It's 10:34 at stately Brooklyn Baby Daddy Mansions. The little cat, Talisker, is in my lap after an evening of him trying to get into my lap. The other cat, Cromwell, is sitting on our gliding rocker. Randi, the Brooklyn Baby Mama, is up in our bed on the top floor of our Duplex. I have taken to calling that floor The Crow's Nest. Stella, The Brooklyn Baby Baby, is asleep, in her crib.
A quick word about the crib. It was a hand-me-down from my sis. She has two girls, and the younger one is now five years old. So they've been out of the crib a number of years by now. They generously passed it along to us. The only problem is that to get it in and out of our various apartments I've had to assemble and disassemble it now three times. And it's big, wide and doesn't fit through most Brooklyn doorways as is. So I know that no matter what happens I will have to take it apart once more. After that, who knows? We talk about having another kid, someday, the way other people talk of going to Hawaii, someday. We'll get there, probably, but we're in no great rush. Being a high needs baby, like Stella, must convey some serious advantages to first children, because we are so not ready for another bundle of joy right now. We might never be ready. Which means Stella gets all the toys!
Apparently, by the way, this is really what gets kids steamed when a younger sibling comes on the scene. Not sharing parental love, they aren't too upset about that. But sharing stuff. Older siblings absolutely hate having to share their stuff with their younger brattish siblings. Hate it with a passion. Years, even decades later, you can still hear people complaining, bitterly, about how the younger kid came along and took everything. Or you can hear the reverse too, from younger kids, how by the time they came along everything was all used up.
You might think this is impossible, but it's not. In fact the journalist Po Bronson dedicated a whole chapter of his book "Nurtureshock" to how kids find it so hard to share. It can scar people through life and leave a very nasty mark on sibling relations.
So, maybe we won't have another kid so fast. I love Stella, she's the light of my life, etc., but I don't think I could take another kid that doesn't sleep and cries for about five months in a row. This might sound harsh, or cliche, more likely, but the first year and a half of her life was really the best and worst time of my life. The best because ... my daughter was born! The worst because I felt like the lack of sleep mixed with the depression it caused in Randi (which she has bravely addressed here), which was then mixed with the resultant escalating tension in our marriage, which was then mixed with our asshole upstairs neighbor, mixed with the fact that we had peeling lead paint in our old apartment, mixed with living in a place that was like the Union formerly known as the Soviet, mixed with the stress of my job ... it was all a bit like being sucked down the rabbit hole for far too long. And on the other end it wasn't Wonderland. It was barely even Kensington, Brooklyn.
I come out of that experience, and I do feel, thank god, that I am finally coming out of it, a changed man. A better man in some ways, maybe not in others, but definitely a changed man. I am more aware of my frailty, I am more aware of the stress my wife lived through, I am grayer, possibly heavier, maybe even less hearty than I was two years ago. My back hurts a lot, sometimes it's hard for me to get out of a chair, or to bend over. This is from holding the BBB for hours on end as she cried. But it had to be done, and I would do it again. I'm changed in that way too. I would do it all over again, knowing what I know. I guess this means I am more loving, though love doesn't convey what a parent feels when their child needs them, and they're exhausted, but they give it all up for the child, over and over and over again. Love sounds so trite, compared to what that is. It's the life-force, and it's real.
Simply calling it love doesn't convey what a spouse feels when the other spouse is on the brink of collapse and they both decide to work it through, even as the child cries again. And even though you're exhausted you let them sleep, because you care about them. They do the same for you whenever possible. They are now not just your spouse, they are your blood. When they are in pain you surrender and try to make them better, even if it hurts you to do so, even if you can't. You have no choice, your heart won't allow them to suffer so.
But what I have only started to finally realize is that even though I didn't give birth, and I wasn't born on April 14, 2008 my life went through a complete, emotional top to bottom change. Like all true change it was exhilarating, extremely painful and I didn't really understand the extent to which it was taking place. I was forced through some kind of crazy, unknown tube over the course of almost a half a year. I came out the other end a different man. The pressure I endured from all the things above -- which I have only hinted about, I haven't told you all the details and I have my doubts that I ever will -- is only starting to become apparent now. I am only starting to decompress, a little, now. Things are only starting to stabilize, god willing, now. Things are only starting to feel a little bit better, more healthy, more happy, now. And a lot of it is that I am writing again, for you guys, and for myself. So, thank you BBD Nation!
Which isn't to say that having Stella wasn't the best thing that happened to me, it was. But combine a hard child with a home situation fraught with tension, mixed with outside forces making life even harder, as our neighbors did, and you have the makings of something that will change your life.
Honestly? I didn't realize any of this in quite this crystalline a form until I started writing tonight. I thought I was going to write about all the things I do as a dad that are fun and weird. That would have been a fun journal entry, but I will have to save it for another time. I can be fun and weird tomorrow, because I am starting to get back to normal. And I am only starting to get back to normal because I have started to realize what I have gone through. And I have only started to realize what I've gone through because I've written about it. So, thanks again. And sweet dreams. Especially you, Stella.