(1) Newborns are TINY.
The movies have it totally wrong. Newborns aren’t the size of toddlers. They’re small and fragile and that soft spot on top of their heads will freak you out long past their first birthdays. You’d think buying newborn clothes would have clued me in, but no. All I know is that during the first month, I carried that kidlet around like a coddled egg (except he oozed a bit more).
The outfit on the left is the one Baby J wore home from the hospital. He wore the one on the right yesterday. This kid is growing faster than a giant sunflower.
(2) My drive to protect privacy is stronger than ever.
No, I mean Baby J’s. I already knew I didn’t want pictures of him floating around, and watching him grow and change confirmed this desire many-fold.
In this digital age, I know I won’t be able to control every bit of information leaking out to the world. I don’t expect to. Yet, I’d like to give him a chance to shape his own digital identity instead of shaping it for him. You can read more about this decision in a piece I wrote for one of my classes. Although I mention it in the article, it’s worth emphasizing that this piece is not meant to be a judgment on others’ decisions. (Still, having received a lot of feedback on the article, the knee-jerk reaction from some other parents seems to be anger related to the feeling that I’m judging them. Trust me — if I’m judging you, I’d have a scorecard similar to when I judge BBQ.)
So now you know why there are no pictures of Baby J on THIH/social media, save his adorable toes and fingers (trust me, I’ve been asked).
(3) You’re never alone.
I’m very introverted. Not shy. Introverted. (Read more about the difference here.) I love my alone time in which I don’t have to talk or interact. I can just be. Pre-baby, whenever I had a spare hour or two, I’d grab a cup of tea and enjoy some writing time.
That changes when you have a child. Even when he’s napping, you’re not alone. Sure, you can get a little work done or decompress while he’s snuggled up like a sweet pea, but you’re always on call. Your mind isn’t focused because in the next room there’s a little someone who’s depending on you for every one of his needs. You always have to be “on,” even when you’re exhausted and busy and need to finish your latest paper by midnight. I hear this need becomes even more prominent when they’re older. Before baby, I thought to myself that working from home and raising a child without outside help = totally doable. Um, no.
This change has been the hardest thing to adjust to. Even more than #4, which is that …
(4) Exhaustion is a four letter word.
(That’s how tired I am — I’m not sure that sentence makes sense.)
Everyone hears about how having a baby is exhausting. Yet in the back of my mind, I always thought I’d handle it better than some because I’m used to getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night for weeks on end. (Superiority: The Hallmark of Ignorance.)
The reality: Adrenaline carries you through the first few weeks, then the bone-crushing exhaustion sets in. I’ve woken up in a panic in the middle of the night thinking I fell asleep while Baby J was eating and that he’d gotten lost in the blankets. While this story sounds funny in retrospect, it’s definitely NOT hilarious in the middle of the night when you’re crying and frantically trying to find your lost baby. That’s what sleep deprivation does to you. While I can occasionally get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, they’re fragmented into 45 minute or one hour chunks. Currently, Baby J is going though the four month sleep regression/transition, which makes delirium the new normal. Thank goodness Peter is so supportive, or I’d have lost it long ago. (Not that I’m being dramatic or anything.)
(5) Life goes on.
I thought about putting something here like “Your life is so much richer” or some positive and inspirational message about how your life is changed forever yet so much better. Pretty much all lists like this end with such a message.
All true, yet life goes on with many elements intact. The day after returning home from the hospital, the “water plants” alert went off on my phone, and I puttered around with the watering can like I had a few days before leaving for the hospital. (Peter likes to point out that that was the last time I watered the plants, and he’s right. Black thumb, remember? Peter usually takes over my plants out of pity and concern for flora welfare.) Sure, many things have changed. Yet so many things have stayed the same. I still stress too much over insignificant problems. I make a mean protein-packed hummus for sandwiches. I give unsolicited nutrition advice on occasion. (Only kidding about that last one. Maybe.)
I try to remember these parts of myself whenever the thought of raising a little human threatens to overwhelm me. Life changes. Life goes on. Both statements are true.
A notable exception: Your pet is just a pet.
I love little Maddie. Pre-Baby J, my phone was filled with an endless series of Maddie photos where she’s doing the cutest things ever. I’d heard that once you have a child, your pets are less prominent in your life. What I didn’t expect was how fast that transition would be. I’d barely walked in the door after getting back from the hospital before yelling at Maddie to stop barking. I don’t dote on her nearly as much as I used to. I try to show Maddie just how important she is, but I know things aren’t what they used to be.
[bctt tweet=”Five surprising things about new parenthood #baby #parenthood”]
Q: For all you parents out there, what was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?
P.S. I realize most of this post seems negative. That’s because I’ve been looking forward to the positives for such a long time: his first smile, his first laugh, the feel of his chubby hand closing around my finger. I’ve not been surprised by any of these wonderful bits of parenthood; rather, I’ve been looking forward to them for years.
P.P.S. Bonus thing: A renewed appreciation for modern medicine.
Long before Baby J was an adorable ball of squish (objectively speaking), I loved reading birth stories. No matter the process, the difficulty, or the outcome, I felt as through the new mom was empowered by such an amazing experience.
Then Baby J made his entrance. And I did not feel empowered. My OB chalks it up to incredible bad luck. Few talk about the emotional scars a traumatic birth leaves behind.
Still, I’m forever grateful. While I’m all about prevention and the power of food to enhance health, I thank my lucky stars every day that I have access to the best medical care available. Because of this fact, Baby J and I can snuggle in our favorite chair, reading and singing songs. And that’s truly all that matters.