[This is a special edition of Great Moments in Parenting: a mother (Lola) and a father (Jason) perform a written duet to peel back the curtain on the first two years of life with their baby ( Bruce).]
LOLA: I remember being told that women forget the pain of childbirth; that they have to, or else they would never be willing to do it again. What I was not told is that this is true for the first six months of the baby’s life, too. When new mothers ask me for advice about the first few months, I feel like someone trying to recall a particularly debaucherous music festival: “I don’t know, man … I mean, I know I was there, but it’s all kind of lost in a haze of crying and vomit …”
JASON: Speaking of vomit, there was an awful lot of that during those first months, not all of it Bruce’s either.
LOLA: Yup. I remember that first experience of all three of us being sick at the same time. I was taking care of you, I was taking care of Bruce, and during a fit of particularly excruciating stomach cramps I remember thinking, “Who’s going to take care of me?” That was a harsh realization that I still struggle with: Not only did I need to learn to care for this new, tiny person, but I also needed to re-learn how to take care of myself. “Moms don’t get sick days” is a cliché but it’s true. If I don’t treat self-care as a serious responsibility, I’m putting the care of my family on a very shaky foundation.
JASON: I suck so bad at being sick … sorry for all the puke.
LOLA: Oh I’m over it. It’s the carpet that never quite recovered.
JASON: What no one tells you about the first six months is that they will last approximately three years. There’s not much to do with an infant in the first few months of their life. I remember that for a while I just put him in the swing until he started crying, then I’d pick him up and rock him until he started crying, then I’d put him back in the swing until it was time for him to eat. He’d let me know when it was time to eat because he’d start crying.
LOLA: Babies are very dramatic. It’s like a thousand Greek tragedies stuffed into the world’s tiniest actor. And that actor has no control over his own bodily functions.
JASON: The milestones during those first few months were so minor, and yet when they happened, the sense of accomplishment was so great. “Did he just try to roll over … I think he’s trying to roll over!” Remember that?
LOLA: I awaited my college acceptance letters with far less anticipation than I awaited Bruce’s first time rolling over.
JASON: That lasted a few weeks, until eventually he rolled over. A few weeks later he lifted himself up. Then before we knew it I was videotaping him while he ate his first solid food and sharing it with everyone we know as if he’d just discovered cold fusion.
LOLA: I remember, pre-baby, hearing people talk about falling in love with their child and it seemed corny to me.
JASON: Yeah, I’d hear a lot of dads say it took them a while to warm up to their kids, that they needed to get to know them first. For me, I’m pretty sure that the bond formed while he was in utero and I’d feel him drumming away on your belly.
LOLA: It really is a full-on falling-in-love experience, complete with obsessive infatuation and sappy daydreaming. I remember thinking about him when I was away from him—resting my cheek on my palm and thinking, “I wonder what he’s doing right now? Does he miss me?” If he had been capable of having a phone conversation in those first few months, I absolutely would have engaged him in daily sessions of, “no YOU hang up first!”
JASON: I totally get that. The night he was born, when I went with the nurses to give him his first bath, he sucked on my pinky the entire time and from that moment forward I was completely hooked. I was all in.
LOLA: On a less romantic note, I want you to imagine a horrible, civilization-ending virus. The kind you might see in a movie, where the world’s top scientists are trying to find a cure and one of the scientists slams his fist down and yells, “Every time we find a way to beat this thing, it changes on us! It’s just mutating too damn fast! IT’S GOING TO DESTROY US ALL!”
JASON: Okay, I’m imagining it.
LOLA: Babies are like that virus. Babies are EXACTLY like that virus.
JASON: Yes! Every single time I think I have this kid figured out, that I think I know who he is, he shows me in no uncertain terms that I do not. Remember when he hated pizza, and how scary that was? I’m so glad he loves pizza now.
LOLA: [Knocks on wood.]
JASON: Spending these last two sleep-deprived years with Bruce and watching as he’s gradually developed into this incredibly genuine, neurotic, hilarious, weird, loving kid, has been the most wonderful, surprising journey that I have ever taken. I simultaneously find myself looking forward to every new milestone, while also mourning the (not always pleasant) moments that I’ll never get back.
LOLA: It’s crazy how much all three of us have changed in two years. While part of me feels that Bruce’s birth was a piece of divine intervention that may as well have been heralded by angels descending in golden chariots, I also believe that the events in our lives, big and small, change us exactly as much as we let them. I see a lot of parents crediting their children with changing their lives and teaching them a new definition of love; I think it’s important to give those same parents some credit for their own role in that transformation. So, here’s to you, parents! And here’s to the choices you make, every day, to make the world a better place for the ones you love.
Originally from Massachusetts, Jason Dubinsky and Lola Cutter Hensel moved to Austin, TX in 2011 to escape the cold. Shortly after arriving Lola became pregnant with, and gave birth to, Bruce, a native Texan. Lola is currently studying to become a nurse; she’s crowdfunding part of her education, and rewarding donations by performing volunteer work. Help her! And Jason has his very own blog, A Boy and His Shopping Cart: A Love Story.