I am what most people would consider fully adult. I am in my 30’s, have an established career and I don’t have to go looking for an “adutier adult” when things get hard. In fact, people come to me.
When I made the decision to have a child I believed I knew exactly what I was in for. I was raised in a large family, surrounded by kids. I tended children, changed diapers, watched babies grow to adults and all that comes in between. I have 28 nieces and nephews, so yeah, I knew all about kids and the time, effort, difficulty, and of course the joy and love that comes with the territory.
I’d like to tell you about all the things I “knew” before I started this journey.
What I knew
Everyone knows kids come with a lack of sleep, it's the one thing that everyone KNOWS. I actually laughed at friends who told me they were “just so tired all the time” and responded, “what did you think was gonna happen?” I was cocky, I actually believed myself to know more than these new parents.
It began while I was pregnant. Sleep was HARD and everyone said, “Sleep while you can.” But I couldn’t sleep well so I told myself this was just nature’s way of preparing me for the inevitable sleeplessness that comes with a newborn.
Then my son was born and everything got worse. Even when the baby was sleeping through the night, I couldn’t sleep. Instincts forced me to wake regularly if only to check his breathing. Sixteen months in and still my nights are shorter, interrupted and less restful.
I haven’t felt fully rested in nearly 2 years. A normal, healthy person simply cannot comprehend this level of exhaustion.
What I knew
“You can do everything you did before, just bring the baby along” I truly believed this. I didn’t just believe it, I KNEW it. We are an active couple, we run, bike, swim, hike, train dogs, and we go out with friends regularly. I knew there would be a period of adjustment, but we were sure we’d just keep on being us.
It is HARD to do all the things you did before with a baby, and some things you just cannot do. We’ve hiked glaciers, ridden bikes, and pushed the stroller while running. We’ve taken the baby out to dinner with friends, weddings, races, and more. However you cannot do everything like you did pre-baby. There is a level of planning involved; more time, more equipment, and sometimes you simply cannot include the baby. If you are not lucky enough to have family close by you look at finding a babysitter, and that’s a whole new ball game. Take into account added costs, already high levels of exhaustion, and friends who prefer childless outings. It would take unlimited funds, time, and trust in others to maintain the same lifestyle. Things change.
What I knew
My child will be a result of our parenting style. He will not have tantrums or act out, especially in public. Honestly what non-parent have never judged a parent who’s children are having a tantrum, belly down kicking and screaming in the grocery store isle? We’ve all judged those parents at some point in our lives. Just a little discipline, calm reasoning and boundaries, that’s all it takes, right?
Children, even babies, are real humans with their own personalities, and emotions. You cannot control them. Of course we have an effect on our children and can influence them for good or bad. But children will have moments no matter how stellar their parents are. Tantrums will happen as they learn to express themselves and test boundaries, and often that will happen in public. Now, I see a parent struggling with their child I will give an encouraging word where possible, or at least I’ll walk by feeling only understanding and empathy.
What I knew
Biology, hormones, and just simply being human set you up to love this little life more than you can possibly imagine. It happens differently for all of us, and barring any emotional, hormonal, or other issues, we will at some point be filled with an amazing ball of love that threatens to crush our hearts.
People say, “You don’t know love until you have a child” – I still believe that this isn’t true. If we have healthy emotional lives we know love. Honest, true, and incredibly deep love.
However, the type of love I feel for my child is different. You can be filled with rage and frustration and beg your partner to remove this crying terrorist from your sight and the instant they are gone want them back in your arms. We worry constantly. We want them to grow and develop so we can know who they will become while simultaneously wanting them to never leave whatever stage of growth they are in. The days and weeks are LONG but the months are SHORT. When we are separated from them we long for their scent to fill our lungs while they are cuddled in our arms. When we are with them we can’t stop watching them figure things out, test new boundaries, learn to smile and truly communicate, and do all the things growing children do.
What I didn’t know is how intensely this small little human could and would take over my life and through all the bad, I wouldn’t have it any other way.