Our daughter, Phoebe, was born on January 3, 1995, after, in keeping with what seemed like the fashion of the time, many hours of natural childbirth followed by an emergency c-section. After five days of hospitalization on strong antibiotics (I'd developed a fever) and no solid food, I came home starved, weak, and emaciated, with throbbing breasts, a baby I'd yet to diaper (too sick), and, oh yeah, a column due for Seventeen in three days that I'd planned to write "while the baby napped." Dan was a sweet, attentive father, but his one week (!) of paternity leave ended the next day, and back to work he had to go. And then there we were: me, my baby, my leaking breasts, and my laptop. This was probably the early genesis of The Bitch in the House.
Perhaps needless to say, I soon developed a chronic breast infection. After nine weeks of excruciating nursing and many more antibiotics, I was (thankfully) ordered by the doctors to stop. As soon as I did, motherhood became much, much more fun. (For more on this, see "Breastfeeding: The Agony and the Ecstacy.") Still, it wasn't easy. We had little money to hire a sitter, not that I knew any or felt comfortable with that so soon anyway, yet I had a second novel already overdue, a monthly column to write, and an income we relied upon as much as Dan's. Eventually we found the wonderful Vacil Richards, a loving single mother of three from St. Vincentwho became our beloved babysitter until we left New York five years later.
Our son, Nathaniel, was born on July 5, 1998, by VBAC. For whatever reasons, breastfeeding was problem-free this time, and I was able to nurse him for more than two years. Of course, both kids are perfectly healthy today, further proof that formula babies do just fine. (For more on this, see "Don't Listen to the Shoulds.") By now, Dan was working as the Publications Director for the non-profit New Visions for Public Schools, and also had just sold his first novel, After Lucy; I was alternately writing my column (after "Relating" I became the monthly books columnist for Mademoiselle and later for Glamour), still writing that second novel (don't ask), and taking care of the kids. Those years were a blur of sleeplessness, nursing, fun and joy, stress and exhaustion, hard work, and good, seemingly lifelong friends who were very much in the same place we were.
In 1999, we made the bittersweet decision to leave the city and our overstuffed apartment for roomier, less expensive climes. We settled in Northampton, Massachusetts, bought a house with the money we'd made selling our (much appreciated) New York apartment, enrolled Phoebe in pre-school and Nathaniel part-time in affordable daycare, and voila, we were living the American Dream. Except that, as lucky and grateful as I felt to have two healthy children and a nice house and a pretty town and a challenging, interesting career, something wasn't right. Namely, our lives (but particularly mine) felt like chaos at all times. I channeled this anxiety into my second book, The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood and Marriage. (For more, see Bitch Introduction.)
Apparently, I wasn't alone in my complaints; Bitch became a New York Times bestseller, eventually published in thirteen countries and, so far, having sold more than 170,000 copies. Later, Dan followed with the companion volume, The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain their Feelings about Love, Loss, Fatherhood and Freedom.