I’m not going to lie; there are some days when this parent thing is difficult.
And this is with a very even-keeled child, a husband who mostly works from home, an amazing family support structure, and me on maternity leave. I have an incredible amount of respect for mothers (and dads) who are missing some, if not all, of these.
For me, it’s most challenging at night, when all I want to do is sleep and Charlie is wide awake and can’t be settled. I’m a chronic insomniac, and I have a lot of trouble falling asleep when things aren’t just right. I slept great while pregnant, probably because I kept to the same routine every night. But with a newborn who has no concept of night and day, who needs to eat every few hours? Forget it.
It’s even more even more difficult when Charlie falls asleep in seconds, but I have one of those crazy insomnia nights. I get up with Charlie every morning when he wakes between 5-5:30 a.m. (and then stays up until at least 9:30 a.m.), so when it’s 2 a.m. and I haven’t fallen asleep yet, I get really upset. The next day I’m exhausted and emotional. I fail at taking naps on demand and, on those days, I feel even more pressure to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” So that never works. I go through the day bleary-eyed, feeling guilty that I have little energy to engage Charlie, and believing there will never be a night when I sleep more than a few hours.
Husband Charles remarked the other night that if someone offered you $10 million to wake up for a half an hour a few times during the night for a year, you would totally do it. But there’s something oddly frustrating about needing to wake up when a child – someone who brings you immeasurable happiness – demands it.
I think it’s all part of the mental shift from childless couple to parents. Before Charlie, we could go where we wanted, when we wanted, for how long we wanted. We could watch an entire TV show in one sitting. We could stay at our friends’ houses past 9 p.m. We could eat dinner simultaneously. We were so wonderfully selfish!
Now our time belongs to Charlie, especially at this stage of his life when he’s a chubby ball of needs. Moms, especially breastfeeding moms, take on more of this. For example, Charlie nurses best when both of my hands are engaged in the process, so I can’t read, or play with my iPhone, or flip TV channels. It’s rare that I have enough time to throw on a podcast. There are times I resent Husband Charles for not having boobs, for being able to do what he wants when I’m chained to the couch. There are times I question whether I have the mental fortitude to keep it up.
Most often, I am elated to trade these “freedoms” for being Charlie’s mama. There is so much joy in taking care of him – from diaper changes, to feedings (and burpings), to tummy time, to baths, to snuggles. I love this little man like I’ve never loved anything before.
But there are times, especially after a night of little sleep, when I look back on Life Before Baby and envy it.