When I first looked into my baby’s eyes seven months ago, I was over the moon with joy – and had no idea what was to come.
As I was pregnant with my first child I’ve had a lot of time dreaming about what life with a baby would be like. And when I first looked into his eyes seven months ago, I was over the moon with joy – and thankfully unaware of what was to come.
I’m confident I’m not alone in saying that my pre-baby vision of what my life as a parent would be like was much less complex (read: naive) than what reality provided. Here are just a few reasons why my idea of motherhood didn’t match reality at all.
- 1 I thought I could control my baby’s actions
- 2 I thought my baby was so adorable that I could never be frustrated
- 3 I didn’t think sleep deprivation would affect me
- 4 I knew I was going to fall in love with my baby, but I didn’t realize how aggressive that was
- 5 I didn’t think “baby weight” applied to me
- 6 I thought my relationship with my partner would not change
- 7 I didn’t expect how fleeting each phase would feel
I thought I could control my baby’s actions
I’m not sure why, but I had grandiose visions of being a magical baby whisperer, where my soothing voice and warm touch would automatically calm a troubled baby and draw crowds from around the world to witness the wonders of my charms. As it turns out, my nipples are the baby whisperers and I’m just really attached to them. Luckily they didn’t attract crowds.
I thought my baby was so adorable that I could never be frustrated
Don’t get me wrong – he’s adorable. But despite my love for him, it’s really hard for me to like him when he refuses go downstairs for his nap. Everyone. Single. Day. I really don’t like it when he bites me while breastfeeding. I also don’t like that he only sleeps two-hour routes at night; which means I only sleep two hours a night. So while there is so much I really and wholeheartedly like and love, I can come to terms with the fact that I genuinely and wholeheartedly dislike the feeling of my nipple being rubbed between the gums of an overtired infant.
I didn’t think sleep deprivation would affect me
Why I thought I was immune to the cognitive impairments that come from not being able to sleep through the night for months is truly a wonder. Again, in my pre-baby mindset, I seemed to believe that no matter how few hours I slept, the never-ending bliss of having a baby would spur me on. And while being a parent is absolutely amazing, not getting enough sleep has been really bad for my mental well-being. I find myself often irritable, anxious and frustrated. It can seem like I’m having horrible thoughts about the little old lady accidentally bumping into me while I’m walking by the stroller. I’m quickly brought back to reality and find myself begging the universe for forgiveness as the same tiny old lady lovingly says, “Beautiful mother, beautiful baby!” Sleep deprivation has, quite frankly, turned me into an asshole.
I knew I was going to fall in love with my baby, but I didn’t realize how aggressive that was
I’ve found my instinct to protect this baby to be strong and sometimes wild. I finally have an appreciation for the term “mama bear” and this newfound purpose as my baby’s guardian and protector can feel intense. Before the baby, I had images of boundless bliss, feeling light and serene with all the oxytocin pumping through my body. And while I certainly have light, blissful moments, I have to admit that I identify with them more often game of Thrones“Cersei Lannister. Before anyone gets any ideas, I just want to make it clear that I identify only with her fierce and uncompromising love for her children. I don’t identify with… you know… all that other stuff…
I didn’t think “baby weight” applied to me
I really thought I would be back in my old clothes within a few weeks of giving birth. I know there are a lot of people who do this – and that’s great! I’m just not one of them. And that’s… great. On the plus side, if foot size was some kind of currency, I’d be pretty wealthy.
I thought my relationship with my partner would not change
While my heart swells when I see him taking care of and raising our son, my anger also swells when I’m tired and the baby is restless and he’s asking innocently, “When was the last time you fed him?” I may be the only person on this planet who didn’t expect a child to change the dynamic between my partner and me; While it was positive in many ways, it was also very challenging. Let’s just say my eyes have gotten a lot of exercise with all the rolling they’ve been doing over the last six months (I’ll blame sleep deprivation for my limited patience and short backup).
I didn’t expect how fleeting each phase would feel
I’ve always been sentimental, but even I’m surprised at how nostalgic I feel when I look at pictures of my baby taken just a month ago. I cry every time I have to put away another outfit he’s outgrown. It often feels like that span of time is a tape that’s constantly slipping away from me. When people tell me that the days are long but the weeks are short, once there’s a baby in the picture, I want to tell them no, the days are short and the weeks are short and the months are short and everything is too short !! And then my baby has an explosive bowel movement for the third time that day and I’m like, okay, maybe today is a little long.
When I think about how many times my expectations of parenthood have not been met, I realize that it is because, by and large, they have been exceeded. And while Dealing with my daily expectations will be a lifelong practice, but I hope that over time I’ll get better at seeing the big picture. For now I will keep practicing. I will continue to love my baby and my partner, I will continue to regret having the horrible thoughts I have about people crashing into the stroller and I will allow myself to be happy, sad, angry, happy and all of those other conflicting and confusing things to be emotions boiling up along the way. Because really, when I hear my baby giggle, when I see him trying to crawl, and even when he showers me with a squirt of mushy peas while eating, I know I would choose this experience again and again.
This article was originally published online in June 2019.
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