Change can be hard, especially for parents. I think we need a consistent schedule more than our kids do at times. Change is especially challenging during the baby making years. A former neighbor (and at the time soon to be mother of five) once explained the logic behind family planning in basketball terms to me, and I have always thought she was correct in her assessment. I am paraphrasing, but it went something like this: If you have one kid, the parents can double team and persevere. Two kids means man to man coverage, while three kids or more is a zone defense.
That being said, the hardest transition for my husband and I definitely came when we brought home Baby #1. I think it was the most difficult because it was the one that brought the most change to our lifestyle. My husband and I dated for four years and then had four years of marriage under our belts before my oldest came into the family portrait. We were both working full-time and living the life of happy hours after work and impromptu weekend trips.
Therefore once our baby girl came along, a lot of things became different. Late nights now consisted of poopy diapers and a screaming newborn instead of movie marathons and bar hopping. We also had to get on a schedule, something we had never really had to do before because we were two adults with no other living beings around expecting us to nurture and care for them (aside from our spoiled dog, of course).
It was hard to go from a couple to a family. We couldn’t go out every night of the week, and better daily routines had to be established. While the double team coverage was great in caring for my daughter, it was also irritating because my husband and I weren’t always sure who should take the lead. Was I always in charge of the diaper bag or him? What all do we exactly need in the diaper bag? I know, but does he know? There were times when I could have thrown a bouncy seat at my husband’s head, because we each thought the other had already checked to make sure the diaper was clean before getting our contently sleeping newborn strapped into the car seat. When it comes to taking care of your first baby, I firmly believe there is no worse statement to hear from your significant other than: I thought you did it.
The first six weeks of parenthood were very rough for us. There was not a lot of quality sleep happening and we were also foolish enough to think it was possible to overfeed a newborn. We have so many photographs of my daughter with a bright red screaming face, and I just think to myself (now) how she was probably hungry, or tired, or both. We had tons of grandparent help, but despite our pleas they were never willing to move into our basement permanently to help us. We had to figure it out on our own in order to truly succeed.
And we did.
I got a lot smarter after a particularly brutal bridal shower experience, where I foolishly thought my six week old daughter would love to come with me and be shown off to my college friends and their extended family members. I was in the wedding party, but instead of helping with shower duties…I spent the majority of the festivities locked in a guestroom with my dress pulled up to my shoulders trying to breastfeed a screaming infant. (Bridesmaid fail!) However, during that excruciating afternoon where my daughter was hungry and tired, and I was irritated and desperate…I got a lot of good advice from some new moms. A fellow bridesmaid recommended a book called “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, and others emphasized the importance of swaddling and having a swing.
I was willing to try anything, so after driving the thirty minutes home from the shower with a screeching baby co-pilot, I told my husband we were going to Babies R Us. We cashed in some gift certificates and bought a nice swing. I stopped at the library and checked out the baby book that had been recommended to me (because I couldn’t wait for it to arrive via online shipping), and I also dug out the swaddleme blanket gift we had received but not yet used. I initially was one of those people who told others that my baby didn’t like the swaddle. HA! The first night we truly committed to swaddling our daughter at bedtime led to her sleeping for six whole hours. We never looked back, and to this day I am in love with the glow worm looking pictures of my little one wrapped up like a burrito.
It also helped that my husband was (and still is) a hands-on dad. He was elbow deep in mustard seedy poop right there with me. Things got easier for us both once we realized our lives did not have to completely change, just because we were now parents. Maybe it wasn’t practical for both of us to still play co-ed volleyball, twice a week, all year long, but we could still go on hikes and family walks. Going out to eat also did not have to go by the wayside; some of the best four-month-old photos we have of my daughter are of her sitting in a bumbo seat at our favorite downtown pizza place. The staff loved us, as much as we loved frequenting their establishment.
The first year with a baby was not the easiest, but I would probably go back to that time given a genie and three wishes. Prior to that point in my life, I had never felt so much love for another living being. Kids are just different and they can make us such better people. It is cliche because it is true, but having a baby really does change everything. My husband and I already had a great life. Adding a child may have made it a bit harder at times, but mostly it just made it all that much better.