Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Harder But Not Worse


Written Sunday night, February 5th.  I’ll be posting this later, when it is very clear that Sugar can’t have gotten the stomach bug in question, because if she finds out that we did, she will fret and fret and fret.  She’s been en route to South Africa for days now, been stuck in snowy Amsterdam overnight without a coat (or her luggage), had her direct Amsterdam-Capetown flight replaced with a whole series of shorter flights and long layovers.  Fear of vomiting is the last thing she needs to add to her worries.

Today was a hard day.

Sugar is on her way to Africa.  She’s been gone since Friday and won’t be back until next Sunday.  The Dane, whose company I had hoped might distract me from loneliness and from feeling overwhelmed caring for the Bean alone, unexpectedly had her second baby on Friday, via a c-section at 36 weeks, after her water broke that morning.  (The new baby, a pink boy slightly bigger than the Bean and much smaller than his older sister was, is doing well and will come home with her on Monday.  We can’t wait to meet the Little Bear.)

I spent Saturday gathering baby things for the Dane, climbing the step ladder and using a long cardboard tube to prod the heavy boxes stacked near the ceiling so that they would fall down to me.  Managing the closet is Sugar’s job, as she is considerably taller than I am, but the baby is here now and needs clothes.  I bought a small ham and extra ingredients for spaghetti sauce on Friday when I heard the baby was coming, but decided I could wait until Sunday or Monday to cook for them.  I arranged to visit her in the hospital today, and tucked a box of cookies into the bag of going home outfits, just in case I forgot to bring them.

The Bean was cheerful enough, even following a diaper explosion unlike any I’d seen from him in months.  Shoulder blades, is all I’ll say.  After he went to bed, I talked too long on the phone with my parents, made freezer food for dinner, and watched Downton Abbey, pleased to have made it through the day without Sugar, to have one day less alone.  It hadn’t been easy to take care of the Bean and get other work done, but I’d managed and found myself less lonely than when Sugar went away before he was born.  Taking care of him has made this trip harder for me, but less grim.

A little later than I should have, I brushed my teeth, fed the cats, and padded into the Bean’s room to pat him one last time.  In the dark, I could see his starry back rise and fall.  I also saw a dark spot, the size of a quarter, on the sheet near him.  I had a sudden fear that it was blood.  I knew it wasn’t, but I turned on the light to check.

It wasn’t blood.  It was vomit.  Raspberry vomit, and that tiny bit was the least of it; it was everywhere and plentiful, pink and red and smelling of peanut butter, his current favorite after frozen berries.  From the look of things, he must have thrown up and crawled away from it again and again, covering the whole bed.  It was revolting and then some, but there was nothing for it but to hook up the washing machine, begin ferrying bedclothes to the bathroom, and wake him up to clean and re-pajama him.  It was past one before I went to bed again, and we only slept a combined 90 minutes or so thereafter, the Bean wakeful and miserable and hot with a fever that would not yield to Advil and Tylenol.

Suddenly, the diaper explosion made sense: on Thursday, we visited with a baby friend of ours and her nanny.  Afterwards, I found out that the baby and her mothers had had the stomach flu, though she seemed fine when I saw her.  I’d hired the nanny to watch the Bean while I teach this week, and in order help him trust her, I encouraged him to eat from her hand.  I have replayed that moment in my head a hundred times since, only with Future Me running in slow motion towards them, shouting, “Nnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooo!”  The nanny got sick on Friday.

Today has been hard.  The Bean is better but not well, there was an even more catastrophic diaper incident, and I have been wondering all day when I will get sick, as I almost inevitably will.  If I didn’t catch it from the nanny, I will have gotten it from the Bean, who cannot be dissuaded from shoving his hands into my mouth while nursing.  Certainly there was no visiting the Dane and Little Bear, who need this illness less than I do, nor cooking for them.  My to do list rapidly shrank to, “Do Laundry; Survive.”

Some time ago, the inimitable May wrote a post about those self-important idiots who tell you all the time how hard your life will be with a baby, how you have no idea.  Such proud admonitions are annoying under the best of circumstances, but to those of us who lack babies while desperately wanting them, they are like stone bruises on a heel, so predictable and yet so surprisingly painful with every footfall.  May, who is somehow always right, remarked that indeed various things about life with a baby might be, on a strictly practical level, harder than without one, but they wouldn’t be worse.  I can’t find the post in question, but I doubt I will ever forget that bit of wisdom.

I have chanted “harder but not worse” in my head and out loud hundreds of times in the past eleven months.  Many things about life with a baby are in fact very hard, and it’s easy for me to get lost in that.  It’s easy for me to misplace how miserable it was when I was afraid I would never have the chance to find out how hard it can be.  I assure you, in case you ever doubt it, that the frustrations of a hard day with the Bean here is to that misery as a rain shower is to the oceans.

