I’m convinced that there’s nothing like having a baby to make you realize OH WOW, WAS I EVER A JUDGEY, UNREALISTIC WENCH PRE-BABY!
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but having a Willem in my life has taught me a few things:
1) Everything you said you would/would not EVER do re: baby raising will go completely out the window. Pacifiers? We were NEVER going to use a pacifier. EVER. Enter four-week-old, crying-for-no-reason Willem, and you’d better believe I tried every pacifier available. Turns out he hates pacifiers, but the point is I was suddenly all for it if it helped. Likewise, I’ve read every dang thing out there on getting your baby to do whatever it is you want him to do – say, for instance, sleep past 5 am. Go to bed early! Feed him before you go to bed! Don’t pick him up in the middle of the night! Pick him up immediately when he starts fussing in the middle of the night! Whatever. If it works, I’m going to keep doing it. If it doesn’t feel right (like patting my sobbing baby in his crib because some book told me WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T PICK HIM UP), well, I’m not going to do it. In short, I’ve learned that whatever works for one mom-baby combo is absolutely perfect for them. We’re all just struggling along, doing our best here… and we have no clue what we’re doing.
2) You will become really good at reading your baby… until he/she up and changes on you without any forewarning or notice. By extension, then, don’t gloat. Willem had two weeks of awesome sleep – bed at 8:30, woke up once between 3:30 and 5, and slept until 6:30 or 7. It was a glorious two weeks. And then he was back to waking a few times each night, cooing and talking away happily at 4:45 am, waking up crying an hour after going to bed… you get the picture.
3) You will also get really good at prioritizing. I kid you not, one morning while getting ready, I had this inner dialogue: “First I need to put clothes on. Clothes are non-negotiable. Is the baby still happy? Check. Okay, I’m good for another two minutes. Should I take a dump, pluck my eyebrows, or comb my hair?” You also get really good at doing everything with one arm and at lightning speed. Chris found a one-handed bottle opener the other day, and I was like, BITCH PLEASE. I’ve been opening bottles one-handed for months now!
4) You will become a tired, pissy wench unless you realize you just need to go with the flow and accept (and even be glad for) exactly what is in front of you in that instant. Note that what is in front of you may be an exhausted baby who woke up at 5 am but has decided his morning nap should be 30 minutes rather than his usual 1.5 hours. Note also that you will need to remind yourself over and over and over again of this point, particularly if you have a million other things you need to get done. Truly, you are just along for the ride here, and the sooner and more completely you embrace that, the better.
5) You will find yourself extremely annoyed when, after expressing that you’re just TIRED, you are told to not worry about folding the laundry or the dirty dishes in the sink. Believe me, I’m not stressed because the dishes are piling up. I’m stressed because the baby has decided to nap only in my arms (and my arms get TIRED, dangit!) or I haven’t shaved my legs in a week or I have an ever-growing list of work-related tasks that need to be done or I would just really like to be able to spend an uninterrupted 30 minutes tending the garden and cleaning the (absolutely disgusting) chicken coop. Or I’d just like 10 minutes during which I’m doing something as decadent as reading a magazine while not holding a baby – and not feel guilty about that. By comparison, laundry and dirty dishes are a piece of cake; it’s all the other LIFE stuff that gets you.
6) And after writing #5, I must revisit #4. Because, ultimately, this is exactly what I signed up for – a sweet, smiley, funny, thoughtful, crazy little ball of baby who, every moment, is becoming more and more his own tiny human self. And I get to see it happen. How cool is that? I’m the one who gets the giant smiles first thing in the morning, the adorable coos all day long, the funny little facial expressions and gestures and rocking chair snuggles. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.