An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

The second second trimester

Sometimes life rolls along such that Jon and I do not even realize how different it is to live with a child who can communicate her needs and understand that others around her have their own. We get up in the morning, pour her a bowl of cereal, and settle in for a peaceful breakfast, forgetful that a few years ago the same half hour was spent not in pleasant silence but in screams, wild gestures, puddles of juice, and tears because not everyone in the house used the same language. We spoke in English. She spoke in Utter Discontent, a cacophonous dialect of Fuck You.

And then days like yesterday happen when she is so physically and emotionally tired from having played with her friend for most of the day that the portions of her brain in control of language are too fried to make connections, too spent to send the right word down through her mouth and the only thing that makes it out is a cannonball of indiscriminate consonants. And what should have been a pleasant dinner together was instead a good hour of CANNNNNN’T! WONNNNNN’T! to a hearty rhythm of DONNNNNN’T! All because a bean was touching a piece of cheese, and in case you didn’t know, such is the recipe for the end of the world.

I will admit to resorting to this kind of behavior when I am that tired, but the difference is that the adults around me are more than welcome to tell me to shut up. As her loving and doting parents, we are discouraged from using such language with Leta, and so we have had to get a little more creative: “stop it,” “cut it out,” “if you don’t stop screaming I’ll staple your lips together.”

The frequency of these types of tantrums has decreased dramatically in the last year, but when they do occur Jon and I experience an uncomfortable yet familiar panic, and one if not multiple parts of our bodies will twitch with the memory of those endless nights spent pacing the creaky wooden floors of our old house, of not knowing if the screaming would ever end. Sometimes they give me full body shivers that start at the top of my neck and move slowly down through my toes, a physical manifestation of the realization that somehow I made it out alive having lost only a few gallons of blood.

And yes, I know we’re headed right back into those endless, sleepless nights, but ah hah! I am now fluent in Utter Discontent! I can conjugate the verbs and assign the right pronouns! And there is even the tiniest possibility that this baby might not be as skillful a screamer, which sort of brings up all sorts of things that might be different this time around. What if this one actually likes dogs? What if she eats food? What would it be like to live with a kid who likes to be cuddled?

Conversely, what if this one isn’t as good a sleeper? What if this one likes to climb furniture? What if this one is actually curious about light sockets?

Of course, we have no idea, and such is the risk and adventure of parenthood. But these risks and these sacrifices, I think, are a fundamental component of this unique experience that has given me more insight and understanding into other human beings than any other of my life. And all of this is to say thank God we chose to have children. Thank God for those endless, sleepless nights. Because I now know what I know. Because raising Leta more than anything else in my life has helped me piece together the puzzle of what it means to be human. I understand my own childhood so much better, understand my own parents so much better, and there is so much about myself that I have tried to improve that I didn’t know I needed to improve until I was reduced to a late night pair of pacing legs.

So much more makes sense now, and I don’t know if there is any other way I could have gained this type of insight into life. And I think this is what a lot of us are talking about when we say it feels like we were let into a secret club, a club we didn’t know existed until we got here, like we had no idea there was this much to know until our children showed it all to us.

  • Con

    With the first child you notice everything that they do. With the second, you notice everything that they do differently. The total beauty of the second child is relaizing that you have to learn it all over again. But like you said, you are much smarter now.

    You’ll love it (and hate it at times)!

  • Thank you thank you thank you. For being you and telling me it’s ok to be me.

  • Robin

    Heather, wait until she hits 13. Then suddenly that dude who built the arc is always called. Everything becomes “Mom, Nooaaahhhhhh!” My husband finally got to the point that he began saying “There is no flood, so we don’t need Noah!”

    This is my way of saying, it just keeps chaging! And grandparents get very upset when you talk about duct taping them!!! Go figure.

  • Kelly

    I don’t think it’s quite possible to know what you’ve missed if you didn’t have children. This kind of sums it up. Awesome post, and thanks.

  • Soo….I read somewhere that the child in utero will, upon experiencing the other child(ren) present, structure it’s personality to be different if not completely opposite.

