More than a year ago, Neil and I sat with a few couples who recently, and not so recently, had a baby. As we talked with them, many of the burning questions on my mind were (honestly) shopping-related. As I previously mentioned, we had a small space so we really needed to be choosy about the things we’d buy for Cyd.
Looking back, I wish I asked better questions. Yet, as they say, hindsight is useless now. Unless someone else can learn from my mistakes, I think. I also have a tendency to forget things so think of this as a note-to-self, just shared publicly.
What I wished I had asked our friends
It still feels like yesterday. It’s hard to believe that Cyd is 11 months old now. While my friends’ advice really did help – I still wish I had the sense to talk about the tough subject called parenting.
Maybe you’re pregnant for the first time. Or maybe you’re planning to get pregnant sometime soon and you want to be ready. Whichever is the case, I’d like to share with you six truths that I learned about being a new parent and how it can dramatically change the dynamics of your partnership (for better or worse).
1. Parenting is a marathon.
When my breastmilk supply was low, I cried a lot. I cried every time Cyd refused to feed. When my milk supply got better, I cried again when Cyd would feed almost non-stop. I was close to giving up. Neil knew what I needed to hear: ‘this is a marathon, we have to stay strong.‘
2. Pregnancy is a period of respite and a great time to read to and about your baby.
I took an early maternity leave to ‘enjoy’ my pregnancy. Yet things didn’t go according to plan. I got bored and I was worried we were not prepared financially for the baby since we just moved into our new place, so I took on some projects and started working from home. I didn’t regret working while pregnant. I’m just curious what would’ve happened had I just relaxed.
3. When you’re deprived of sleep, it’s normal to lose patience. Try your best to say nothing hurtful.
Words, once spoken, cannot be taken back (except for politicians who mastered the art of alibis). For couples, though, the longer you know each other, the easier it is to say unkind words to each other. It’s especially true when you are both emotionally and physically worn-out. (It also applies for couples who were financially strained.) Try your best to say nothing hurtful. For someone who knows you well, silence already says a lot.
4. Keeping score won’t get you anywhere. Communicate your needs to the person who can help meet them.
Forgive a woman who forgets a lot and who seems to be spacing out during checkups. Her body has been through a lot. A man cannot understand what it’s like to go into labor, deliver a baby, and feed him day and night. As for us, women, it won’t hurt to close our eyes to our partners’ shortcomings – forgetting to empty the garbage bin, missing your favorite snack, or (sometimes) cooking a bad meal.
5. Gals, it’s okay to get tired and cry. Guys, it’s okay to oversleep – sometimes.
I thought it was just my overactive tear ducts to blame. I cried when Cyd cried. I was exhausted from taking care of him 24/7. I missed sleeping for eight hours. How unfair that guys could just sleep in peace while women tend to their babies? If it happens too often, bring it up, yet if your partner sleeps longer than eight hours once a week, think of it as a bargaining chip. Ask him to make breakfast or change the soiled diaper.
6. Embrace your new reality.
For more than 15 years, I am used to working and traveling and moving around without worrying about someone so fragile and helpless. Now everything I do is according to schedule. I can’t be out for longer than two hours. I have to consider his nap, eating, and sleeping schedule and fit my ‘life’ during the hours he’s asleep. I still get to read books I want to read, work on a job I happen to love and get cozy on the couch over a hot Netflix show sometimes. It’s not the same as before – it’s something more. I find it helpful not to compare my past life to my life now or wish things were different.
I hope sharing these things proved useful to you. I’d like to end this with a quote from a book I’m currently reading:
All parents give up their own life in order to dedicate it to their children. This sacrifice that the father and mother make is something natural that gives joy. This is a very lofty sort of love that can be found only in the world of children. – Maria Montessori