Monday, April 6, 2015

5 Things I Wish I Knew before Having a Baby

You've got a seat squished between two strangers. Your stomach is churning a bit from the less than gourmet food you slammed down on your way to the gate. Your breath is starting to quicken, your heart racing, as you realize you that you're pretty much trapped. You can't really move. You're breathing everyone else's dirty air. You get the feeling you might have to pee. And just when you feel you can't take it any more...

"Attendants, prepare the cabin for landing."

Have you ever breathed such a sigh of relief? Well, that's how I feel today, having emerged from the deep; my son's first 7 months of life. He's finally laughing and cruising around and fun to take places, so I feel like I'm out of the clouds. Sure, the postpartum depression played a role in this prior "trapped" feeling, but in actuality, I legit had no idea what I was getting into when that little stick give me the thumbs up. I feel cheated that some Fairy Godmother of Mothering didn't leave this list in my mailbox before my husband and I started going for the gold. So, please, enjoy this hard-earned advice from someone who was in the dark for far too long.

Why can't babies be born THIS age?
1. Your life is not over. 
Yes, it feels like someone took a hammer to your entire life - from how you arrange your day, to where you shop, to what you expect from yourself and others - and shattered it like an eggshell, and demanded you to put it back together. Well, what they don't tell you, is that you don't have to put it back exactly how it was. As long as the yolk isn't spilling out all over, you're good. And please, spare yourself the whole "my life will never be the same!" tantrum, where you sink into a depression about never having time alone or a full night's sleep. Don't do that to yourself, because that's a hard spiral to stop. Look around, and see that you still have friends, family, a home, interests, places you want to go, dreams you want to accomplish...all with the addition of something that makes all of that even more special. You have a new life. And you wouldn't have it any other way, and you know it.

2. A baby changes you.
Yeah, there's the flab...the stretch marks. Whatever. That's no big deal to how much a baby actually changes you. He changes who you are. What you value. Your work ethic. How you treat others. After having William, I have taken jobs with fervor, no longer thinking about missed Bravo shows, but about making my baby proud and giving him security. I'm no longer scared of opportunities or conflicts, because, after pushing a nearly 9-pound baby out of you (in my case, with no meds!), why would you be? Nothing really intimidates you. You have so much more confidence, and go into every situation with a gentle ease knowing inside, you are a mom. You take better care of yourself (at least as much as you can in the moments you're not killing yourself over his wellbeing), make sounder decisions, get really clear about what you want your future to manifest (I've had some of the best opportunities of my career since becoming a mom). You find out you have more love to give, and it spills over into other relationships. There's absolutely no doubt, you come out of pregnancy as a better person. 

I need to feel like I'm a part of something bigger (with Geena Davis)
3. If you want to work, that's okay.
When I quit my job as a radio host just days before delivery, I was under the impression that hey, if being pregnant made me want to call in sick every day (oh, I was so miserable!), then having a kid would give me all sorts of reasons not to show up! Not true, because a) being pregnant makes you feel not only tired but hormonal, and b) as I said in #2, you have a different outlook on work once you have the baby. You either want to work your booty off being a stay-at-home mom, or hit the workforce the moment cabin fever sets in! What I didn't realize until my son was 8 months old (that's days ago), is that, it's okay to leave him under the care of others. It's okay to fulfill your own dreams! Now, I get to enjoy a "break" from baby for few hours, five days a week. What works for me, is those are either hours spent running my business, or freelance jobs; both of which are flexible, so I can still have as much time as I want with my son. So, if SAHM life is not right for you (I definitely couldn't hang!), find a way to work that works for you; that will fulfill you and sustain your family in the long-term. And that is NOTHING to feel guilty about.

4. Your husband won't be the perfect dad.
Even though he thinks you're the perfect mother. As new moms, our expectations for our partner are way too rose-colored-glasses when we're pregnant. I actually feel bad now that I've "awakened," to realize that ever since the baby was born, I've been keeping a secret scorecard on my husband. 
He didn't wake up with the baby this morning, even though I did the overnight feeding
Or I called the exterminator and also put the baby to bed, so he needs to mow the lawn and cancel that subscription, and also put the baby to bed tomorrow
Date nights are when you remember, you're on the same team
Or how about this doozy:  He told me to go have time for myself, yet when I got back, he hadn't even put the lunch stuff away or done the dishes, even though I always multitask while I'm with the baby
Me: 3, Dad: 0. But really, I'm the one who's losing. 
Instead of turning into my husband for support, using communication and setting mutual agreements, I turned to that toxic devil Resentment, which made me feel uber unappreciated, overworked, and alone. Once I dropped the expectations, and realized we are both doing the best we can with our own skill-set (like I'm just super-awesome at multitasking, whereas he spends so much quality time with baby that he doesn't get around to the dishes), I realized I had a partner, and a darn good one at that.

5. You can afford THAT.
The massage. The weekend away. Whatever "that" is for you, and your husband - you can afford it. Doing things that de-stress, and make you feel like you, and make you two feel like a couple, are as important as any other bill you have, so don't guilt yourself over spending it. My husband would often urge me to go get a massage, to which I used to stupidly reply, "I shouldn't spend money on that, when we have to pay the babysitter three times a week now that I'm working." THEN I'd get mad at him for not planning anything for me! Let go of those money issues. You can always save your money in other places (buy used kids stuff, for one! Whenever I see my friends buying baby clothes at Nordstrom's, I always think, "Haven't they heard of Kid to Kid?" or "Wouldn't they rather use that money on themselves?"). 

The first few months of motherhood would have been a lot easier if I didn't think the world was ending, or that I had to be chained to my home, with blinders on toward the baby. I am listening to my son let out a high-pitched squeal through a smile half the size of his face, and had my baby come out like this, all wacky and explorative, maybe I wouldn't have needed all this advice. But since we all start out with a non-encouraging newborn, new moms need all the help we can get.

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