    I thought it sounded cool, if not really weird and robotic.

  • Katie

    she always looks so easy-going in the photos. i want to see some screaming pictures.

  • Diana

    I love reading about your experiences. Having four kids I can promise you they are all unique, as you know. Don’t lose a moment of sleep wondering about it. You have survived a challenging moment (and it does become a moment much like childbirth after a few years) in parenting and you are ready for this one!

  • I don’t have kids of my own, so the only thing I can comment on is the food not touching. That I understand. I’m still like that.

  • Ashlea

    My husband and I have stopped at one child (he got snipped!) almost for the opposite reason that you are hopeful of this next one. Our first (a boy) was perfect. He did everything the books said. He slept through the night at 6 weeks, I had to set an alarm to feed him because he never cried to wake me, and he is four and things have (if you can believe it) just continued to get better. Before you throw up from what I’m saying, hear this: YOU ARE SO BRAVE. We actually went with sterilization rather than face the chance of having a child that was any less easy than our first. This makes us big ‘ole cowards, I know (hey, we’ve considered adopting), but women like you who have a hard time the first go around, but then choose to try again amaze me. For us we could only see it getting worse, for you and Jon (knock on wood) things are bound to only be easier, right? 😉

  • Let me comfort you. Your second child most assuredly will be NOTHING like your first. God has a sense of humor and life would be far too easy if they were the same. Regardless of goodness or badness. So, if Leta was challenging I’ll bet you $50 right now #2 will be easy cheesy.

  • Sometimes I just don’t think I want “in” to the secret club. I like my full 9 hours of delicious sleep. I enjoy saying fuck, shit and damn. And honestly I have dog ears…and the thought of screams and hysteria make me throw-up a little. But ya know…maybe, someday, I’ll make the jump. But for now…nah. I’ll continue to read and enjoy your daily experiences with those cute little squirts. Well, soon to be “those”.

  • Tonya

    As the pregnant mother of a four year old little girl who had been a total pain in the ass (and I say that with all the love in the world), I was practically giddy with the knowledge that there was no way that number two would be a handful. There’s no way God would give me another challenging child. How could he? I’d paid my dues! And even if she wasn’t perfect, how could she be worse than the one I already had?!

    Guess what?! She was a TOTAL PAIN IN THE ASS TOO. But, a different type of pain in the ass. One I could deal with a bit better. Sometimes.

    But as you know with Leta, I wouldn’t change one thing about my girls. They are not easy. But if they were, they wouldn’t be mine.

  • Jeen-Marie

    I was just introduced to this club 2 months ago. There are times when I question this new induction and wonder what the HELL am I doing here. There should be more of an explanation (detailed outline with diagrams) when people say your life will never be the same…
    Heather, it is your blog and stories that remind me I am not alone in this challenge called parenthood. And oh by the way, in response to a previous post- I think raising a child is much more difficult. I once thought marriage was the hardest challenge, it’ is now a screaming child at 4 AM with no end in sight.

  • Thanks Heather, I just sent that last paragraph to my girls, now 17 and 21, you totally summed it up!

  • r0ckaby3

    AMEN sister.

  • k

    thank you, no. 80.

    i would love more than anything to join this secret club, but my body denies me admission.

  • I thought I did rather well through my children’s early years, until my daughter hit age 8. Now it is a whole different ballgame and I am constantly pulling my hair out! :o)

    Great post!

  • Janet

    Take heart – the second ones often tend to be Buddha babies – happy and content. Mom and Dad aren’t so tense because they’re old hands at the baby business, and there’s constant entertainment watching and learning from the older sibling.

  • Dana

    “if parenthood were a drug, I’d totally experiment. It sounds like a mind-blowing experience.”

    As someone who is scared witless re: bearing kids but who cheerfully imbibed in LSD: Hell to the yes.

  • Abi

    “All because a bean was touching a piece of cheese, and in case you didn’t know, such is the recipe for the end of the world.”

