I'm always surprised when people say, about having children, that they didn't realize how much their lives would change. Maybe it's because I was so uncertain for so very long about whether I wanted to have children that I spent ample time, too much time in fact pondering what life would be like if/when/once I had children. I tried to visualize in great detail the sacrifices, the sleep deprivation, the love, the responsibility... the responsibility... the unrelenting, never ending responsibility (she types as her infant squirms next to her swallowing tissue after tissue from a box). I had children late, after probably almost a decade of fairly serious contemplation, periods of ambivalence, moments of paralyzing fear that all melted unambiguously into a deep, inexplicable yearning. But my point is, I had thought about it. Oh had I thought about it and as a result, I was not surprised by how much my life changed. It was and is as I expected.
Sacrifice, even the most uninitiated among us, knows sacrifice comes part and parcel with parenthood. We all leave things behind. And parents wind up missing the obvious and the more obscure. One of my friends who gave birth vaginally twice once told me, in the most mournful tone imagine-able, that she leaks urine whenever she laughs or coughs despite dozens of daily kegels. "I used to be able to stop the flow on a dime! On a dime!" she lamented. Others mourn the loss of a regular sex life. In a book once lent to me (unsolicited) parents were interviewed loosely on the topic of parenting and sacrifice, one of the fathers said: "It's never having sex anymore that gets me. I can handle everything else, the shitty diapers, the lack of sleep, never having time to myself, being broke but I cannot, CANNOT handle not having regular sex." I know tons of parents who mourn the loss of time to exercise. Others still just miss something as simple as going to the bathroom alone or being able to fly with carry on luggage only.
For me it is hands down, without question, the sleep deprivation. I expected it. Visualized it. And in the end, it is every bit as terrible as I feared and expecting it does not make it any less dreadful. I cannot handle the not sleeping. I prioritize sleep. Fantasize about it. Strategize over how to get some. I probably put as much thought and effort into getting sleep as a crackhead does over getting his fix. Still it eludes me. Is ripped away from me. Is denied to me. And I hate it. A few weeks ago I heard about Ca.sey An.thon.y for the first time. If you are living as much under a rock as I am, you can google it. There are tons of things to despise about this woman not the least of which is that she allegedly used to chloroform her baby so that she could go out clubbing with the assurance that her baby would not wake up while she was gone. After I got past the initial horror and disgust... I actually started fantasizing about using some chloroform, let me make this crystal clear, NOT ON MY KIDS... I fantasized about using chloroform on myself so I could finally, finally get some uninterrupted sleep. I'm joking, though not by much. I also regularly fantasize about needing surgery with a general anesthetic or having a condition that requires me to be placed into a medically induced comma. I'm not trying to escape my life... I just want 10-12 hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness.