Recently I went to visit my friend with a newborn baby. While he slept comfortably in her severely tired arms for much of the entire visit, I knew all too well that the second I walked out the door he would likely go into a screaming frenzy that would take hours — and even more patience — to soothe. And he did, I later heard.
Between engorged breasts, no sleep and the constant demands of an infant, I felt my once cool-as-a-cucumber friend was trying with all her might to hold onto a thread of sanity. It reminded me how hard those early months are and how I’m not sure if I’m ready to go back to them just yet (or maybe ever).
Without a support team
It helps that my friend is almost 30, married to the love of her life and living on a more than comfortable income. She also has a world of support surrounding her and her new bundle, as most friends in her inner circle are now parents. When I was a brand-new mommy, my circumstances were rather different. I was 24, which somehow sounds much older than it felt. I’d been living with my boyfriend of six months for just three. We were broke, party animals to say the least and didn’t have a single friend with a baby (and wouldn’t for years to come).
When I look back, it makes sense that my adjustment to motherhood was like getting punched in the face — over and over and over. Now at 28 with a 3-year-old who I adore, babies are popping up like wildflowers. And I find myself watching, fascinated, as each mother finds her way. But somehow, regardless of life situations, it’s often with the same mind-blowing smack of reality that hit me back in the winter of 2010, when the isolation felt colder than the blizzard in Baltimore.
Give me a break
Being a parent is hard, but being a new parent is a butt-kicking of a different color. Whether you’ve been around babies for your entire life — or never held one — you’re suddenly saddled with the weight of being the mom.
You can’t run and hide from it, and you can’t even walk away for a while. And more than the feedings and the early mornings and the actual physical pain of becoming a parent, it’s the never-ending nature of motherhood that shocked the heck out of me and took me years to embrace.
It’s during those transitions that you really get to understand who you are as a parent — and a human being, for that matter. But at times, it can feel like you’re disappearing. Personally, I didn’t know myself without my friends, late nights and freedom… sweet, sweet freedom. I thought that was the essence of life. I found my way, but it took time and god-forsaken patience that I had to reach to the depths of my soul to find.
Love from a little one
Though being the parent of an infant felt like my Everest, I’m infatuated with being the parent of a young child. Having a daughter who hugs me 47 times a day and holds my face with her tiny hands like she just won the best prize in the claw-machine is nothing short of wondrous. It’s gratifying and life-changing and though I don’t love it all day every day, I can honestly say, I love it.
Now that my daughter talks a mile a minute, goes to preschool, has interests and a radiant personality, I finally feel like I’m able to take time for me — that person who threw her wants into the backseat with that first hungry cry — and I’m embracing it. I’ve pursued my two ideal career paths, writing and teaching yoga. I’m beginning to give more attention to friendships. I’m allowing myself a bit more emotional freedom that just didn’t feel possible as the mother of an infant with a full-time working husband. And with that, I finally feel like I’m enjoying parenthood the way some people say they do from the get-go.
In a good place
While part of me wishes I was jealous of that newborn baby stage, I’m just not. Perhaps it hit me too hard when it hit, or perhaps I’m just finally in a good place where I feel like a content parent and a happy person, and am terrified of it all falling apart. When I think about having another child, I instantly get these pangs of anxiety that take me back to those early months when I truly didn’t have time to think about anything but diaper rash or nipple cream. And the first thought that comes into my mind is, “Having an infant kind of sucks!” It’s not about the work of it but rather it’s about wanting something else.
I love my daughter, probably to a fault, but I’m not sure I’ll ever want another baby. Years zero to three provided a great lesson and I’m proud of what I put into them. I put my whole heart in them. I laid it on the line and said, “Take it — it’s yours.” And I’ll continue to do so every year that passes. But because of it, I’ve learned what I want to give to myself — that same trust, love and compassion to embrace my life and paint it how the colors of my heart tell me. Perhaps it’d be another great lesson in perseverance, but I’m just not sure I want one.