My husband and I have been so lucky, in that the process of building our family has gone exactly as we planned. He and I are the type that discuss everything – which I think it very important in a marriage. But we do this mostly because I’m anal. Like, laminate your social security card type of anal. Our plan was: live together, get married, make babies.
And, that’s what we did.
I am a firm believer that good communication is vital before bringing children into the world. So, before we made the baby, we talked about it very in-depth. Not about how to make the baby…on that we were fairly clear. I mean things like, when do we want to start (and be done) having them? Spanking or no spanking? If we have a boy, snip or no snip? Home-school or public school? Start a college fund or let him drown in student loans like his parents? We talked about any and everything we could think of – you get the point.
And we were very aware that with this one decision, our marriage and our lives would change forever.
For some women these days, it feels very odd to start trying for a baby. I mean, we’ve spent a lot of time (some more time than others!) trying to NOT get pregnant. Then priorities change and it’s immediate panic – wait, what if I CAN’T get pregnant? Every month you look at that little applicator window with nervous, excited anticipation. Like, you’d give anything for that pink line to fade in. But then something crazy happens… it actually does. And you realize, two minutes ago you were one person without a true care in the world. Suddenly you are two people, and everything you do has a consequence. In those two minutes, your life just completely changed. Ho-ly shit.
When we found out Charlie was on his way, I was excited and terrified. Terrified mostly about labor. Excited about pretty much everything else. We didn’t really stress about many of the parenting woes that we knew were ahead of us – because we’d already talked about most of it.
But, as a new mother, one thing that I have discovered is that no matter how ready you think you are for parenthood, you’re probably (at least) a little unready. You think you’ve thought of everything, but there are still things you never imagined. No matter how prepared you are, you will find yourself unprepared. On many occasions.
I once wrote about this phenomenon. I dubbed it the 5 Things I Wish I Had Known before becoming a mother. And the more time passes, the more I realize that that number just continues to grow. No matter how prepared, how well-read, how “ready” I was – I’m just not.
For example, prior to giving birth, I had done a lot of research on how to feed my baby: how to be successful with breastfeeding, how to avoid nipple confusion, which pump to buy, which formula to use if I couldn’t breastfeed. I even watched a 7 minute video on the breast crawl multiple times.
Never once did I consider that I would need to work hard at remembering to feed myself. I lost the majority of my baby weight because, during the haze of the first few weeks, I simply couldn’t find the time to eat. Now, when I do find the time, it’s a good thing I have two hands. I’ve gotten really good at holding a baby and eating, nursing a baby and eating, burping a baby and eating, eating with one hand while a teething baby gnaws on the other. Oh, and enjoying meals at extreme temperatures? Fugetaboutit. Welcome to motherhood, land of melted ice cream and cold coffee! Better be able to eat/drink it with one hand.
Example two – the bathroom. I had heard all the horror stories about tearing and stitches and hemorrhoids. I’d prepared myself for all the difficulties that would follow labor when it came to this area and how it would affect my bathroom experience. I stocked my medicine cabinet with Tucks pads and Dermoplast.
I was lucky in that I never had to use the medical supplies, however I can’t remember the last time I used the bathroom alone. Especially now that he is more mobile, Big C is usually right in there with me – in his Rock n Play, his car seat…on the floor. Anywhere I can keep an eye on him. I don’t even know where our fabric shower curtain is anymore – the clear one makes it easier. And he’s probably scarred for life thanks to those quick bathroom trips that just creep up on you. He’s learning pretty early the lesson behind the book Everybody Poops. Sorry, bud. For Mother’s Day, I ‘m just going to ask my husband for a
30 60 minute bath with no baby and no dog bursting in the room.
Finally, my last example is one that I never gave much thought to at all pre-baby, yet is something I miss dearly – listening to music loudly in the car.
Sometimes I get into moods where I just want my music angry and loud. Once, in college, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. It was summer and I had my windows down. Suddenly, I saw an angry, grumpy old man out of the corner of my eye shaking his finger and yelling something at me. I think he was telling me to turn that god-damn music down. But that’s just an educated guess because – shocker – I couldn’t hear what he was saying.
These days, the volume dial doesn’t go past the 8 when Charlie is in the car. Le sigh. I miss the days of the head-banging, bass-vibrating, old-man-riling music. Somehow, Twinkle Twinkle on full blast just doesn’t do the same thing for me. Go figure.
So what’s the moral of the story? The old adage, expect the unexpected. Because it’s so true. No matter how much you plan in advance, things are never going to go as planned. Your life is going to take twists you never foresaw. For a planner, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you just can’t plan everything out. The key to keeping your sanity as a new mom – flexibility and acceptance. Oh, and wine – don’t forget the wine.