You don’t realize how much of media revolves around terrible things happening to babies until you have a baby and cannot handle it, and then you realize it is fucking everywhere. When Edith was a tiny newborn and I was spending my nights sitting up in bed endlessly rocking her back to sleep, I read a million ebooks with all the time (through bleary eyes) and one of them was Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This.
It’s a tremendous book, one of my favorites from last year, but I had assumed (based on her previous book and the blurbs) that it was a comic novel about Twitter. IT IS NOT. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but it is about the six life-changing months her family spent with her niece who was born with Proteus Syndrome. I read it through streaming eyes, sleep-deprived and wrung out, with my precious daughter recently released from the NICU in my lap, as I worried actively about my ongoing inability to breastfeed her and whether or not she might suddenly stop breathing in the night.
How did I do this? It seems insane to me now. How did I finish this book? How was I reading at all? I can’t remember. The first months with a newborn are cloaked in mystery in recollection; the biological imperative ensures that you don’t recall them in detail. I remember what happened, broadly, but I can’t remember what it felt like, kind of the way that you know what nausea is but it’s hard to recall how horrible it feels when you are no longer actively nauseous.
Anyway, I’m a different person now, months later, with a sturdy assertive baby who is quickly becoming a toddler, and who regularly sleeps through the night. I am still sleep-deprived, but nothing like the extreme gauntlet I was running last summer. And yet, I still cannot handle reading about bad things happening to babies.
I enjoy High Maintenance and I was catching up with season 3, and enjoying myself a lot. And then came an episode where a couple had one of those silicone babies to console themselves after an early loss. Hard, but I got through it. Then, in the very next episode the protagonist entered an oncology ward to visit an old friend. One shot of the woman sitting there with her darling little sleeping baby on her lap hooked up to an IV and I burst into gasping, shuddering, ugly crying, the kind where your nose explodes all over your face and you have to sort of walk yourself around to ramp back down out of it. I rarely cry like that.
I shut off the show right there and soothed myself with Real Housewives. I suspect this might be a little discussed reason for why moms tend to consume ever more simplistic media: we assume it’s become moms have less time and energy, but I think it’s possible that it’s also because everything highbrow is about dead kids and your heart can’t handle it anymore!
I need these things to stop smacking me in the face unawares when I’m just trying to goddamn relax. I mean, I guess there’s probably a category on Does the Dog Die for this that I could check, but I more wonder…when will this plot point stop absolutely destroying me? Does this…go away at some point? It’s a little much.