23 September 2018

What I've Learned about Parenthood So Far

Recently, my little sister said to me, "You know, I think you've changed for the better since becoming a mom."

And, in typical human fashion, my instinct is to bluster, "What? I haven't changed at all! I was always amazing. What could possibly need changing about my pre-mom self?"

But we all know that's not representative of the truth. It's a good, good thing indeed if parenthood can be a means of sanctification. I've got a long, long way to go, and I'm glad I get to grow and change and learn right along with Cyrus.

Here's some of what I've learned in the first half a year:

1. Don't feel sorry for people who help out moms of newborns when they come home from the hospital.

I just recently found myself thinking, randomly, wow! Those family members and friends who come over to help with housework and bring food and help with the baby right after the baby's born are so selfless! That is such a challenging time of life, so painful and difficult, and it's so amazing that they will give their time and sacrifice in that way.

Then I caught myself. Wait a minute. What nonsense!! I was, momentarily, looking at life with the newborn from the point of view of the person who gave birth to said newborn. Who, in my case, ended up back at the hospital several times after that and probably ate more pills than actual food in the first two weeks because I was so sick.

It suddenly dawned on me (only about a week ago) that my sisters and my mom who helped clean my house and make food and wash dishes and hold a sleeping 7 lb newborn...actually, none of those tasks feel nearly so terrible and insurmountable when your body isn't trying to kill you.

At the time I felt so bad for needing so much help because, in some way, I sort of imagined that everyone felt like I did and I couldn't imagine how they were surviving.

Only now, with a brain and body that actually work, I have realized that their tasks were actually and easy. And I don't feel as bad about needing help anymore.

1a. Help out your friend or family member who has a baby.

Probably the smallest and easiest of tasks is still easier for you than it is for her. On another note, if she's getting sicker and sicker instead of better and better...send her back to the hospital right away. Just a PSA.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to when my sisters have babies and I can help them out. I think a newborn must be even more amusing and fun if you didn't give birth to him. Sort of like a wedding. Your own wedding is kind of high-pressure, so in comparison, every wedding where you aren't actually making a lifelong commitment is comparatively delightful.

2. Babies are more expensive than you think they are.

Or, more accurately, more expensive than I thought they were. You may begin laughing at me now, and I deserve every bit of it, but I honestly did not think having a baby would be expensive. I knew that later, kids cost all sorts of money in various ways. But as babies, I figured that the only reason babies were expensive was because parents bought clothes and toys and nursery furniture and cute crib sheets for their babies. Non-essentials.

We were not in a very good place financially when Cyrus was born, but I figured I knew the secret--just don't buy your baby any clothes or toys and you'll be fine! I thought I knew all about how to have a baby on the cheap!

I was a bit clueless. Do you know how many vaccinations babies get in the first six months? Or how much they cost? And medical care is comparatively inexpensive in our country. And the passport application and the visa application fees. Oh, must apply for an SSN, too! It's not the clothes and the toys and the luxury's basic medical care and basic legal paperwork that makes a baby cost so much. It's made me appreciate my childhood vaccinations...and dental work...and braces...and all that stuff so much more.

He's worth every bit and more, and I'm so excited to spend money on him for the rest of his life, it's just that I didn't realize that the up-front costs of a baby were quite so high. I figured the costs came later, when they were larger. Lesson learned!

3. Just about anything that's really important to you...can still remain important to you after parenthood.

It's almost frightening how often, before parenthood, you are warned that everything will change, that you'll be wearing sloppy, dirty clothes and won't have time to do all the things you once loved.

Time is at a greater premium. Especially because if Cyrus goes to bed at 7, so do I, because I need what sleep I can get...but if he throws up on me, I change my shirt. right away. Wearing clothes that are comfortable and look nice and are clean is important to me, and nothing about that preference has changed.

I still read. My house is still clean. I still do my Pilates. We're still early everywhere we go. I almost never watch a tv show...but that wasn't one of my favorite things ever pre-baby, either. Stuff does fall by the wayside, but it's mostly the stuff that wasn't all that important or beloved to begin with.

For the record, I did tell Angel he probably shouldn't sign up for three races that took place shortly after baby's due date, and he didn't listen. I think next time...he'll know that that's a bit unrealistic.

4. This particular baby loves "new" and "different" things so much.

Basically, figure out what your baby likes, and run with it. Cyrus loves new and different people. I swear, he's happiest in elevators because that's where he gets to meet strangers the most. He loves the grocery store and the mall because they are so exciting.

Many babies may love staying home in familiar surroundings with routines and their moms and families. But I think the most important thing I have learned so far is that don't worry so much about what "babies love" and figure out what your particular baby appreciates. Cyrus loves new things to the point where we put away various toys and give him a different one each day...or give him empty pop bottles, shoe boxes, spatulas, etc.

5. The time/space continuum is different after baby.

It's amazing what you can get done before seven a.m. when your baby thinks that 5 a.m. is the time that the day begins. It's fascinating how sometimes the whole family falls asleep on the living room floor at 7:30 p.m. Waking up 4 or 5 times a night with a hungry baby sometimes leaves you somewhat disoriented as to what time you should actually eat breakfast.

One day you absolutely cannot leave the house without his pacifier, but by the next day, he thinks the pacifier is just for little babies and how dare you think he's a small baby who needs a pacifier.

Some days are slow and some days pass at lightning speed. Time is just different, now.

6. You get braver over time.

At first, even taking care of the baby by myself in my own home was scary. Then it was normal. Then taking him on outings was scary. Then that was normal. Then taking him on a roadtrip was scary. It was fine. Now I've got plans in place for his first international trip.

Everything is scary at the beginning but it doesn't stay that way.

7. You can no longer delete even the blurry and silly looking photos.

If it were a blurry photo of yourself or if it were someone else in the family making a weird, unphotogenic face, you would delete the photo, no problem, saving your digital storage for better photos. But even the worst photos of baby are still for some reason...amazing.


So much more to learn!!
Salo said...

I actually LOVE it to help my friends or sisters-in-law with newborn babys!
My kids are already big (13, 11 and 7 years old) and it is so nice to hold and snuggle a baby again, which you can hand back to its mom, when its hungry.
Greetings from Germany, Salo

Unknown said...

I've really been learning more about your point #1 this time around. I know a lot more people (especially more families) after giving birth the second time because we've lived here longer, and so many of our friends have begged and pleaded to help out-I'm a pretty independent person so my instinct is to decline, but I started saying "yes" to people and saw how much they have delighted in helping out (a huge help actually doesn't directly involve them caring for the newborn, it involves friends entertaining the toddler so that the newborn and I can get rest and/or just breathe!).

Carolann Chambers said...

I am so happy for you and your family. I, like you, also assumed that the costs associated with having a baby were the things that people buy! This is good to know! But like you said, worth every penny. I love to hear when new moms also do things that bring them joy like reading and doing pilates. I am sure it also makes you a better mom.

Kay R. said...

Ive heard the "babies are so expensive" so many times in the last few weeks. Thank God they're so cute and cuddly!! hehe

Kristin said...

What you mentioned about expenses..this is why people in the military can comfortably have so many babies and why people usually have kids while they're in the military, instead of after they get out: it's free. You don't get paid for having kids (like some people think), but you can have them at no cost.
And, yep, aside from the fact that I don't go to work, my routine hasn't really changed that much. Just less sleep.

Callie said...

I love this post so much! It brings me right back to my new parenthood days. And yes to #3! People always ask me how I have time to blog and read still, and I always just say that you make time for things that are important to you. ����‍♀️

Brita Long said...

These are such sweet lessons, and I love all of these pictures!