New Parent? I Promise, It Will Get Better.

As my due date with my second child nears, I am not sure if this article is intended more for myself or all the new moms I work with or moms I haven’t met yet. Many who know me personally know I was not warm and fuzzy around children. I always felt like I had a hard time connecting with kids. As my friends started to have kids, I felt like they could see right through my act of trying to engage their children and know I had no idea what I was doing. If I am honest, even after having my own son I sometimes still have a difficult way with other people’s children. For a while my husband and I were not sure we were going to choose to have children, but we traveled, ate some good meals, and once we decided we were on board, the internal switch was turned on and we were “ready.”

During my first pregnancy I can’t tell you how many times I heard the joke, “Having a baby is tough, that is why they give you nine months to prepare.” Or, “Enjoy your dinner, go to the movies now before you can never go again.” Boy, they were not kidding! (Though we recently just went to the movies AND a nice dinner). When our son was first born, those were the hardest, scariest, and most challenging days and months. Having my son and being responsible for this little tiny being was completely overwhelming. Not to mention all of the hormones created during pregnancy and childbirth come rushing out at a rapid speed with no warning, complete with a baby blues package of tears and plaguing thoughts such as, “what kind of Mother can I be that I am crying so much when I should (there it is again) be happy I have this beautiful baby?” I was lucky that it was in fact the baby blues, which dissolved pretty much at the two week mark, though I was constantly judging myself, not trusting my own judgment, and confused as to why others I knew who had children described the instant joy and happiness, where all that kept coming to my head was wow, this is really hard. No one mentioned that it is totally normal if the joy and happiness takes some time to grow and build and that the baby won’t actually start engaging with you for months. You hear about the diapers, getting peed on by the baby boys, spit up, drool, boogies, and the nose frida. You hear about the lack of sleep. But, experiencing the sleep deprivation is a whole other experience. I remember how inadequate I felt so many times, which was further challenged after  my maternity leave was over and I was handing my son off to daycare five days a week. At the time it felt like I was a failure. I remember taking any tiny suggestion or recommendation the daycare providers would give me as a criticism. I totally disregarded the fact that they worked in the field and cared for hundreds or more children in their careers. I was totally focused on anything I believed that I was not doing right, which at the time felt like everything. Life felt really hard.

Fast forward and now my son is almost 2 1/2 years old. Recently I was reflecting back on the earlier times, which maybe has to do with my nostalgia that he continues to grow out of his clothes, his piggy toes are not so small anymore, and he is talking, or, more likely the fact that we are expecting another one so soon. Stepping back, I cannot believe how much more confident I have grown. I have learned to have more patience with myself and reminding myself that parenting is a totally new job. A job where you have new responsibilities or the rules change daily, weekly, or monthly, just as you get used to the way things are going. Now if the daycare workers give me a suggestion, I am much more comfortable telling them what I was doing, even if it the complete opposite of what they are suggesting. I am willing to be more vulnerable. I don’t care (well don’t care as much) what they think of parenting, which is interesting because inside I can feel how important this was to me when I first took him to daycare. It is a hard job for new parents. I cannot say that enough because I feel like this was under-reported to me. If you are a parent (or consider becoming one, beware!), it brings out just about every insecurity you ever had and multiplies it rapidly. Though, it is totally worth it. I truly experience that happiness, joy, and feeling proud every day, just as my friends had all described. I literally feel it in my heart. Having my son was the most rewarding experience that I have had in my life. Finally, one thing people told me prior to having him rang true. Every day with my son is more and more rewarding and my love for him is indescribable.