It’s late again, later than I should be up.  I am well behind on sleep, I have a hard week ahead, and frankly, my stomach feels more than a little dodgy.  But I have spent this weekend feeling more deeply than ever the truth of what May wrote, and I wanted to get this down now, while things are still hard, so that you know that I mean what I say.  Many things are harder, but nothing is worse.

21 thoughts on “Harder But Not Worse

  1. damn. such a good post. i was thinking something very similar last night, after a long, hard weekend…just not so articulately. this sentence “I assure you, in case you ever doubt it, that the frustrations of a hard day with the Bean here is to that misery as a rain shower is to the oceans.” is so very, very true.

    in any event, i do hope the bean is feeling better & you don’t succumb to whatever virus he has.

  2. Oh boy, that sounds rough. There’s not much that’s more miserable than dealing with vomit single-handedly and in the middle of the night. Roo has only been away overnight about 3 times since Tadpole was born, but of course one of those coincided with him getting an awful stomach bug. I spent that night jealous of her ability to escape the misery. Only to discover, when she got home, that she had been having the same symptoms herself. While camping. With 6th-graders.
    I love the “harder but not worse” distinction. Also, the “harder but less grim” one. As hard as it is to take care of a kiddo alone, it’s also fun to have a buddy.
    Hope the Bean feels better soon and that the grown-ups escape the plague. Oh, and that Sugar has a good trip.

    • Agh! What an awful thing to do while…indisposed. Stuff of nightmares, that. Also, I hate it when I’m all would up for a good self-pitying session only to find that my intended audience has is worse. Most unsatisfying.

      Sugar has at last arrived, though her luggage didn’t. But it turns out that the innkeep, in her previous career, designed the lost luggage system at the Capetown airport, and following a call from her, it has miraculously turned up. It’s going to take some doing to salvage the trip at this point, I’m afraid, but she’ll be going back soon (argh).

  3. Oh thank you. Harder, but not worse. It is so very true, and today was a day where I needed to hear that.

    I hope the Bean is on the mend and you are still well.

  4. Poor Bean. Poor you. Fingers MASSIVELY CROSSED that Sugar didn’t catch the bug too. (Oh God. Raspberry vomit. I think I may never forgive you the visual).

    And I teared up, reading this. I feel all verklempt. So, so glad Bean came along and made things better, even if of course he made things ever so much harder.

    (I am sorry about being always right. H says it’s my most annoying habit ever. But I think I must have been channelling a Dalai Lama or something when I came up with ‘Harder not worse’ (tries not to look either smug or self-conscious)).

  5. What an awesome post. I will remember that: “Harder, but not worse.”

  6. I feel horrible for loving this post so much. I shouldn’t enjoy anything that emerged from such misery, but “harder, but not worse” is pretty much the best phrase ever to describe parenting. I hope that all three of you are healthy of digestion and none the worse for wear, and that Sugar, her luggage, and you and Bean are all reunited soon.

  7. This is what I needed to read. Thank you.

    I hope the stomach bug is easing up – that sounds truly awful.

  8. 😦 no fun at all. we had the blueberry pukes here last week. i hope he’s feeling better, and that you didn’t come down with it too.

  9. I love this, too. And I’m glad that you at least had the serendipity to not visit the Dane and new baby before finding out what your night was going to be like–at least you can skip the massive guilt trip that worrying about them getting sick would have caused. I hope you’re all feeling better by now!

  10. I do hope you are all firmly on the mend, and that you are now enjoying the remainder of your solo-gig (it has to get better, right?). Harder but not worse hits the nail on the head.

  11. Sniffle! Lovely.

    And how perfect to turn an episode that involves a lot of vomit into such a love story. I know there will be days like this in my future, and boy do I fear them. And boy do I admire your fortitude.

    And further, I think you’re wonderfully qualified to comment on the hard, though I HOPE even the idiots would agree that life is never worse.

    Now can we all just band together and cause it to be the case that May gets to experience the mantra for herself? It’s just a question of proper organization of our willpower.

  12. Oh man, I am sorry to hear about the travelling travails and the stomach flu. I fear the stomach flu, in no small part because my DH, recently informed me that he has “not thrown up since he was a baby and would be terrified if it happened again.”
    But no, it’s not worse. No matter how exhausting it is, the little ones do bring an intense amount of light and joy. Even if they vomit raspberries.

  13. Sorry about the day glow puke.

  14. OK, this post has been sitting with me since you wrote it and it deserves a more coherent comment than I’m capable of. You’ve been on my mind a lot. Harder but not worse might be the truest phrase I’ve heard, most especially since becoming a parent. I just wanted to say hello, even in this most inadequate way.

  15. I just thought I would check in to make sure you are all ok and everyone is feeling better.
    PS. Does the Bean eat the berries frozen, or do they get defrosted first? We gave E. raspberries the other day and he viewed them with enormous suspicion.

  16. You (and may) are right. Different, harder in some ways. Not worse.


  17. Pingback: Healing Salon (Doing My Bit) | Bionic Mamas

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