warnings because we don’t want others to experience the same trauma or embarrassment. We tell our stories, in the hopes other people gain something from them and do better than we did. We tell them because they’re funny and they make us memorable, but we also tell them because the truth is important.
The truth is that writing with a baby is a lot harder than you probably appreciate before you try it. The truth is that it’s also a lot easier than you imagine before you start. The truth is if you’re having a baby, you’ll probably shit on the delivery table and if you’re becoming a parent, you’ll probably have to relearn how to be yourself. The truth is you can.
We don’t always listen to warnings because we don’t know we need them. We haven’t stood in that spot and we don’t know what we need to hear. When I had my first son, everyone also said “Having a baby changes everything,” to which I (mentally) replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah: Hallmark stuff.” It’s amazing! It’s wonderful! It changes everything! I didn’t understand the warning therein.
What I wish people had told me was that having a baby forces you to remake yourself from the ground up. You can do it fast. You can do it slow. You can do it painstakingly, or slap yourself together and figure out the mistakes down the road, but everything changes and I think we should all be clearer that’s serious up front. After I had a child, everything was different because when something that big comes along you have to figure out how to adapt to it. You realize what’s precious to you, and what you’ve only held onto out of habit. What must be done, what you’d like to be done, and what you need to be done so that you can keep being you. It’s hard to say, until you have done it, what’s going to be difficult or traumatic or funny.
The truth is you don’t know how you’re going to feel about shitting on the table until it’s already happening. You don’t know how much you have to rebuild yourself until everything changes and you have to add “somebody’s parent” to your identity. The truth is I’m not you and you’re not me, but I’m warning you all the same, because I know the path’s not easy and you can’t avoid it, and once you’re through to the other side, you’ll look around and know how it’s done.
*The answer, I am told, is “aquarium net.”