What’s So Hard About Having a Baby?!
May 13, 2010 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting · Permalink

by Bethany Saltman

Pregnant women and/or their partners often hear an annoying refrain from new parents. It goes something like this: “Enjoy that nice meal now, because soon you’ll be eating sucked-on Cheerios off the floor and calling it dinner. Going to a movie, huh? I remember those. Marriage? Romance? Time with friends? Spiritual practice? Ha! Maybe when the kids get into college….” In other words: Get ready to kiss your life goodbye. When I heard this encouraging bit of advice, I often thought, geez, what’s the big deal? People have been doing this for a really long time….What’s so hard about having a baby? It’s been a year now since Azalea was born. Some of what people said has turned out to be true. Mainly: Everything has changed. And I am mourning that sense of autonomy that we, as privileged people, are used to. It’s also true that I eat a lot of crap off the floor. And I don’t see many movies. But Thayer and I have been lucky to have a baby who responds very well to routine and has come to accept and even thrive from her 6pm bedtime (what a trooper), so we get lots of time together in the evenings. And I do manage to sit regularly and have even done a couple of sesshins (retreats). I think the scariest realization is that these things don’t mean much anymore, or at least not what they used to. My practice—as pared down as it is—is utterly necessary, not so much as a means to answer the sophisticated spiritual questions that had been burning in me, but to keep myself from going completely insane. The rest—movies, socializing, dinners out? Whatever. A) I could get a sitter if I really wanted to, and B) As nice as seeing “Dream Girls” in the theater would be, it wouldn’t really touch what is really so hard about having a baby. So what is it? First of all, a word about hard: To me, pushing boulders uphill, now, that’s hard. Having a terminal illness: very hard. Losing someone you really love: impossibly hard (how do people live through that? I hope I never find out). Marriage: sometimes hard, sometimes easy. Seeing my mind create difficulty: most of the time hard, occassionally not so hard. I make things hard (hard, hard, hard—it’s getting trippy, I know). The baby is just a baby. So that’s the Zen perspective. What’s hard is me, as they say, getting in the way.

So, with that in mind, the times where I get huge and clumsy, thus, making having a baby “hard” are the times when I really feel like I need things to go my way, and they can’t because the baby has her own way. More specifically: the baby is a chaos machine. I don’t like that. One bit. I prefer things to be organized, clean, and focused, and when I say prefer, I mean with my whole body and mind prefer, like that’s what I have done with my entire life up and until now: get things together, pull myself into myself, focus on “very important things,” which has indeed been hard, in the conventional sense, but nothing compared to trying to contain myself and be someone when I am two people, and one of us couldn’t care less if she has Tofu Pups in her ears, socks slipping down into her shoes (God help her), or graham-cracker dust in her bed. She doesn’t get embarrassed that she doesn’t know how to get herself out of her highchair, or that there are two l’s on the end of “ball”. And, hopefully, if I can heed her implicit advice and relax, she’ll stay clueless for a long time. Relaxing: also very hard.

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, January 10, 2007.

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