(Image compliments of lindsey dutra photography. She’s phenomenal and put up with us to get the most amazing shots ever – this is our sneak preview and I can’t wait to see the rest!)
Twelve months have passed and I still feel woefully underprepared for parenthood but I could fill books with what I’ve learned so far. I feel overwhelmed by the precious task of raising a child but look forward to every day of it. I feel so very old and so very young all at the same time. I look forward to having another baby in the future but am still reeling from the trauma of the first. The day my son was born the worst day of my life in many ways, but also one which I will always recall with joy in my heart because it was the start of the best time in our lives.
I’ve found parenthood to be a beautiful paradox and a wonder.
They told me that the moment he was born, I would forget all else. I did not, and honestly couldn’t even open my eyes to look at him out of sheer exhaustion, pain, and confusion. They told me there would be an instant connection. There was not. They told me breastfeeding was a great bond between mother and child and I would treasure that time. It was not, I did not, and instead spent months watching the clock with dread as feeding time approached. They told me going back to work would be hard. It was not. They said motherhood would be instinctual. It was not and is not, and it is one daunting task after another. Part of me feels lied to and confused about how demanding motherhood is, physically and emotionally, and the other part of me understands why no one talks about it. It’s because it’s indescribable. Indescribable hope, joy, confusion, wonder, and happiness. There is no way to communicate what parenthood is really like. They did not tell me that day by day, I would love my son more and more until I can barely look at him without feeling my heart burst. But I do. They did not tell me about the pride I’d feel when he takes every shaky step. But I do and tears fill my eyes. They did not tell me that I would jump out of bed and run into his room in the middle of the night just because I miss him and want to see his little chest rise and fall. But I do. They told me that leaving him would be hard and then get a little easier. It is the opposite – it gets harder every time. They did not tell me how appreciative I’d be and how in awe of and in love with the man I married. But I am. They did not tell me that I would be physically ill at the thought of anything happening to a child, anyone’s child. But I am. They did not tell me about the wonder, about the excitement, about the inexplicable joy I feel more intensely with every day. I love it.
And I understand now why people move past the agony, the heartache, the questions, the confusion and do it all over again. Little by little, the joy grows, the love grows, and the pain is dulled with happy thoughts and soon, you see why it is all worth it. You do not forget, you realize it’s worth it. To experience parenthood is to glimpse God’s nature.
Here are ten things, in no particular order, that I’ve learned:
1. Record the little things. I bought a baby book for Saurus. Haven’t touched it. What I did do is start a blog for him. It’s private and I only gave the password to immediate family. It’s an easy way to update pictures, funny stories, etc from wherever I am (using a phone app) and then the grandparents can see it too and I don’t have to remember what happened when and who I told about it. It’s something as simple as “went to the aquarium today” with a iphone snapshot. And now that I am (maybe, hopefully soon) starting on his baby book, I can look back through the posts and see dates and activities.
2. Organize your pictures. There will be thousands. Once a month, I take everything from our phones and camera and put them on a hard drive, organized by date (or big event if there is one). I also take the time to weed out the truly awful ones and edit them and add a little monogram of the Saurus’ initials, month and year at the bottom. Because my memory is poor and I don’t want to go through photos 20 years from now and think, “now which kid is this?” or “is this one even mine?” Chances are it’s going to happen anyway, but I’m trying and it’s much easier to do this little-by-little than in one lump.
3. Buy a waterproof matress pad. For your bed. No matter your stance on co-sleeping, at some point the tiny human will be in your bed and at some point some bodily fluid will leak from it. This is not something I wanted in my mattress but sadly it took us months to realize how to avoid it.
4. Don’t be scared. Parenthood is scary. Parenting books are even scarier. God is bigger.
5. You can never have too many board books. Or burp rags. Or cuddles.
6. Keep an extra outfit for everyone in the car. Sooner or later you’re going to need it. Like when you’re on your way to family photos and drop a cake in your lap.
7. You’ll feel like the worst parent and the best parent all at the same time. I think we’ve covered that. Along the same lines, accept and move on. And forget any shred of pride or dignity that you once had. It’ll make things easier.
8. Be nice. Be nice to your child. Be nice to your spouse. Be nice to yourself. Be nice to others who parent differently. Be nice to others who think you should parent differently.
9. Go through baby stuff once a month. Rotate toys and clothes and weed out things that just aren’t being used any more. After about 6 months, we were overrun with baby paraphernalia and I had to stop it before we were completely overwhelmed and no one ever heard from us again.
10. Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh. Don’t you know everyone wants to laugh? There is nothing that warms a mama’s heart more than hearing her baby laugh. It’s totally worth whatever silly move you have to do to get it.
and one more for good measure:
11. Find a village. It truly takes one to raise a child (and to raise parents to be able to raise a child). It doesn’t matter if this is a small village consisting of you, your husband, and your dog or a huge one consisting of a literal village. But find one and use it. And let your child use it.