Getting a Baby Isn’t Having a Baby

There are so many things in my life that I entered into, driven purely by romance. I wanted to play in a band, without thinking about being on the road, I wanted to be in the theater (again, without thinking about being on the road), I even wanted to go to college and get married and be a heavy drinker, all because I had romantic notions about what was involved in each. But none of those things come close to the complete bewilderment that is “having a baby”.

There are a bunch of steps to having a baby, and it is actually *literally* years between the decision to have a baby is made, and the actual baby you think you want shows up.

Step One – Gittin’ Pregnint.

Oh, you think you’re hilarious, right? How much *fun* is it to try to get pregnant! HELL YES, this is THE GOOD PART! Leaving aside the fact that a huge number of couples can’t get pregnant biologically (and I’ll get to that in a second), it is not uncommon for people to try to get pregnant for a year and have it not work. Month after month of taking your temperature, counting the days and then pulling your partner down for a biological and sometimes utterly sterile sperm injection… followed by month after month of false positive pregnancy tests, heavy periods, pregnancies ending after *many* weeks – just harrowing awful heartbreak.

AND, in this day and age, your family and close friends know you’re trying. So you have to deal with *that*. Assholes suggesting that you should just relax, that you aren’t getting pregnant because you’re trying too hard (which they back up with acres of bullshit, science-free anecdotal evidence of Friends Who Got Pregnant Once They Stopped Trying), and hippies vomiting out conspiracy theories about water pollution and herbal remedies. And every month that passes, the woman starts looking at her biological clock ticking away and the man starts looking at his balls like they’re full of dead sea monkeys, and both people feel, in an absolutely perfect word, impotent.

And for people who want to adopt – you would think there are thousands and thousands of babies world-wide that need good families but it’s not that easy. In very, very rare instances a woman gets pregnant, can’t raise the baby and finds a good family to raise him or her. But more often than not when a couple wants to adopt they are suddenly faced with paperwork and packets of options that they won’t have to face again unless they have quintuplets going to college. Want to adopt a baby from a war torn country overseas? It’s *YEARS* of bureaucracy. YEARS. You have to start trying to adopt a baby right now who’s parents have yet to *meet*. Adoption is truly one of the most beautiful things we can do as human beings, and I’ve watched it cause more heartache in my friends than I thought possible.

Step Two – Bein’ Pregnint.

The first time you get pregnant, it becomes an identity that, whether you embrace it or not, is thrust upon you like Greatness in Twelfth Night. You are a vessel for the nourishment and development of another life form, you’re Earth and in your soil is an acorn that you have to actively take care of or a single leaf will never break out and begin a tree. If you’ve spent a year getting pregnant, if you’ve had two or three chemical pregnancies or lost a pregnancy along the way, then you feel like you’re carrying an egg on a spoon, taped to a stick, gripped between your knees.

And once you start showing, that pregnancy is owned by everyone. Strangers will walk up to you and TOUCH YOU. People will leer at your belly and, let’s face it, tits and smile at you beatifically. And even worse, you will get acres of advice and judgment. For the love of GOD, don’t let anyone see you have a glass of wine or smoke a cigarette – it’s so inconceivably immoral to do these things I’m amazed there isn’t a law. To clarify – *habitual smoking* is bad for a fetus, *having a cigarette* is no different than breathing the air when you’re driving on the Grand Central.

And all of this is happening when you are perhaps as uncomfortable as you’re ever going to be until you’re old enough to break an ankle getting out of a chair.

Your hips are getting soft and shifting. The viscera in your stomach muscles and lining is tearing. Your feet, your hands, your face, your *everything* is swelling and nothing fits any more. You are always starving, and always feel like vomiting, and always feel like sleeping. You can’t eat half the foods that make you happy because you will almost definitely give your zygote BOTULISM if you have soft cheese. It doesn’t help that you are surging with hormones that make even a casual encounter feel like a nuclear war standoff. And there is no man or non-pregnant woman in the world who understands what this feels like (myself included, this is all second-hand information from watching my wife and friends), so it’s incredibly lonely.

Step Three – Gittin’ the Baby *Out*.

There are women all over America who proudly claim that they had “natural” child birth. They want you to know they did it without pain medication, or that they did it at home, or with only a doula, or in the crouch position or in a bath. That’s great, I’m very proud of them, in the same way that I’m very proud of people who run marathons. It seems like an incredibly hard, TOTALLY OPTIONAL thing to endure.

But you better believe, there are women in agony all over the world who are dying in childbirth, who get terrible tears and infections and suffer through the worst pain you can imagine, who would say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I could have done this without pain and IN A HOSPITAL?” According to the World Health Organization, 530,000 women die in childbirth worldwide every year, and a total of 10 million women suffer injury, infection or disease, and these are *NOT* the women who give birth with a doctor. So, look, I have no judgment about the way you give birth, but just don’t give my wife shit for doing it in a hospital. It takes all of about *two days* before nobody cares how you gave birth anyway. Because…

Step Four – What? Where’s The Baby?

Okay, sure, we all know that right after you give birth you aren’t gonna be shoe-shopping or throwing the perfect spiral. We all know that it’s a baby and that it’ll cry if you don’t feed it and you’ll have to change diapers. We all know this, it’s not like we’re idiots, it’s gonna be a while before we have a *kid*, this is just a baby.

Um, no. No, it’s not. This thing is not a baby. The thing that’s in your house can’t see past about a foot, and it can’t control any of its muscles. So, it just shivers and quakes, like a plate of jello on a salad spinner, and when it looks at you, it can’t actually see anything. Its neurons don’t work. You think it’s crying because it’s hungry, but it doesn’t actually know if it’s hungry, it screams because it doesn’t work yet. There’s no solution to the screaming, you just have to survive it while doing everything in your power to fix it because… it *might* be because the baby is hungry or uncomfortable, so you gotta try *something*.

How completely spastic is this little jellyglob of a human? It doesn’t know how to *shit*. In order to shit, you have to flex some muscles and relax others, but its body doesn’t know which ones, so it sometimes tries to push waste out of a tightly closed hole. This unassembled Ikea piece of humanity *can’t figure out how to eat*. There is an entire industry – lactation consultants – that have sprung up to help women simply *put nutrition in their infants*. It takes months – months that are meted out in 15 to 20 second chunks, like surviving the last twenty minutes of sprinting on a treadmill except all day and all night – for this amorphous creature to turn into anything resembling the “babies” you see on TV and in commercials. And all those hippies who tell you that Native American babies never cry because they’re at one with the world and at peace with their mothers can fuck right off, the thing *doesn’t work yet* and it screams because 250,000 years of evolution taught it to scream.

Now look, obviously it’s all worth it. And obviously I haven’t included the indescribable feeling of being pregnant, when you’re in your second trimester and someone good and kind is there taking care of you while you grow a baby. And I haven’t included the fact that a trigger goes off in your heart when you take your baby home. And I haven’t included the fact that you realize that adoption is genius, that you fell in love when you added to your family no matter how the addition occurred. And I haven’t included the fact that you become even more passionate a defender of a woman’s right to safe and legal abortions, because people who don’t want this or who might not be sure if they want it REALLY SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO DO IT.

But if they made movies about the kinda shitty and boring month you’re bound to have during a marriage instead of making them about the moment two people fall in love, it would certainly better inform people of what to expect from a marriage. If they made a movie that started with a huge theatrical success and then the rest of the movie was the four months of unemployment and depression after it closes, people would know better what it is to be an actor. And if people understood that there are years before you’re tickling a baby and they respond with giggles, years that are incredibly hard, then they would better know what they have to look forward to.