Babble Column: Bad Parent – How to do everything wrong – Jennifer Baumgardner


Conception: After psychologically disturbing visit to childhood home, solo, for holidays, have crazy, drunken break-up sex with ex-boyfriend. Don’t use birth control.

Pregnancy: Be freelance and have the kind of “catastrophic” insurance that covers something if you are hospitalized, but not sonograms, medicine or doctor visits. Have no end of small problems for which you have to see the doctor, including thinking you are leaking amniotic fluid in seventh month. (Turns out it’s urine, which is at first a relief and then disturbing in its own way). Spend a week believing you have gestational diabetes, but later it’s discovered that it was the glass of Mountain Dew you drank just before the blood test.

Birth class: Attend with ex, who openly resents any homework and bolts before class is over each week to get a drink at neighborhood bar. Wonder if it would be more or less embarrassing to go alone.

Labor: Wake up feeling crampy and dig out yellow Wonderbra you’ve never worn before; don it. Go to hospital five hours later and immediately beg for an epidural. Get an epidural that pools so that your left hip is numb but everything else is in full bloom of pain. Make mental note that you don’t have pain relief, nor will you get credit for having a natural birth. Say to anyone near you, at first abashedly but with increasing volume and abandon, that you “really feel like” you have to “poop.” Although all other clothing has been removed, keep yellow Wonderbra on for entire labor and delivery.

Birth partner: Ex is there but leaves during transition to make phone calls. When he comes back, he takes one look at your vagina and blanches. Ex attempts to comfort you through contractions by making out with you; stands on IV.

Delivery: Scream bloodcurdling scream until son finally comes out. Baby is immediately whisked to neonatal intensive care unit. Head to hospital room and become the only person on the floor without a baby. Feel foolish.

Bonding, phase 1: Visit child in NICU but feel like interloper. Ask timidly if you are “allowed to breastfeed.” When son finally comes home (day four), experience feeding child as akin to placing a snapping turtle on your swollen, chapped nipples. Notice son has little pimples and have flashback to terrible high school years when you had zits.

Bonding, phase 2: Son is now covered in white and red pustules and looks not unlike Elliot Smith. When people come to see him, blurt out, “Can you believe how bad he’s got baby acne?!” so that they know you know it’s there. Feel bad that this is the first thing you say about your child. Try to pump bottles so Baby Daddy can do four a.m. feedings, but “allow” the occasional bottle of formula (okay, use formula every night).

Coparenting: Swing between smugness that you and baby’s father literally share the work and expense of childrearing, unlike most “real” couples you know, and blind rage that you have to parent with irrational man you broke up with two years ago. Wag finger in ex’s face and whisper sotto voce threats that you won’t follow through on.

Bedtime: As child grows older, have him on late schedule so he’ll sleep in the morning. By the time he is twelve months, his bedtime is ten p.m.; by eighteen months, it’s midnight. Keep this a secret from friends, relatives, and your own parents.