Thursday, June 7, 2012

Responding to the critics

In a few more days Natalie turns 5 months old. Right now I feel confident enough in my mom-of-an-infant routine to reflect publicly on many of the common comments I received as a soon-to-be mother.

"You will never sleep well again."
False.
I've written about this before briefly, but I have had better sleep in the past five months than I did in the five months leading up to Natalie's birth. Yes, there are nights that I don't get very good sleep, but overall sleep is not nearly as bad as everyone made it sound like it would be, even in that early newborn stage when I was up every 2-3 hours.

"You will be more alert when you sleep."
Totally true.
While this may sound like it contradicts the previous point, it really does not. I am getting way more uninterrupted sleep than I did during pregnancy or imagined I would in general, but my sleep is much lighter these days. If Natalie makes any type of noise, it wakes me up, but fortunately she does not make much noise at night and I have learned which of her noises require attention and which do not.
 
"Leaving the house takes about two hours."
False hyperbole, but embedded with some truth.
The actual act of getting in the car takes about 2 minutes, but planning to go somewhere simply requires...well, planning. It often means feeding Natalie, then changing her diaper, then getting the diaper bag (which is usually well enough stocked that it only takes about 2-3 minutes to check and replenish), then getting in the car and going. So, if we're heading to meet friends or make an appointment, it just means starting the preparation process at least 45 minutes before we need to leave. If we want to go somewhere by ourselves, like on a long walk with the dogs or an early dinner out, it just means realizing that Natalie dictates the schedule, so even though we might be ready to head out at that moment, we need to be flexible. Most of the time I can get places on time, but I've also found that it's a good idea when we're meeting up with friends without kids for them to recognize that it's more realistic to say we'll meet them within a window (say, between 5 and 5:15) and that we'll text when we're officially in the car.

"You will not be spontaneous anymore."
Very true.
This complements the point above, but I thought it deserved its own place on this list. The baby does control the schedule a good degree.

"You will never have time for yourself."
False.
From my own experience thus far and what I've witnessed watching friends who've gone before me, it seems like a child's infancy is the stage at which parents have the most time for themselves because that's when kids sleep the most and they can't really move much or get into trouble when they're awake. I had the most time for myself before Natalie turned 2 months old. When she hit 2 and 3 months old, though, she started to be more alert and subsequently up more during the day, and that's when I had a lot less time to myself. After turning 4 months old her sleep started to become more predictable, and I went back to having more time for myself. Now as she gets ready to turn 5 months old she's taking really long naps and sleeping for 11 or 12-hour uninterrupted stretches at night, so I'm back to having more time for exercising, reading, household chores, and blogging. The key that I've discovered is to make the most of the baby's downtime to do those things for yourself that you want to do. Like I said, the baby does control a lot of the schedule, so I just need to motivate myself to exercise or whatever when Natalie's sleeping, even if that's not the time I would naturally pick for myself.

I'm the boss around here!

"Ain't got no time for no haters."
True.
My friend who's been a mother much longer than me quoted me this line from T.I. and Rihanna a few months before I gave birth. Her point was that people will judge you as a mom no matter what you do, but you won't have time to worry about their Judgey McJudgerson-ness, so you just have to ignore it and do what's best for your family. So ridiculously true. I was prepared for older people to judge Matt and me, but I was less prepared for my peers, particularly some of my child-less peers and some of my peers who also have small babies and children, to state to me and to one another what they think is best for me and my family. We all have our opinions, but it shocks me that there are people who judge new parents (and there are plenty), and you won't know who in your life will until you give birth. At the end of the day, though, my buddy is right, and Rihanna's lyrics are often playing on loop in my mind. Live your life.

"You will never know a love like this."
Jury's out on this one.
Before I had a baby everyone said this to me all the time. I love Natalie. I also love lots of other people. I love my husband and my family; I love my best friends; I love my dogs. If anything happened to any of these people I would be devastated and heartbroken. I can't say that having a baby has caused me to see love in a whole new way yet. Maybe this makes me a bad mom; or maybe it means that I'm lucky to have lots of great people in my life; or maybe it means lots of people speak in hyperbole (I am leaning toward this potential answer). Natalie's birth brought even more love into my life, but I can't say it has rocked my world. Perhaps as she grows I really will experience a love I haven't known before.

3 comments:

  1. I agree, it's when the baby doesn't sleep a lot then you don't have time for yourself.

    I pretty much agree with all of your "revelations" :-)

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  2. Thank you for that post, especially the last part. My daughter is 17 months old and though I've loved her from the moment we found out we were expecting, I can't say that the minute our eyes met, my world changed. It didn't. Up until very recently, I would sit in her glider thinking "I love her so much, but do I love her enough? Do I love her the way a mom is suppose to love her daughter?" It was about 2 months ago, when she started becoming truly and intentionally affectionate, that I realized I had been concerned over nothing. Two months ago is when I hugged her, she leaned in and kissed me, then rested her head on my shoulder. It was that little flutter in my stomach that let me know that I do love her more than I even thought. It felt good. I needed to feel that to ease my mind.

    So thank you for putting that out there. Not to sound cliche but so many mothers make mothering out to be "rainbows and puppy dogs." In most circumstances, its not. Its challenging in so many different ways. Great post!

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  3. Word.

    And I second the comment from Allison (as the mom of a 17-month-old). Infants are easy to love in their smiley, cuddly chubbiness, but something changes when they start to reciprocate and initiate affection more willfully.

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