The Invisible World
Before baby I lived a smug life. I hoarded my freedoms and squandered time. I regarded harried parents dragging uncooperative toddlers out of stores with that same feeling you get when the guy in front of you gets pulled over by a cop and you don't. I handed off screaming babies to their parents with a shrug, relief washing over me. When you are not a parent, life is uncomplicated, but you have no way of knowing this. It might be complicated in other ways--say if you have a drug addiction or some variation on the dysfunctional family or a withholding boyfriend...but it's still not kid complicated. You can leave the house at a moment's notice, grabbing only your keys and your wallet. You do not have to lug:
--diaper bag (which contains a whole world of items you don't know you need until baby comes ranging from pacifiers to spare diapers and clothes for inevitable diaper accidents in the middle of supermarkets)
--stroller frame into which car seat goes
--baby bjorn in case kid doesn't want to be in stroller
--drape to cover baby's seat from sun
--toy that plays music to dangle from car seat in case baby gets cranky while driving
--oh yeah, and baby :)
In the process, you forget your own sunglasses, keys, purse, directions to where you're going, your shopping list, one shoe and to brush your hair.
Or as the eloquent Rachel Cusk writes in her book about motherhood (thanks Myfanwy) A Life's Work:
"The baby's physical presence in my life is not unlike a traveller's custody of a very large rucksack. On the subway people tut and sigh at our double bulk, the administrative headache of us, and stream away at stations leaving us struggling with straps and overflowing detritus on the platform...Because I am the baby's home there is nowhere I can leave her and soon I begin to look at those who walk around light and free and unencumbered as if they were members of a different species."
While this may sound like me complaining, it's actually me observing. There's a bit of the anthropologist in every new parent. I never used to check out other parents' strollers or wonder where they bought their baby's outfit. I barely noticed babies, to be frank. (You don't have to be obsessed with babies to want a child of your own).
Now, it is as if an invisible world has opened up that was there all along, parallel to my world, but which I couldn't see because I did not have the key. And this world is both more strange and more magnificent than I could have ever imagined.