Overall, I felt adequately prepared for how tired I would be upon becoming a first-time mother. Everyone tells you how exhausting labor is and how mind-numbing the first few months can be, but nobody tells you that you won’t really care about all that because you’ll be having so much fun playing with your new squirming, laughing, eyelash-batting baby girl. Experienced parents are quick to tell you that you’ll never sleep again and that your life is about to become one lucid coma of diapers and bottles.
They’re half right. To be honest, I sort of lost track of my days and nights for the first couple of weeks. It was a runaway train schedule of feeding, diapering and intermittent napping, with very few moments that distinguished themselves as AM or PM. Little by little, though, your newly expanded family finds a newly expanded routine that somehow, magically, meets everyone’s needs. Okay, sure. I use a lot more dry shampoo now, and we eat a lot more frozen dinners than we used to, but that’s a pretty fine trade-off if you ask me. Fortunately, my husband has very low expectations when it comes to dinner and personal hygiene. He is equally as happy making his own peanut butter & jelly sandwich as he is eating homemade pot roast, and he seems to love me even more on the days when my personal makeup and hair crew don’t come to work. Which is most days.
The baby of the family, of course, doesn’t care one whit if I’ve showered or had a sandwich, which is also nice in its own way. Even nicer are her 90-minute morning naps when I get to do exciting things like vacuum or pay bills. She’s very considerate that way, actually. “I can see you’ve got some other irons in the fire,” she seems to say, “so I’m going to lay down for a bit and let you get on with it. Just don’t be late with my lunch.”
Yes, those veteran parents are right. I now understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of military torture. I now understand why diaper pails are a necessity, not a luxury. And I now understand why people ooh and coo over babies and baby-related things. I’d never spent any time with babies until I had my own. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, I didn’t babysit, and I didn’t really know much about mini-humans until they got to be around age 6 and they came to take my theatre classes. But now I understand, ever so much more, the amazing gift and indescribable joy of young parenthood.
We sleep just fine now, all three of us, and we sometimes even have Norman Rockwell-type breakfasts together before we all get pulled our separate ways to work or to play. I don’t suppose anyone can ever be fully prepared for anything that life has to throw our way, but I do feel that professional parents ought to sprinkle the gloom-and-doom advice with a little bit of happiness. The fun of having a baby is like a surprise party. First you have the “SURPRISE!!!!” with everyone jumping out and screaming at you, and then you have the party with the drinks and presents and fellowship. Perhaps it’s the initial terror of the surprise that makes the calm and pleasantness of the party that much more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s the fact that you weren’t expecting a party at all. 🙂