I had the pleasure of talking to a mother-to-be last night and her husband. I was almost awed by their freshness and sense of wonder about what is to come (she's about 14 weeks along). I wonder what happened to me along this journey of motherhood and when I became so cynical? I mean cynical in the most positive of terms, but still cynical. I wonder why there seems to be exist such a large space in between waiting to be parents and living in the reality of parenthood. I say this because I give credit to the fact that I am not the only one (as mom) so heavily invested in the day-to-day of raising our daughter. It's great to see so many other couples where the dad is also 100% on board, as was this husband that I talked to last night. But still, living in the day-to-day is so different than the anticipation. I remember how I couldn't wait for pregnancy to be over because I couldn't stand the "not-knowing" of what was inside of me. That anticipation becomes so intense by the third trimester that it feels unbearable at times (not to mention the fact that you feel like a bloated beach ball and all it takes is one sideward glance from a stranger to set you off. Again.) When you are expecting your first child, the future seems uncertain yet full of adventure and incredible experiences (which, to be fair...it will be!) but there is a certain naivité that accompanies this line of thinking because no matter how many other parents snicker about the dirty diapers that will need to be changed, or the lack of sleep that's coming parents-to-be tend to not focus too much on that side of what's coming. They tend to dream about the perfect name, the perfect face, and the perfect birth that is coming. (I know, I did it too!) All of this makes me think about our weddings, girls. The focus was ALL about that day and not so much on the day-to-day reality of marriage that was to come. In hindsight (always 20/20) I do wish I had planned more for the marriage as much as I did for the wedding, and also for the child-raising as much as the birth itself. Don't get me wrong. The birth is magical. No matter how many things don't go as planned (as they will, just think about what happened unexpectedly at your wedding) and how many times you may wistfully think back about it and go "I wish X had been different" THE birth will go down in your mental bank of precious images at the very top, or close to the very top of the list. You will come back to it many many times in the first months after having your baby, and then somewhat less after that, but none-the-less, you will always go back fondly to that amazing and life-altering event. But back to the cynical part. I wish I had known what I was getting into (aka "after the big event") before the birth. I could have really understood then the sacrifice I was about to make, and be a little more prepared for the day-to-day grind that it would entail.
I would have understood that the lack of sleep in the first few months gives way to more solid hours later on, but that having a child means that you never get to be in charge of the time you get out of bed anymore. "Sleeping in" a term from your pre-baby past. I would have known that my already fragil back would feel permanently slumped over from constantly holding or helping my child to walk, or picking up toys scattered all over the house multiple times, every day. I would have had some foresight of the ongoing mental and emotional challenge of trying to find the delicate balance of giving or giving in to my child and withholding for her own good, and then often biting my lip to try to ignore the sobs and wails of a tantrum from a being who (often like me in my adult way) doesn't understand that not everything she wants when she wants it is right for her.
Or maybe I didn't really want that knowledge ahead of time. Maybe that's why we moms and dads choose to hold a few things back while conversing with those who are on this path and expecting eagerly. It's something you must learn on the job. And paradoxically, the bigger the sacrifice, the more precious the endeavor becomes to those most invested in it--Mom and Dad. Like the pearl of greatest price?
Maybe that sense of awe and wonder from the ones that are pregnant remind us of where we have been and restore a little bit of magic to our tired mommy and daddy souls. So for that, I'm grateful for the gentle reminder. Because too much cynicism (even though at times it is hilarious) is really not all that...becoming after all.