    Excuse me. I beg to differ. A banana slice touching a Cheerio is THE recipe for the end of the world. 🙂

    Best wishes!

  • Amy

    Thanks again for sharing your life and your thoughts with the Internet.

  • As the mother of 2 girls who BOTH had colick, I salute you. The second is slightly less neurotic than the first, although she also got the memo that said, “Enter the world screaming and whatever you do, do not stop!” Luckily, you are more prepared for it the second time around, although once you bring the kid home you may sit in bed at 2 am thinking “Holy shit, we’re a family of 4!”

  • Joan

    Hey Heather,

    Just love your blog. The fact that I’m 15 years ahead of you in raising kids makes me chuckle. I would give anything if my kids would only scream at me. With one away in college, and two still in high school, there is no screaming anymore. Just rational explanations patiently explaining why I am the biggest idiot on the planet. And they are great, successful kids.

    So take heart at your current situation. You will be awake while your child can’t sleep. But soon, all too soon, it will be because her curfew is 1:00am and it is now 1:05 and all you can imagine is a car going a hundred miles an hour down the highway and her bra flying out the window.

    I wish you love and happiness.

  • Wow, you are so right about this ‘secret’ club we’re part of. Well put!

    I had a complete meltdown a few days before my second was to be born as all those memories of my first-born terror came rushing back. It all worked out well. Either good Karma, or someone was watching out for me. She was and is so completely opposite of her brother.

    Kids are amazing. All the best to you! =)

  • I will be joining the secret club in 7 weeks and cannot wait to become fluent in “in Utter Discontent, a cacophonous dialect of Fuck You”. You make me want to get a bunch of dogs and lots of babies!

  • Alayna

    I have 4 kids and it never ceases to amaze me how different they all are. I love it! Isn’t it cool that they can come from the same parents and be so crazily different? Anyway, my 2nd was by far the best and easiest baby of them all. I think it was partly because of what you said – we weren’t so uptight, we knew the language, my nipples had already been sucked out into just the right shape, you know – it just all worked. AND, he liked to cuddle – ahh! Here’s hoping your 2nd one is just as easy – with a few sleepless nights thrown in there just to give you time to contemplate!

  • Heads up Doocie Baby, you’re mentioned in this month’s playboy (Feb 09).

    Because…uh….my fiance told me so. Yeeeeees, that’s it. Tell Jon to go pick it up. Or you could, because THAT would be funny.

    Or I could scan it and send it to you. Though I think a pregnant woman in Utah picking up the latest playboy would make for an AWESOME blog post, personally.

  • Anu

    I think I get the most honest opinion about parenthood from your blog. Most parents including my sis, to certain degree never reveal their true thoughts. I’m sure they feel guilty even talking about them. I’m 32 and have been debating about having kids for a while now. I will be sure to be with you through your journey, sending all my positive energy your way 🙂

  • Storms

    Tell Jon to stake out the “man-cave” now and furnish it with a shower & toilet. In the coming years, it’ll likely be the only reason he is able to retain any semblance of manhood….

    Storms (father of four girls ages 4, 3, 2, and 10 months)

  • I didn’t know about the club either. I used to be offended when my friends with kids would say things like, “you don’t have kids so you wouldn’t understand.” Now that I am a part of the club, I know that I didn’t and couldn’t understand before. Now I am starting to.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, off topic, but my husband asked me, “Don’t you read Dooce? She was mentioned in Playboy.” Never fear. It’s your contribution to our vocabulary they value. :>)

  • Freaking awesome post!

  • julianne

    Wow. What a great blog entry and I wasn’t ready to think about anything today besides the inauguration.

    I have often heard it said that my uncle, born in 1918, was such a difficult baby that my grandmother only had a second child because of an accident, fourteen years later when she was forty, AND she cried the entire pregnancy. That second child was my dad who turned out to be a very mellow baby.

    And my oldest son, who looks quite a bit like that uncle, about killed me in his babyhood.

