After my big news yesterday, we thought it was the perfect time to bring you Liz’s update on married life with a surprise baby, a few years in. Liz sums up all of my fears about the American culture of motherhood in one neat package (after a recent round of freaking out, David suggested I could just become a female parent instead of a mother, if that made me feel better). She talks about Bringing Up Bebe, one of the few parenting books I’ve actually found helpful. And while her story is not the universal human experience, and Little J is clearly a relatively easygoing kid, her stories about where motherhood can take us within a marriage are so important. This post first ran on Liz’s excellent blog Happy Sighs, but we wanted to bring it to you here for even further discussion. (And no, two posts in a row does not mean APW is going all parenting blog on you, but the timing seemed apt.)
It’s already been two years since I first found out I was pregnant. This is astonishing.
I can still remember exactly how it felt to have that petrifying fear first grip my body, and then refuse to let go for nine(ish) months. It was scary—not just the whole childbirth process (the physics of which I still don’t understand—partially because I choose not to think about it for too long), but the whole motherhood thing. Scary, scary motherhood.
I didn’t worry that I’d screw up my kid. I came from a bunch of weirdos, and I still turned out pretty decent. Kids are kind of resilient. It was more selfish than that.
I worried that I’d screw up my life.
Two years later, I ask Josh, “Remember how afraid we were when we found out we were having a baby? Do you think we were right? Did any of that stuff come true?” And he shakes his head without hesitation. “No. Definitely not.”
I started reading Bringing Up Bebe recently, and though nothing about the book is really monumental just yet, one little sentence kicked me in the face. Druckerman talks about the idea of “the culture of total motherhood” in America.
That’s what I was afraid of.
Do you know what being a “Mommy” sounds like? It sounds like spending your day absorbed in “binkies” and “diapies” and “onesies” and “potties.” It sounds like doing all kid things all the kid time.
Two years later, I realize that hasn’t happened. Which isn’t to say it couldn’t happen—I know plenty of families that dine only at restaurants with ball pits and haven’t seen a non-animated movie in years. But in my house, sort of on purpose but mostly by accident, this hasn’t happened. Little Josh can hang. He’s like a little friend who’s smaller than us and a little limited in communication, but he eats what we eat and enjoys our sense of humor and is fine playing in his room while we do our own thing. He tags along to friends’ houses, he wanders hip art galleries, and he doesn’t mind the occasional late dinner. There are parks and picture books and crayons and Legos, but they don’t fill the entire day and I enjoy them in small doses.
I worried about bringing someone new into a family without having ever met him. I dated Josh for three whole years before I decided I knew enough about him to live with him. I didn’t have that luxury with Little J. He just sort of… showed up. What if we didn’t get along? What if he demanded chicken fingers and mac and cheese every night, refused to listen to anything but Mary Had a Little Lamb on repeat, or wasn’t satisfied unless the living room was covered with ugly chunky plastic things from Babies R Us? But little ones… they seem to be sort of flexible. He’ll eat avocado toast or a mild curry. He bops his head to The XX and Fleet Foxes. He’s content with a ball and a stack of wooden blocks. Or a tissue box. Or a crumpled piece of paper (literally).
It’s kind of nice that he fits in so well with us. It’s also pretty considerate of him to be so easygoing. It makes it easier to continue in the adventures we started before this new baby-adventure came along. Just this weekend, we went on a quick trip to the hardware store and spur of the moment, decided to stop at a Mexican place for margaritas and guacamole. It was nine at night (well past bedtime), and we hadn’t planned on it, but Little J went with the flow. The little adventures still happen, and it reassures me that the big ones can, too.
Two years later, despite all the rough bits, it’s really nice to have him here.
Photo of one of Liz & Josh’s recent adventures, from their personal collection