Monday, March 19, 2012

It will get better, BUT enjoy each moment!

I'll start this post with a disclaimer.  I have one child, and he is only just short of 14 months old.  My experiences are only my own, I'm sure if you would ask my husband, who has the same child, his experiences would vary vastly from mine.  But, I just have a few things to say.

I read this post recently, an article titled, 'It will get better.'  The article discussed a lot of the hardships of being a parent, the long, sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the laundry, the uncertainty of what your child needs.  While I have certainly experienced ALL of those points mentioned, I somewhat disagree with the general tone of the article.

It seems like, when people talk about parenting, specifically in the early days, they end up on either one of two roads:  the 'it will get better, this too shall pass' path, or the 'savor every sweet moment, because it goes by so quickly' path.  In a year plus of having my child, in addition to all the reading I did prior to his birth, I don't think I've ever come across anything that melds the two sufficiently.

One of the biggest hardships as a parent in the early months is the lack of sleep, there is no question to this.  I had a conversation with my dad a few months after little man was born about this exact topic.  Normally, my dad is a fairly quiet guy on the topic of parenting, and he approached it with a simple question, 'Did you ever think it would be that hard?'  And no, I hadn't ever in my mind imagined how difficult it would be.  Waking up in the middle of the night, stumbling over to the bassinet in our room, to soothe our crying baby, after we'd done the same 6 other times that night, barely being able to keep my eyes open much less provide for his needs, was the hardest thing I've ever done.  My dad opened up and commiserated with me that day about how it is something that you can never truly understand, no matter how many times you are told, until you go through it.  

Now here comes the BUT.  I have found, in my humble, short experience as being a parent, that I could make those times at night, those moments, either ten times worse, or ten times better, depending on my attitude.  Sure, there were times where I had enough, I needed a moment to breathe to myself, EVERY parent has these, where I needed to gently hand our son to my husband and step outside for a few minutes to catch my breath.  Again, that is normal.  But there was one thing that helped me from getting to that point.  

I longed for this child.

There is no other way to express it, and even putting that statement down into words, while simple, brings tears to my eyes because only I can understand the depth of how much I needed him.  So, in the middle of each night, when his little newborn bleats emerged, and I was up after only getting 30 minutes to an hour of sleep some nights, I took each moment to breathe in his smell, cuddle his face, hold his little hands.  Even now, some nights, when he still needs to be rocked to sleep, I hold his little body to mine and pray to whatever god I believe in at the moment in thanks of giving me such a wonderful gift, because this child means more to me that I ever thought my emotions were capable of.  

It was that simple for me, it was that realization that made it click.  Even in those times where I could barely function, I never wished for my previous life back, I never thought of missing the things Ms. Corneal's article discussed, such as having adult conversations, going to the gym, leaving the house without a diaper bag.  Because as one of my parenting idols, Mayim Bialik, mentioned before in an interview, I surrendered myself to the process.  I gave in completely to the fact that it was going to be a new normal for me to be exhausted, and that isn't even a good enough word for the fatigue.  I was going to be the person who gave 100% to my child and put my needs aside for however long he needed it, whenever he needed it.

Sure, there were nights where it was horrible.  But I tried to enjoy every stinky, spitup filled, blowout diaper, pee everywhere, teary-eyed (his and mine!) moment of it, as much as I could.  And I'll tell you what, it has made me a better parent.  Because I recognize that in those moments, it was really hard, but I tried my hardest to make the best of it, and it DID eventually get better.  As with any aspect of parenting, with every child, once you get the hang of something, once you figure it out, it gets easier.  And if it is something you can't figure out, the 'tincture of time', as my wise mama calls it, kicks in and it somehow just works itself out.  

If I could tell my pre-baby self anything, it would be the content of this diatribe exactly.  I think that parenting has completely changed me as a person, and I am thankful for every bit of what I have learned so far in this process.  But I'll tell you what, it isn't all gloom and doom and people giving you scary predictions and advice about how it is horrible and how it will get better.  It also isn't only savoring every moment because, let's be honest, there are some moments that are just plain not fun.  It is a mix of both.  And you know what?  If you are trying to provide for your child to the best of your abilities, you're doing a good job, and it will get better, but do your best to try and enjoy each moment as much as you can.

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