  • The others are telling you the truth about how the next children will be different from the one before. We have three and they are all so different and weird and wonderful. Each was born 18 months after the one before so it was wild and crazy and I felt much like you have in the past when it was just so crazy and walking the floors with them was all you can do to pacify them. Then all at once it was all over when they grew up and left home to make their own way in life. Only our son had children…and they have only one son. That is the really good part when you get into the grandma club.

  • Liz

    hi, dooce. Glad the pregnancy still appears to be going okay. Just wanted to say, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and I’ve noticed your writing evolving. It was always entertaining, always unmistakably your voice. But now its getting plain good. On its own terms. Maybe you’re feeling braver. Maybe its the hormones. But I just wanted to say that I see your writing, which was already a lot of fun, turning into more than fun. You’re finding your power. Good for you.

  • Brooke

    Heather, you are so great. I’m expecting our second child in May with a great amout of hope, excitment and trepidation. I, too, lived through a nasty bout of postpartum mood disorder, so on top of the regular list of “unknowns”, I am bracing for this too. You are so courageous to share all the joys and realities of your journey through parenthood. Reading your blog makes me feel much less alone on this next leg of the “trip” that is mommyhood. These next kiddos of ours will be especially lucky to benefit from all we’ve learned so far. No doubt they’ll have all kinds of new things to teach us too!

  • You nailed it. That’s exactly what parenting does…

    And I have given birth to five of the most unique, fascinating different individuals you can imagine. Though I’ll echo previous comments:

    Wait until the teenage years, when they can think a bit more critically, have a larger vocabulary and own their own cell phones.

  • Holly

    That was really beautiful. It makes me want to give my kids a huge hug and kiss!

  • i love it when you write these posts. and i have to agree the club is hella cool. even after getting projectile vomited on by twins.

  • “So much more makes sense now, and I don’t know if there is any other way I could have gained this type of insight into life.”

    Oh, I agree with you on this. ((hugs))

  • Jen

    Yup. #2 will carve out all those opposites. If she likes dogs, she will surely go for the light sockets as well. It’s the duty of the second child to fill in all the gaps, stake the untaken property.

    Basically the second child tells you that you really didn’t learn as much as you thought you did the first time around. Which is, in an odd way, comforting. Turns out there is no right way. Half the advice you got that was totally wrong for the first child will be exactly what the second child wants and needs. The other half? Is even more wrong. But, again, you have to try all of it again, just to see which is which.

    But really, it’s fun!

  • Katie

    Good luck. You won’t be new this time. You’ll be calmer and more collected. You’ll know the babyish actions don’t last forever. You’ll have a bag of tricks to try.

  • JennC

    Amen. I have three; all different, all wonderful. Parenthood is the best journey of all.

  • jill

    I worried about all of the wrong things during my second pregnancy. Your attitude is great! Going from 1 to 2 was NOT easy for me but it’s been amazing.

  • Marta

    Yeah that’s cute & all. But last night I dug up your old entry about Leta’s birth, & when you got to the part about where they had to cut you, I threw up a little in my mouth. I’m OK with being pregnant, but the process of getting it out bothers me so much.

  • lsaspacey

    Beautiful, just beautiful.

    As a non-breeder (and age 40 in a month without that possibility in sight) I knew there had to be more to it. Congrats and good luck!

  • We are just starting our family. Its really exciting we are really looking forward to it. We also plan on having three

  • Eva

    Maybe the next kid will be easier.. HEY, It could happen!

  • Amira

    You sound sane.

    PS – Amira is a great name for a baby girl.

  • As many others have mentioned, there’s a pretty good chance your girls will be completely different from one another. Mine (who are 3 and 5) sure are. But they are also best friends. It’s really refreshing because, as much as you wonder how much of their personalities have to do with birth order or how prepared you were, the fact is that they each just come with a personality. You quickly realize that you don’t have to take the blame for every bad quirk and that you don’t get to take the credit for every good one. They are their own crazy little beings and your job is just to protect them and try to mold them into reasonably civilized people. And remember, even if it’s really hard at first, it does get better.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more