October 9th, 2007 (he was born at 1:04 that morning)I've been thinking a lot about what I wished I had known prior to becoming a parent. My sister is due with her first baby November 30th (RRWM '09!), one of my best friends, Diane, just had a baby (hi, lil' Henry Ryan!!), another of my best friends, Clara, is due December 16th (Yay, for baby Micklebury!), another friend, Craig and his wife, on Christmas Day (Baby Fireball), and yet another dear old friend ('sup, Bri!) is also due in July with her first. Whew - that's a LOT of babies this year! Then, because things like this usually have a running theme in my life Noelle of Baby in Broad just wrote about similar life changes, as did Loukia of Loulou's Views.
This is Part 1 of Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me. Part 2 is here.
Emotionally speaking, I can say all the obvious things like you'll be exhausted, overwhelmed (by everything good and bad), and in utter awe of life in general. I find it hard to believe that someone couldn't be touched, and touched deeply, by the miracle that is a newborn life (barring anything as awful as post-partum depression, that is). But I think most about-to-be-parents know that something is going to change in them; they've heard about it enough from every Tom, Dick, and Harry by now, I'm sure.
The less obvious things are what I'm talking about, like how your relationship with your partner will change. Anthony and I experienced an intense sense of bonding during that first week we spent with Hollis. I was caught completely by surprise by this fierce tenderness. I have never loved him more than I did in that magical week. Hollis epitomized our bonding: he is half of each of us and this is no fucking joke. We are now parents, a family.
Our relationship prior to parenthood consisted of arguments about how we would spend our spare time together (Anthony wanted to be alone to recharge, and I together, of course). I look back on that and think what a waste of time and energy! If only we'd known how truly precious and special that time was I'm sure we would have spent it differently. And it's not about being bogged down by childcare now, either, it's an effortlessness that we once had as child-free parents that we will NEVER have again, even if our kids are somewhere else. It's like that moment I had on the greenbelt trail when I saw all the girls with their dogs and I thought, "Wow, that used to be me and all I ever had to worry about was buying dog kibble and what I wanted to do that night."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining in the least. I wear my new found parenthood badge with pride. I have a son, a child, a person I created. I would feel no less proud if I had adopted, for the record - I don't want this to seem I think it's all hinged on birth, because it's not. I had a [much smaller] shift of self when I adopted Levi, too - it's the whole idea that there is more to "me" than just ME. There is an OTHER who colors every single thing that I do and I am eternally happy about it.
No one told me about this shift would happen. I suspect it's the knowing look every parent gave me when I was pregnant because they knew it would happen, just as it'd happened with them. And with this shift I am a thousand times more protective of my family than I ever was of my coupleness with Anthony. Who knew that'd happen?? I have a family to take care of and watch over now so y'all better back off! The cares and concerns of my little unit are numero uno now. I allow others in based on connections, love, and relationships, not just for a good time. I'm a discerning human being now whereas I used to let anyone in whenever they wanted.
I don't necessarily wish someone had told me that the amount of lurv I would feel would be so ridiculous, but it's worth mentioning that it might not happen immediately. Eventually it will, but it happens at different times for everyone. It sorta snuck up on me with Hollis, I can't really pinpoint the exact moment. It was just the accumulation of a thousand little moments I suppose. It's like a high, feeling that love inside of me. I feel like sunshine is bursting from my veins and I don't care who sees it. Nothing makes me happier than to see Hollis doing anything at all. Or to see Anthony with him. It's so fucking cliche I don't even really want to give it that much space here.
No one was ever able to truly describe to me how hard it is to live with a newborn, either. Like the love I'd feel for my baby I had an idea, but couldn't really understand it until I lived it first hand. It is by far the most difficult thing I've EVER done in my life (and I've done a lot of hard shit) because I would never allow myself to dissolve into meanness or anger - and that was a Herculean effort. Anthony and I had our fair share of shitty nights when Hollis never slept more than an hour or two at a time (this went on for what seemed like almost a year).
I have clear memories of Anthony seething at me, up at the end of the bed in his underwear, just back from Hollis' room only to hear him crying again, mad that I hadn't gotten up "that time" with Hollis. And me biting back that he didn't need to be an "asshole!! I've been up every hour for the past 3!" and then crying because this wasn't how Anthony and I operate and I was oh so goddamned tired. We were just the worst versions of ourselves, tortured with sleep deprivation beyond all reasonable thoughts. (And just to be clear, Anthony was never really an "asshole," we were both just exhausted and worried we were doing something wrong that Hollis didn't sleep for very long at a time and if we were ruining him, etc., etc., and of course we took it out on each other).
And that's another thing: YOU WILL TAKE IT OUT ON YOUR PARTNER. No one told me I'd become a cranky and resentful shit. No one told me Anthony would become a droopy-eyed viper. But there it is. We were. And might be once again with the next baby. It's just the trial by fire every relationship must go through, I suppose. And once you make it, I swear you feel like your partnership can handle anything. If you're lucky, anyway. I think, honestly, it's why most marriages end after a baby's in the mix if you've married because of a pregnancy. It's just so fucking hard.
Becoming a parent will also make you feel like you're in a club you never even knew existed. Anyone and everyone will talk to you if you have a baby with you. I'm finally, after almost two years, used to it. I rarely will initiate contact with someone else, but I've come to terms with the fact that means nothing to anyone else who wants to poke, squeeze, touch, or otherwise engage Hollis.
I also have more understanding of my own parents and what they went through and less compassion for my father in particular for the things he chose to do to us, because HOW COULD HE?? How could any parent be so rotten and in such a deliberately destructive way?? I have even more respect in how hard my mom worked to break her own parenting cycles and be a better mother than her mother.
And no one told me I'd become a blubbering fool whenever I heard about a divorce with kids because now it's the end of a family. I can cry rivers for the pain they must all be in, especially the children. My own parents' divorce elicited one night of crying when I was 10 and so now I'm making up for lost time, apparently. The end of my pairing with Anthony is unfathomable... I can't even begin to wrap my head around something like that and so I naturally apply that same mindset to others, whether or not it's true. So, then come the waterworks.
So, there you have it, what I wish someone had told me about being a mother:
- You may not be immediately overwhelmed by love for your baby
- You may be overwhelmed by love for your partner, though
- A shift from a Couple to a Family occurs, and yes, they are different
- Living with a newborn/baby is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do
- You will get nasty with your partner during those sleep-deprived months
- You will become a card-carrying member of The ParentHood willingly, or not
- You may understand your parents, and thus your childhood more
- You may become a big fat softy
I guess I'll do a Part 2 of this for the little tricks and gadgets no one ever told me about since this is so damn long.