It was a little more than a year ago that we brought Baby Guy home from the hospital, and it has been a big year. By the time we made it home with our little bundle I felt like we’d already run the gamut of the ups and downs of parenting. I won’t even mention the struggle of labor and delivery; that’s 40 hours of story that you probably don’t need to hear tonight. No, it wasn’t that. It was things like the excruciatingly joyful moment that he was born and we laid eyes on him and he was healthy and he was ours. It was the moment my husband sang to him and it was clear that Baby Guy already knew his voice. It was when they told us that our precious, perfect baby would need an IV for antibiotics because labor had been too long. It was when he was placed under the bili lights in that little box and we could only take him out for 10 minutes every couple of hours to feed him and change his diaper. It was listening to him and realizing that no matter how improbable it was, our son had the cutest sounding little squeaky toy hiccups in the history of the universe. Those highs and lows and all the exhaustion and hormones really made me think that we’d pretty much been through the emotional extent of parenting already.
Fast forward a year, and I still think that those first few days are a pretty demanding roller coaster of experiences. I also know now that the roller coaster never really stops. Here are the top three things I’ve learned after a year of being a full-time parent:
1- It doesn’t get easier as you go along. I mean, of course it gets easier in the sense that you eventually start getting more sleep and the pregnancy/labor hormones calm down and you begin to feel confident that you’re not going to completely ruin your baby by making little first time parent mistakes. That all gets a little easier as you go along. But, I’m telling you, don’t ever start to think, “Hey, I think I’ve got things under control!” because that is the moment that your kid will go through a growth spurt/nursing strike/sleep regression/teething spree/vomiting illness just to put you in your place. Things keep changing, which is so beautiful and great and fun, but it also means that you have just enough time to find a groove that works before you start all over again figuring out how to meet the challenges of the next stage (which will, of course, be beautiful, great, and fun).
2- Naptime and bedtime are valuable. I mean extremely valuable. At first you sleep when the baby sleeps, because you’re exhausted from your baby not sleeping (and from bringing him into the world). Plus, you have all these people telling you to do it and wanting to snuggle with your sweet little newborn without you interfering. Even when the initial flood of visitors/helpers have to go home and get back to real life, they tell you that the chores will wait, so sleep when your baby sleeps and when he’s awake, they say, spend time enjoying the sweet newborn you’ve got before he gets bigger. This is actually really fabulous advice. But eventually you discover that, though you could continue napping quite happily, eventually the chores that have waited so patiently need to be done no matter what, otherwise you’ll have to disallow visiting hours altogether. So, nap time becomes precious get-as-much-done-in-45-minutes-as-you-can-so-you-can-relax-for-a-few-minutes-in-peace time.
When my husband and I made it to the current early bedtime stage with our little guy, it was pretty exciting. For the first few months he was in our room, and we went to bed for the night when he did (or vice versa…I’m not really sure who was calling the shots). But now Baby Guy is asleep by 7 most nights, so we have some precious hours to ourselves on nights we don’t have meetings or some other engagement (let’s face it, all of the meetings and engagements are my husband’s…I’ve had exactly one meeting that lasted until after 7 p.m. since my son was 4 months old.) We can pretend we’re actual humans for a few minutes (and fold laundry without our “helper” interfering). Don’t get me wrong, we are in love with spending time with our child, so it’s not all about living for the moments that he’s out of our hair, but it’s important to have some time to focus on your spouse (and the supper dishes).
3- Becoming a parent is all that it’s cracked up to be (and possibly more, depending on how cracked up the parent who tells you about it is). I have always planned on being a parent. I love babies and kids, and I have great parents who made me feel like being a parent was a fun thing to do. My little one is not quite a dream come true, but only because, as it turns out, my dreams never came close to how awesome my kid could actually be. It’s harder than I thought it would be, and I always knew it would be tough. Whenever you love someone, you open yourself up to a whole new dimension of emotional vulnerability; and loving your own child, I’ve discovered, is that times a thousand. I feel his pain and distress, I rejoice in his exuberance, and I already feel anguish over the hard things that he’ll inevitably face in his future.
All the hard things are a drop in the bucket compared to the joy of having this boy in my life though. Seriously. I know that people always talk about the crazy antics their kids are subjecting them to, the sleepless nights, the total life change that goes along with having a baby, etc.; but I’m telling you that no matter how much drama that little bundle of joy causes, all of the benefits they bring to a parent’s life amount to much, much more. It’s just wittier to post blogs about the hilarious drudgery of parenthood rather than daily updates about how fulfilled you feel now that you have the world’s most beautiful child.
Anyway, I really have learned more than 3 things in my year of parenting, and one day I might write a more detailed list, but for now I’ve got to take advantage of this nap and scrub my kitchen.