First of all, let’s clear up a few things. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus of the Easter Bunny. Unicorns are myths. Dragons are legends. God, well, he’s debatable. But, without a doubt, of all man-made creatures, the one that is the most far-fetched is the beast they call the “easy baby.”
You know you’ve heard tales of him. He smiles before the six week mark. He coos with little provocation. He occupies himself without toys or props. He cries only for necessity. And (this is the part evil moms like to flaunt in the faces of their sleep-deprived colleagues), his nightly slumber extends to a placid ten hour stretch after only a few weeks of age. A few weeks! Meanwhile, your goblin spits up on every shirt, cries if you set him down for one second, grimaces if you look at him sideways…and, sleep, ha! Sleep. Well, let’s just say it’s become a foreign word in your house. So, does he really exist? Or is he just the cruel mirage our society embeds in our minds to make us feel inferior for having an all-too-common baby?
Uncertain about answering either of those questions, one thing can be said for sure – mothers from every walk of life, steeped in their various social and ethnic backgrounds, have all discussed him with the same, steady vigor. They proclaim his existence as though it were fact, moving quickly to convey his practices as though they were reciting Shakespearean love sonnets.
Typically, their stories always start out the same way – they once had a cousin who had a friend who got their hair cut by someone who had an “easy baby.” Rattling on, after an appalling amount of gratuitous details, they finally conclude these sagas with a sigh and desire that their own babies could be so grand. They are believers. And, even worse than cult members, they are hell bent on making you a believer, too!
Occasionally, though rarely, you may even encounter some moms who claim to have an “easy baby” of their own. When these fortuitous mothers speak of their infants, they typically use words like “he’s a dream” or “she’s such an angel.” They talk about how their lives are so flexible and enriched with the new baby around. How easy breastfeeding has been. How their little one is already doing baby push-ups and learning to pee in the toilet. And, can you believe it, he sleeps all night long without making a peep. He just loves his crib and doesn’t mind being in it. Indefinitely. And he’s only a month old.
Mouth agape, it’s at that point in the conversation when you almost cave in and start to feel bad about yourself and your spawn. After all, you’ve practically been house-bound since the baby came along. You are no longer able to use the phone because either when he sleeps you fear waking him or when he’s awake you can’t hear over the screaming. Yes, your family is enriched by your little one’s presence, but only on the most crude, Christmas-card-picture sort of level. And, let’s face facts about everything else – breastfeeding has been a bitch, baby’s motor skills are little more advanced than a grub-worm, and sleep…well, we can’t say emphatically enough how rare that action is.
Despite all of this, you try to remain civil while this mom discusses her amazing baby. In your mind, you picture punching her in the face, the only action that will efficiently put an end to her talking. But on the outside, you submit to her storytelling by giving her the “oohs” and “aahs” she craves. You tell her how wonderful her baby sounds, offering an almost robotic response: “What a great baby. I’m so happy for you.” But you’re not. You’re really crying on the inside because, like those other moms who have told the tales of “easy baby” with muffled sighs, you are also sighing, wishing you could trade your bundle of hell for that splash of joy.
However, suddenly, in the midst of this cruel verbal dungeon, something remarkable happens. You notice something. Nothing grand. Probably not even noticeable to most. Just the hint of a leaky breast hidden behind a cardigan. (Meaning: Her feeding cycle is not so established OR breastfeeding has been more of a drama than she admits.) A clump of dried spit-up wrestling with strands of thinning hair. (Meaning: Prince perfect can’t hold down his grub AND she has been stressing over it!) A harried and blotchy application of cover-up under which dark under-eye circles are emerging. (Meaning: The tales of extended sleep have been a flat-out lie.)
And then it hits you – even this seemingly perfect, put-together mommy with her noble and pristine infant is living under the disguise of a false veneer. Her baby, though sweet, is still just a baby. Not infallible. Not really even “easy.” Just simply a baby. And, as with all other babies, it is still a pooping, crying, slobbering, uncontrollable, sometimes sleepless, always helpless, endlessly loved though extremely tiring little person. So, the myth is over. The jig is up.
Gertrude Stein once said “a baby is a baby is a baby”…or something to that effect. And she was right. Babies are all just really difficult little people. Hell, even big people are difficult, but imagine how much more tricky your Starbucks order or phone call to a friend would be if you could only use shrill screams instead of words. It would suck. And, imagine how it would feel to have useless limbs flailing at your sides with an ambition to use them only to repeatedly and constantly fail at the task. It would suck even more. So, cutting them all a break, it would only make sense that they be cranky and fussy from time to time. On top of that, adding more pressure for their own perfection despite these challenges is just plain cruel. Cruel to baby. And cruel to mama!
Those who perpetrate the myth of the “easy baby” are perpetrating one of the worst crimes against humanity. Lying about reality doesn’t make you a good friend or a happy person. It makes you an asshole. And it makes everyone else miserable. So, to them I say: cut the crap! Mothers of real babies, stand united against these people and do what Nancy Reagan asked us all to do – just say NO! This may not always work. There will always be people who delight in prevarication. But, even when all else fails, just remember one thing: NO BABY IS AN EASY BABY.