Great Expectations

Birthing babies is incredibly complicated and incredibly simple all at once. And while it is pretty freaking amazing, it rarely goes exactly according to (the meticulously researched, single-spaced, holistic birth) plan.

My guess is that it is just the universe’s way of saying, “You know how you thought you were prepared and in charge? You’re not. Welcome to parenthood. Neener neener.”

Parenting is full of a whole lot of unexpected events and feelings – some good, some bad, many hysterical and enlightening.

Some things I didn’t expect as a parent…

… how much I would simultaneously love and fear finger paints, stickers and silence.

… baby neck and armpit cheese.

… how very tired I would be.

… how happy and how sad I would be to see myself – traits both good and bad – reflected in my tiny people.

… how big a 2-year-old’s feelings are.

… how much it feels like failure or just getting by sometimes. And how universal that feeling is.

… how much work bedtime would be. And how lovely a quiet, full, sleeping house can be.

… how delicious baby cheeks, elbows, bellies and toes are.

… how much I would need to nurture my friendships. And just how much effort and scheduling that takes now.

… how amazing human development really is. From a helpless, little, human blob to a walker and talker in just about 365 days?! Unreal. Really.

… how much I love to be silly, to play, and to laugh with my children.

… how much I love whole milk yogurt.

… how much I feel like this is something I was supposed to do with my life, even in the hardest moments.

Smooches.

Advertisements

Where you going? Barcelona…

My sister called me yesterday.

“Hey Sarky, I was thinking that since none of us really need anything for Christmas, that next year we should all go to Spain for the holidays. We found a great place that only costs 60 Euros per night!”

Me: calculating silence.

Before I had a baby, people drove me crazy telling me that I had no idea what to expect, that nothing could prepare me, that my life would change in ways I couldn’t fathom as a childless person.  It felt like they were telling me I wasn’t part of their clique-y club, and wouldn’t be able to understand the club’s rules and secret handshake until I popped out a wee one.  It felt condescending.  It felt obvious. I got it.  “Oh, you’ve never been on a roller coaster?!  Well, you don’t know what it is like to be on a roller coaster until you’ve been on a roller coaster!”  Um, duh.   As I’ve written about in prior posts, I tried not to have too many expectations for myself or my new little dude.  I decided to put myself firmly in the “Roll-with-things-the-best-I-can” camp.  I think I did pretty well adjusting, all things considered.

I now refuse to tell parents-to-be, “Oh, you have no idea!”  I’ll answer any questions they have, be supportive and tell them that they really can handle it – that it is hard but doable. Because it is.

But this is my sister. And she takes it as a personal offense if I say, “Well, gee, I’m going to have to see how we’re doing then.  Since money will be tight for us with 2, and it would be a challenge to travel to Spain with a 9-month-old and a 2.5 year old…”

I know people do it – they travel and do fun and amazing things with their very small children.  But at this point, and for us, it doesn’t sound like fun.  Not yet at least.  Ask me again when they’re 4 and 6.    My sister-in-law had similar intentions – a planned trip to Turkey when their little one was 8 months old.  That plan got nixed pretty darn quick.  I didn’t say “I told you so” because I hadn’t told her so.  But I can’t say I was surprised.

So far my sister has insisted that after the birth of her first child in early-April she and her husband have plans to:

  • Run a half marathon in June
  • Travel to Toronto for a wedding on June 1
  • Travel to Seattle for a wedding in mid-August
  • Travel to Spain for Christmas in December

I hope they do these things.  As she’s thrown out these plans and suggestions, I have tried to calmly (and without Older Sister judgment or condescension – very hard for me) say things like, “Wow, that could be hard, but it could also be doable.  Don’t have too many expectations for yourself.  Just see how you feel as the time approaches.” But in the back of my mind, my new-mom brain is screaming, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA!”  I don’t want her to be disappointed if these things can’t happen, because the new mom gig is hard enough, finding your groove can take a long time and I don’t want her to suffer disappointment on top of all of that.

So in an effort to keep the sisterly peace, and to remain as judgement free as possible, I said in response, “Hm, sounds like fun.  We’ll have to see if that will work as the time gets closer!”

Tune in on Christmas 2012 to see how it all plays out…

But I’m not going to dust off my Spanish language tapes just yet.

(PS – If you tell me where the title of this post came from, I’ll give you a cookie.)

What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting…

A friend of mine just recently wrote a thoughtful and honest overview of what life after birth was for her.  (In the interest, at least for the time being, in keeping this blog anonymous I won’t link to it).  But trust me, I was there.  She had a rough few weeks.

And I chuckled when I read about her sitting alone at night with her breast pump and swearing it was talking to her.  I had the same experience, except my pump actually repeated the name of my boss over and over, like this, “Chad Sock! Chad Sock! Chad Sock!”  (No, that’s not his real name either.)  It freaked me out.  And made me wonder about my subconscious desires.

Overall, I think I handled the transition to mommydom pretty well.  I like to be informed – I read the books, I asked friends for good 1st time mom advice, I put together a nursery (though, I wasn’t a maniac about this), I took the childbirth class and prenatal yoga (which is a story for another day) and I did all the mommy prep I thought I could. I knew that I could do it – both the birth part, and the mom part, though I didn’t know what either one would be like.

But what was the best preparation?  Not setting myself up for failure.

I didn’t have too many expectations.  I tried not to put pressure on myself.  And I recognized that I would only have a modicum of control over most of my life for the next few months (okay, years, who am I kidding!).  I focused on being flexible.  I didn’t harbor any fantasies of sweet-smelling, quiet babies, napping while I baked.  I tried not to harbor any fantasies at all.  I promised myself that it was okay to learn as you go, to be frustrated, to be sad, to be tired, to BE.  I knew I’d love my new arrival without expectations, and just for being  himself/herself, so I tried to give myself the same care and courtesy.  All I knew was that childbirth would be hard, and the days and months after childbirth would be harder. And I was right.

It was hard.  It was really really hard.  My brother-in-law had it right when he said, “Everyone says it will be hard, but no one tells you exactly what ‘hard’ means.”  It is hard in an entirely new way.  Your life is completely changed. I remember thinking, “Three days ago, I could do what I want.  Today, I cannot do what I want, I cannot pee when I want, I cannot sleep when I want, I cannot go when/where I want, I cannot eat when I want.”  It isn’t all bad, but goodness, it IS a shock to the system in every way.

I wish I could find the blog entry I read recently that defined parenthood like this:

EVERYTHING IS DIFFICULT AND AWESOME.

And that is exactly right.  That is exactly what I have found parenthood to be.

So.  My advice to new moms?  Enough with the expectations.  Cut yourself some slack.  Take it day-by-day.  Ask for help (I was bad about this and I vow to change this time around).  Know your limits.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Acknowledge contradictory feelings (you can love a little baby with all your heart, and still feel a little resentful about how much your life has changed and how sore and tired you are – that doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human).  Don’t stress if you don’t fall in love with your newborn right away – you’ll feel awed, responsible, etc. but how often do people fall in love at first sight?  This person is completely new to you!  Don’t worry about doing it all right – there’s no such thing as perfection, and if there was, it’d be boring and impossible to maintain.

Welcome to the greatest adventure of all!

Footnote: As discussed in this blog entry, Mommyhood is really hard.  But for those mommies with PPD it can also be terrifying, excruciating, and life-changing in a really bad way.  If you think you or your loved one may be suffering from PPD, do know that you’re not alone and take steps to reach out, get help, and heal!  ❤