“I’ve been feeling dizzy and having visual issues. I keep going to the doctor and getting tests because I feel like something’s wrong with me,” said my type a neighbor the other day. She has an eleven month old baby. Which brings me to a previously reached and then forgotten conclusion: the symptoms of a new baby mimic a lot of different deadly and chronic ailments.
I have a constant achy fatigue in my lower back, combined with a trembling shakiness similar to caffeine jitters, weakness in the legs and tension in my neck that more often than not ends up morphing into a dull headache by afternoon, dry mouth, blurred vision, and I’m having an extreme lack in emotional stability. One leg has begun some feeling of tendonitis, a bruise-like quality coming and going at random, bleeding gums, fatigue. I’ve lost my appetite. I break out in cold sweats, especially while out in public with all three children or conversing with friends, trying to appear “normal” or “together”. I’m sleeping a lot (that is many hours of broken and disturbed sleep), I’m exhausted at the end of the day and can barely drag myself out of bed the following morning.
Yet, I know it’s not lupus. It’s not multiple sclerosis. I don’t have cancer or AIDS or an under or over active thyroid. I don’t even have a cold. Or herpes. Nope. I just have a new baby.
I commiserated with my neighbor. I too am a hypochondriac and often think “this is it”, as in, the end. Curtains. The final act. Yet, I’m experienced enough to see this particular bout of odd symptoms for what it is. “don’t worry,” I assured her, “it’s just having a kid. You’ll feel normal soon. In about another 6 months or so, things will even out.” This is the time frame I have decided that’s needed for the initial shock to absorb after having a baby. Lord knows, things don’t really ever become “normal” again but I feel like after this amount of time, these early symptoms wear off a bit. Eighteen months. I wish they talked more about this in “what to expect”, those unrealistic bastards with their rose-colored glasses and their pastel baby themed nurseries. I spit on your pastels.
One thing that seems to ward off symptoms is clinging like a barnacle to your spouse for emotional support. They are, after all, the only person who REALLY knows what you’re dealing with. Your particular kids. Your particular situation. Another is beer. Ah, beer. You old faithful remedy.
Yup, these things take a bit of the edge off. Make you realize, “hey. We’re gonna be ok. This too shall pass.”
I should have gotten out my physicians prescription pad and written her a prescription for one hour of intense physical affection from her spouse and two cans of beer. No, I don’t have a medical license. My certification is in the field of hard knocks when it comes to kids and babies. As in, all me, all the time. Figure it out, lady. I may not have a slew of letters after my name but I do have the battle scars. The damaged eardrums from all the screaming. The crooked back and wasted posture from toting babies and small children through my life. The gray hairs sprouting on my once all dark head from each time I’ve watched them and held my breath as they teetered on the edge of some precipice, or fell from a lofty height, as they made their first clumsy attempts at crawling, biting the rug every few tries, later as they began walking, testing out unsteady sea legs, making a lifelong pact with gravity, and finally running, jumping and riding over every inch of earth within their small domain, pedal to the medal, demons at the mad wheel of life. I have the numbered sleepless nights tally marked on my sagging skin. On my rickety bones. on my care worn brain, heavy with worry and self doubt. My face holds the pockmarks of the tedium and repetitive nature of my existence.
Can she see this? Does she know that this qualifies me to say? Or does she just mistake, like so many others, the evidence of parenting for the simple passage of time on the body? she smiled at me, polite but doubting, and I walked away from her as I often do, thinking that one day, she’ll know. And then she’ll forget. And by that time, I’ll have long forgotten. For, every time I speak to someone with older and grown children, they always have the glossy sheen of nostalgia on their faces as they recall the past, and the clouded eyes of forgetfulness.
Such are the tokens of this time of our lives. No matter how bad things are, we can count on looking back and remembering only the good.