Lady Madonna, baby at your overexposed breast

Published May 27, 1996 10:47AM (EDT)

As told to Arthur Wilson, the novelist's trusted friend and interlocutor

hey, Madonna: Congratulations. I honestly think you're going to be a
terrific mother. I didn't at first but now I do; or at any rate, I think
you'll be a good enough mother, like the rest of us. But I thought maybe
we should talk: There are a few things I thought you ought to know.

First of all, your life is now totally ruined. I mean this in the good
way. It's not only that you're going to be so nuts and exhausted and weepy.
It's also that while you can't help but be rather attached to all the money
and fame and adrenaline and guy-fu and evil warrior goddess brassieres, kids
get you to love them and care about them so deeply that, without putting a
fine point on it, you're now doomed. You'll never draw another complacent
breath. Ask anyone with children, and they'll tell you -- kids love you too
much. They love you even more than dogs do.
The other day, my son Sam said
he would always love me more than he loved anyone else. And I said, "No,
no, you can't imagine how desperately you'll love your kids," and he said,
"I know that, mom; but you were my first friend." So it's a sacred trust,
and as with all sacred trusts, it will open your heart and soften you and
teach you to pay a new and deeper kind of attention.

The good news is that
you're going to fall in love in a way that reduces you to something from the
Care Bears. You'll find yourself humming Raffi songs. The bad news is that
you'll now have so much to lose that you'll want to sit outside the house in
a rocking chair, with a gun laid across your lap, like Granny Clampett, to
protect your baby. And you really won't be able to, because life is out
there prowling around like a wolf; and it's going to drive you nuts. We're
monkeys; and monkeys care. And that depth of caring feels awful beyond all

Second of all, you are entering a country where kicky bras will no
longer work. I assume you're going to breast feed, right? And there are a
couple of aspects of nursing that will make your current bras less than
ideal. One is that you don't get to get dressed anymore, like a normal
person. Or at any rate, the second you do get all buttoned up, it's time to
unbutton again. Maybe your bras are easier to get on and off than they
appear. But even if they are a snap, you may not understand yet how
incredibly sensitive a nursing mother's nipples are that first month.
Picture a giant garden slug who has had a near-death experience in the jaws
of a cat.

Third, and I should have mentioned this right up front, get an epidural
upon registration. Trust me on this one thing. I know the baby's father is
a personal trainer, your personal personal trainer in fact, and that you're
in very good shape, but there's nothing in the world that can prepare you for
the pain of childbirth. Think of what it would feel like to try and pass the
Manhattan telephone book, while you were in the throes of the worst PMS you'd
ever had in your life.

Fourth, spring for a nanny. When the baby first arrives, he or she
will be very quiet and spaced out, like a little Hindu lama from Mars, and
you will think that you got a good one. You didn't. The batteries just
haven't arrived. They're all the same: on a bad day, any baby can make Sean
Pean look like the Dalai Lama. When the baby is two weeks old, he or she
will look at its little wristwatch, smite its own wrinkly little forehead,
and mutter, "Oh, for Chrissakes, has two weeks gone by?" And it will begin
to cry. Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch, like it has never heard of Bosnia. And
the crying is going to drive you crazy. It's not a moving, tender, dewy
"Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" kind of thing. It's this horrible annoying
hysterical self-obsessed whine: picture Newt Gingrich on bad acid. So
remember: panic is your worst enemy.

Even worse is that all kinds of people are going to offer advice on how
to handle or stop the crying; and here's the truth -- none of it will work for
any length of time. You must consider their little helpful hints to be acts
of aggression against you and your family. The only thing to do is to leave.
Hand over the baby to the nanny, and leave. Tell the baby, "Mommy is
feeling a little anxious right now, and needs to get some space." Then go
see a movie, and sit in the dark overeating. Eat your body weight in
chocolate: this has always worked for me.

And last of all, don't forget that to do a barely good enough job as a
parent is the best you can hope for on most days. It is going to turn out
that you are probably not remotely well enough to be a mother. Most of us
aren't. It's okay. Sam just came over and asked what I am doing, and
when I told him, he said, "Tell the rock star just to do the best she can."
This is probably the best advice anyone will give you.

Also, while I have him here, he says, "Tell the rock star to give it a
bottle of milk whenever it cries, and love it like it's Jesus. Also, if
she's so famous, she should sing to it a lot, but no snake songs. Babies
HATE songs with snakes in them." Okay? Bottle of milk, lullabies; best
you can do; sacred trust.

By Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is the New York Times bestselling author of "Help, Thanks, Wow"; "Small Victories"; "Stitches"; "Some Assembly Required"; "Grace (Eventually)"; "Plan B"; "Traveling Mercies"; "Bird by Bird"; "Operating Instructions" and "Hallelujah Anyway," out April 4. She is also the author of several novels, including "Imperfect Birds" and "Rosie." A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, she lives in Northern California.

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