After a 29-hour labor (by induction, post-due-date) including an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, Chris and I welcomed our daughter at 10:30am on Tuesday, May 7. And tonight, while I listen to the metronome-like sound her swing makes and silently pray that she falls asleep soon, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned from my first few weeks of parenthood.
1. Blogging at 3am (or any other time the baby is sleeping) is perfectly acceptable. – Or maybe it’s stupid. I should probably be sleeping. I should definitely be sleeping.
2. Sleep as I knew it is a thing of the past. – Friends, family, and medical providers all warned me in the days leading up to delivery day that I should “sleep while I still can.” Not that the broken bouts of shut-eye between trips to the bathroom (thanks to the mini-me dancing on my bladder) felt all that restful. But now I know the truth. That WAS restful. I can no longer squint through bleary eyes to check the alarm clock and then reason with myself that I can make it another hour until the alarm goes off before I really have to go pee. Now, the minute my daughter makes the first coos of her wind-up to fussiness, it’s time to pop out of bed to tend to her needs. And forty five minutes later (if I’m lucky and if she cooperates), I can crash back between the sheets.
3. Fatherhood is sexy. – The way to my heart is to do chores around the house. Bonus points if those chores involve heavy lifting (as defined by lifting anything I can’t…or don’t want to) and/or power tools. Save the flowers and lavish dates. Just throw in a load of laundry from time to time, kill the spider in the bathroom, lug the 50-pound bag of dog food from my car, and repair the fence and I’ll be putty in your hands. It has nothing to do with clean laundry or dead spiders or chores at all. It has everything to do with my partner meeting me halfway and being responsible. Which is why there’s something incredibly sexy to me about Chris changing diapers, prepping bottles, and making silly faces and babbling in baby voices to our girl.
4. There’s no use planning. – As soon as we found out our little shrimp would be a girl, I waddled my way through our local baby store with Chris to carefully select everything we would surely need to properly raise our daughter. We read reviews and worked our hardest at forecasting what our daughter would need and want in her room and elsewhere in the house. And what we ended up with was a bassinet that she won’t sleep in, a sling carrier she screams about, blankets she won’t keep herself swaddled in, a bouncer chair she’s afraid of, and a bather she slides out of. What can you do but adapt? We let her sleep in a travel bassinet instead–one that was handed down to us from some friends…which we almost didn’t accept because we didn’t think we’d need it. Pffft. We shelled out quintuple the price for an Ergo Baby carrier, agreed to not swaddle her, don’t use the vibration feature of the bouncer chair (less scary that way), and, thankfully, Daddy dons a bathing suit and jumps in the tub to hold our girl while I bathe her. So glad we planned for all this.
5. You have to try pretty hard to screw up this whole parenthood thing. – A baby has four basic needs: to eat, to sleep, to have a clean diaper, and to be loved. Fulfilling those needs really isn’t that difficult. I know. It’s only been a few weeks. More experienced parents will likely beg to differ. I’ve mostly just added this one to the list so that I can look back in a few years and mock myself and my naivety.
6. Taking care of (and being kind to) yourself is almost as important as taking care of your child. – During my first few days home after being discharged from the labor and delivery ward, I would find my stomach grumbling only to realize that it was 4pm and I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Which did nothing to help my mood. Not to mention the dizziness my anemia was causing. Chris took that opportunity to remind me that I’m important, too. And I can’t care for her if I’m not caring for myself. It took some coordinating and planning in the first couple of weeks but I’m easier on myself now. I find “me” time–to unwind and be myself. I find “us” time–to maintain a bond with my husband. I find time to nap. I eat three meals a day (usually), get at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to shower, and remember to get dressed every day instead of sitting on the couch in pajamas. The icing on the cake will be when I can finally return to the gym…I miss zumba sooooo much and look forward to shedding the 30 pounds I need to drop to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight.
7. Setting goals is important. – I set at least one per day. Easy stuff. Goals that can be attained while tending to the whims of a newborn. Some of my goals over this past month have included…paint my toenails, take a walk, have dinner ready when hubby gets home from work, schedule the pediatrician appointment, clean the bathroom. I don’t get too mad at myself if the laundry doesn’t get folded or dog fur rolls like tumbleweeds across the floor because I couldn’t get to vacuuming. There’s always tomorrow.
8. Work isn’t so bad after all. – Before delivery day, I was counting the days until maternity leave from work would begin. Now, four weeks in to my leave, I find myself hunting for a reason to leave the house each day–even for just a few minutes. One day, I packed the baby into her stroller and walked to the mailbox down the street to mail birth announcements. It took about ten minutes but doing so made me feel like I had a purpose. And that made my day completely, even if my only “purpose” was to turn off the trashy daytime talk shows for a bit. I have begrudgingly realized that going to work is a wonderful excuse to leave the house and am (somewhat) looking forward to returning.
9. Life is too short. – The feeling of “when can I get back to work and return to normal society?!” is coupled with a feeling of “OMG there’s only two more weeks of maternity leave…where did the time go?!” I’m not sure where the time went but I’ve got a month-old baby now. (Or is a 4-week-old not really a month-old child? Maybe she’ll be a month on June 7…?) Anyway, my point is, it’s a blaring reminder that time is fleeting. And I’m doing my best to embrace every minute and be thankful for all the highs and lows.
10. Motherhood is amazing. – I know this because she snuggles her face into my neck when I burp her mid-feeding. And because she grips my finger tightly when I’m getting her dressed. And because she stops crying the minute she hears my voice or feels my arms around her. I talk to her about important stuff all the time. I tell her that she has to take my dating advice when she’s older because “I know stuff…after all, I picked your dad.” I tell her that nothing bad can ever happen as long as I’m with her. I tell her I love her more than anything. I confide in her that I’m still trying to figure out how to be a mom and promise her that I’ll get it down pat before she’s old enough to notice that I have no clue what I’m doing.