Sunday, 3 January 2016

I live! I die! I live again!

This is a post about having a child.

In some ways the baby is like a drug. I am addicted to her. The high when she smiles, or coos, or gurgles, or looks surprised, or does something new (no matter how trivial, banal, or derpy) is just magnificent. It's a rich, mellow high, like a great wine, a Christmas dinner, seeing a friend after a year apart and picking up where you left off. It's a high you feel good about enjoying. The crash, of course, is brutal. I don't know why the NHS doesn't just automatically diagnose all new parents with postnatal depression: even if you have naturally robust neurochemistry and a cheery demeanour, the combined assault of sensory abuse and sleep deprivation will shatter you. Then there are the other similarities between a child and drug abuse. You stop seeing your friends. You stop taking care of your other needs, like washing yourself or getting dressed. All your money and energy goes into feeding your habit.

Then there are the ways that having a baby is cosmically weird. This entity, which wears a human face but bears no resemblance to any human I have interacted with, wriggles and writhes and gurgles with an animal sentience. My relationship to her is profoundly strange. Sometimes she is an abusive, bipolar partner, alternately granting me affection and then horrible, nerve-shattering emotional abuse. Most of the time she is like a patient, and a prisoner, and my beloved. Basically she's like the writer from Misery. I am Nurse Wilkes. (Now it is I who is the metaphor for heroine). Eventually my baby will stuff a burning manuscript in my mouth and beat me to death with a typewriter. Teenagers, amiright?

Can I recommend having a child? Honestly, no. No. All the things that come with having a child - you're not ready for them. You would hate them. The loss of freedom and the vertical escalation of responsibility is not something you are ready for. It will unmake you. It will dissolve all your certainties and grind your life into paste. It will kill you. It will resurrect you. Rebuild you out of your splintered remains. The new you will be happy. It doesn't matter if the new you is more or less happy than the old you - the old you is dead, dust in the wind. They cannot be compared.

If you think that you are ready to have children, you're wrong. You're no more ready to have children than you are to be dead - because after death and children, you no longer exist. Something new does, that thinks it is you.

I enjoy the memories of the thing that I was. And I love my baby. I'm getting used to the person I am now. It's all a bit much.

1 comment:

  1. So true. I remember wistfully how much time I had before but I get hugs now instead.