When T turned us into parents on August 13th of 2009 it was life changing, exhilarating, terrifying. If I had to choose one word to describe the first few months with T it would be overwhelming. We were overwhelmed with love, but also with the enormity of being responsible for another life. Z had a four day business trip before T was 12 weeks old. I remember sitting on the sofa holding T and weeping on that last day, just waiting for Z to get home so I could get a break from the unrelenting demands of a newborn. Actually, all that Fall I spent a lot of time sitting on the same sofa and weeping because the intensity of the love I felt for T was almost suffocating.
On August 31st of 2011 C made us parents again. And it was simply exhilarating. After you’ve given yourself a bunch of gray hairs shepherding a baby through infancy the second time becomes old hat. Last Fall we knew how to keep a newborn alive and safe and loved. We kept saying to each other, “What was the big deal with T? Compared to dealing with a toddler this is easy! What was our problem?” I’ve thought a lot about our attitude almost a year ago. You know what? Parenting C wasn’t easy, it was known, and it wasn’t accompanied with never ending fear. That said, if Z took T on a trip last Fall for four days and I was left with C alone it would have felt like I was the one on vacation.
Experienced moms can occasionally be a bit, um, insufferable. I know, I am one. When I was brand new at this mothering business I’d roll my eyes when moms would dismiss the stage I was dealing with. “You think this is hard? Wait until they are toddlers…or school aged…or teenagers…or when they are in college!” I try really hard not to say that stuff to other moms, not that I haven’t caught myself doing it at times. Yes, moms who have been doing it longer are a wealth of information, but you can’t understand the struggles of motherhood until you do it yourself, until you feel it in your bones. Each mom needs to go through the process and discover all its ins and outs for herself. I think that is one of the many reasons the pregnancy and newborn books can be so unhelpful. I’m a life long obsessive reader, but this is one area in which reading let me down, at least in the qualitative sense. Don’t get me wrong, the info in those books is important. I had one that listed what was going on with the baby developmentally week by week and I loved reading it. The quantitative stuff-like if your newborn has a temp above 100.4 you need to take them to the hospital, that is valuable information. But your panic at being responsible for another human? Your exhaustion from being up all night with a baby? Reading about it doesn’t make you understand it in your bones.
I feel so grateful to T for making me a Mom. He’s my Guinea pig and he is a rock star for weathering the emotional storms of a couple of novice parents. I also feel so fucking guilty. C has parents who pretty much know what they are doing. He hasn’t had to absorb the angst of two people transforming into a mother and father. Oh, I feel guilty about other things when it comes to C, but he has parents who knew the drill on day one. T deserves a shit load of credit for prepping us. His gift of changing who we are in the most basic sense is the best gift I’ve ever been given.
When friends of mine have a baby I am thrilled for them and excited for the adventure they are embarking on, but my heart also aches for them. Because it is so fucking hard at first. The awesome outweighs the hard, but man, it’s pretty damn close. The mechanics of dealing with one kid who is getting close to exiting toddlerhood and one kid who is getting close to entering toddlerhood are difficult and overwhelming and unrelenting in a new way. But if I really think about it nothing is like those first few months. So to the new parents out there, I salute you. I empathize with you. I admire you. You are doing the hardest of the hard stuff, and it is only going to get easier. Becoming a parent is amazing, personally I wouldn’t change it for anything, but do not doubt that you are doing some of the most difficult work you will ever do in your life. You deserve a lot of credit. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it wears you down. You will get through it. And if you choose to do it again your confidence will astound you.
This was the second best gift I’ve ever been given. Z gave me a “blue canary in the outlet by the light switch who watches over you” on December 18th, 2008, my 32nd Birthday. In just under two weeks we’d find out I was pregnant with T. It hangs in our kitchen here in Syracuse as well. I love looking at it every day.
T calls this “riding the crane”. I think Z calls it “having a sore arm”. And you can see the bottom of my gift hanging on the wall. You can almost see the little copper strip on the bottom right corner that is stamped l-i-t-e. Z thought of everything.
And then there’s this kid.