Warning: the following post may not be suitable for people without children, or those for whom it has been over two years since the child’s birth and for whom words like ‘newborn’, ‘postpartum’, and ‘colic’ do not cause flinching.
A little over a year ago, I read a blog post by a mother who had reached the one-year post-partum milestone. She was honest. She was tired and transformed, and her marriage had been tested. Her words frightened me a little. I was staring down the biggest challenge of my life (or as much of it that was visible beyond my awkward mountain-belly). Still, I was in pre-baby denial that I or my husband would succumb to any of the tsunamis that seemed to crush and bash and sometimes entirely obliterate lesser, weaker, and inferior new parents. We were going to rock this parenting shiz like nobody’s business and barely notice the shift to our new lifestyle.
Yeah, well I am a dipshit about things sometimes.
There are a lot of things I didn’t know a year ago. Such as:
1) Newborns really need to stay the eff inside of a uterus for another three months, but because of humans’ brain size, they can’t. This sucks, because I am not a uterus even though I tried really damn hard to sound and act like one. S was not fooled. She screamed a lot for 3 (5) months.
2) Once you have a baby of your own, a sort of science fiction movie effect happens when you look at all other infants and children and somehow your child’s face is superimposed on them all: at the grocery store, in the swimming pool, on the nightly news. This explains the mothers’ and grandmothers’ behaviors in the checkout line at stores, but for awhile I was mystified that war continued in a world with mothers and children.
3) Oatmeal looks a lot like boogers. FYI.
4) Kids can start walking at 9 1/2 months.
5) Babies loooooooove plastic bags so much that you actually need the reminder-of-death-by-suffocation warning on all bags (that I used to mock before). Plus, babies think toys are dumb after 5 minutes, but the box and ribbon and plastic or tissue paper they come in are awesome forever.
6) It’s possible you will not have sex for three-month stretches, even if that sounds like misery to you pre-baby. Dammit. (Though, sometimes the thought of getting pregnant again might alone be an excellent form of birth control.)
7) Drive-thrus are not just for lazy people. They are for sleep-deprived mothers with baby-vomit-stained sweatpants on, who forget to put a bra on their size HH leaking boobs, and really really really dear jesus help me, need a cup of coffee, a muffin, and 20 minutes of sitting still.
8) It’s true. They do *grow so fast*. They are *so big* every time you see them after a couple weeks. Your feeble parent-brain will make you repeat these cliches over and over.
9) You think you know what you will do when you have a baby: nurse for 3 years, not nurse past 6 months, never talk in baby-talk, always get down on the floor and babble and play with your exploring child, co-sleep with your baby, put your baby in a crib, never be the mom with the screaming baby, never be the mom with the screaming toddler, never let your child watch TV, never give your child whiskey to help them sleep, etc. However, sleep-deprivation torture changes your story. But most importantly, you haven’t met your baby yet. Turns out they are an important variable in this parenting equation.
10) It is hard. You figure it out. Your instincts are right. Follow them when other parents or doctors or lactation consultants or gas station attendants give you advice. You know your child best. Remember that.
We celebrated S’s first year with a playdate with our best buds, a couple of beers the night before with some good buds, and some low sugar whole grain carrot cake (most of this health fest ended up on the floor…OKAY…I ate half the cake) with grandparents. It wasn’t all about S. She has done some hard work this year. We have, too, and we celebrated the fact that we did not kill, maim, divorce, or punch each other (well, S punched me and C a couple of times, but she didn’t mean it…I don’t think.) And we celebrated our new family that is learning to be a family all the time. I will say what everyone has ever said to me about having kids: It’s worth it.
S is hilarious sometimes. She is curious and hyper. She is adorable and strong. She doesn’t have any brakes, so she has lots of bruises. She likes birds and plants and dirt. She hugs teddy bears and tries to talk to little people who are her size. I have to run to keep up with her now. I like her. I am sorry that she seems to have inherited my flat butt.
One thing that has changed now that S is one is that I am no longer a NEW MOM. Sure, I still have moments when the gas pedal on my VW bug of a brain is pushed flat out as I chug up a steep learning curve. Most days I have an “oh shit!” moment when I realize something like the fact that I am going to have to teach my child to sit on a toilet and let things loose or that I am going to have to buy shoes and coats that fit EVERY YEAR until she’s 17. Or 20. Twenty? I don’t even know what that number means. But, I have been broken-in and I’ve mastered some basics like Mom to Mom sales, multi-tasking, planning 2 months in advance or seizing opportunities at the last minute with an abrupt change of plans. I know how to pack a diaper/lunch/toy/medication/change of clothes bag every time we leave the house. I can’t flash the New Mom Card every time I am late or leave the windows down on the car in a rainstorm anymore (though, I now have a Toddler Card, which gets me a few places).
It’s been a year of initiation and sacrifice. It’s been a year of rapid growth. I am truly a different person, and I am still struggling with that, but I am thrilled to be moving on from The Baby Year, because I feel like what is ahead is a whole lot more sharing of who each of us is (all three) and getting to know each other. S rides along with me in the jogging stroller while I get some fresh air and a light workout. She walks around the garden saying, “Woww!” and eating dirt as I weed and plant seeds. She listens when I talk sometimes and I do the same when she babbles something very exciting she wants to share. It’s good to be here. We have been ‘crushed’ and ‘bashed’ and we are not ‘the shiz’ we thought we were, but we are doing OK. I’m glad we made it!
How could you look at those little cheeks and not say, “It’s worth it!”?