This winter, I’ve decided, has been a lot like childbirth.
I don’t mean in the classic sense, obviously, because it hasn’t physically caused me to scream obscenities at complete strangers for hours on end (well, not often, anyway) and it hasn’t lasted nine months (yet), but rather in a more metaphysical sense – in the way that people seem to deal with them both.
We seem to take an awful lot of pride in our pain.
It’s almost like a competition. We compare birthing stories the same way we compare winter stories – how much weight we gained, how much snow we got, how long we were in labor, how cold it was, how long we pushed, how high the winds were, how much pain we were in, and, er, how much pain we were in.
And this winter in particular, it’s done with not a little boasting. I found myself complaining to my mother one day about how cold it was and how my kids were driving me crazy and blah blah blah, and she said, “I know, honey; I just got off the phone with your brother and he was saying the same thing.”
Suddenly I was Miss Snow Queen. “What do you mean, he said the same thing?! They get four inches of snow a year where he lives! We’ve had over a hundred inches here, and they’re all still on the ground! I can’t believe he’s complaining! Aw, is big bad Boston getting an itty bitty wittle snowstorm?”
My mother, of course, said nothing. She has a life, and therefore doesn’t have this need that I apparently have to turn the potential for frostbite into a badge of honor.
Be that as it may, she can’t deny it’s been a tough one. The amount of snowfall has made it nearly impossible for my kids to play outside sans bright orange cones on their heads for retrieval purposes, and everyone knows it’s darn near impossible to make a snow angel with a construction cone on your head.
And while I’ve always admired those moms who can sit down with their kids and make working radios out of construction paper, I’ve never been one of them. If I have to do one more project with scissors, paint or glue, I may have a nervous breakdown.
So cabin fever has been an issue. What started out as a cozy winter season with fireplace blazing and books galore is now reminiscent of a scene from “The Shining.” We’re all just a little jumpy, a little short-tempered, a little claustrophobic. You can bet I won’t be letting my husband cut firewood with an axe anytime soon.
It isn’t just us, thankfully. I’ve run into people in the grocery store – the last vestige of life as we knew it – who have thought nothing of stopping to talk for a half hour, so desperate are they for human contact, even from me. It’s really kind of sad.
And of course the kids suffer. They see a breathtakingly beautiful sunny day and wonder why they can’t go out. “Well, honey,” I try to explain, “it’s twenty below zero. If you went outside now, you could conceivably break off your ear.” That usually does the trick.
I’m noticing, though, that as the season drags on, the temperature is becoming less of an issue. The first few sub-zero days found schools closing all over out of concern for our precious children’s welfare. The last few have simply come with some general advice – “Suck it up, kids. Dress warm. Godspeed.”
The good news is, the end is in sight. Winter simply cannot last forever. As I remember thinking during my pregnancies, there has never been a documented case that a woman stayed pregnant for life. The birth eventually happens, and the baby eventually comes. And so it will be with spring.
But I’m here to tell you, it’s gonna hurt. My first labor was so long that . . .