Thursday, July 3, 2014

Before and After: Inside My Head

I like to think of myself as tough. I have a picture on my wall at home that says "WE CAN DO HARD THINGS." I thoroughly believe that if you put your mind to it, you can make it happen.

I still believe those things... but I was totally unprepared for many things when it came to being pregnant and with having a baby.  And the old me would have totally rolled her eyes at that last sentence.

I must admit to thinking people "weren't tough enough" when they took time off in the weeks before having a baby. I thought that I'd never do that-- I'm tough and won't mooch the system. It took me being nearly knocked off my feet and extraordinarily uncomfortable for months in the third trimester to open my eyes as to how ignorant I had been.

Then there's having a baby. I thought we had figured out what would be hard: The lack of sleep. Don't get me wrong, that wasn't a cakewalk... but it totally surprised me when other things were the ones that ambushed me. Things like:
  • FEEDING the baby. Who would have thought that woudl be the issue? But with our breastfeeding issues, I was quickly thrown off-kilter by having to adapt to our situation rather than the picture-perfect one in my head. But, there's also the frequency of it. Babies don't eat three times a day. They eat every three hours (at least), AROUND THE CLOCK. That leads me to my next point....
  • It doesn't stop. You think you know this before you have a child. It seems obvious... kids don't come with an off switch. But it's still a rude awakening when that stuff you did at a minimum three hours ago? Has to be done all over again. And again. And again. Your life becomes a constant rotation.
  • Your time is not yours. That project you wanted to do? That cleaning you wanted to do? That sit and not do anything you wanted to do? MUCH harder with a child. I figured I'd baby wear. Well, that works great because James LOVES being worn... but you can't move as well with a baby on you, it's heavier with a baby on you. You can't carry as much with a baby on you. Your baby likes you to move, and certain things require you to hold still (like folding laundry). Your baby may not like you to bend down. Very quickly you realize that keeping a baby happy may not mean you can do the things you want to do.
And then there's work.

I always thought that we'd eventually have a child in daycare and that woudl be the new normal. But that's hard. Hard to realize that daycare will get 9.5 hours of your child's life a weekday (8-hour workday, plus 1 hour lunch, plus time picking up and dropping off). Assuming a 7pm bedtime, you'll get about 1.5 hours, plus the time it takes to get ready in the morning. It's an ungodly sacrifice. And it's one that Bob and I are trying to figure out how to adjust in order to get that 9.5 hour amount lowered.

And I fully admit to being someone who would have shaken my head to myself if I knew someone who lowered their work schedule for their child. What was I thinking? WHY have I been allowed to develop this mindset that putting family first is the "easy" route? It's not easy.

I could do a lot of blaming. I could blame the media (totally usually not on the side of staying at home). I could blame our goverment (totally not helping to create an atomsphere where people bond and put families first). I could blame student loans (the payback and interest rates and gouging which greatens our indebtedness and leads to moreso needing two incomes).

But in the end, no matter the blame/cause, the result is the same: I was wrong.

I totally underestimated pregnancy. I'm tough, and it knocked me down. I now have a newfound respect for my body and for anyone who is pregnant. And I will defend the justifiedness of that respect to anyone who doubts it.

I totally underestimated what would be difficult with having a baby.

I totally underestimated how little things going awry would make me feel with having a baby.

I totally underestimated how my perspectives would change.

But here's the kicker: All of the above has made me a better person.

I know I can change. I know now not to let my preconceived notions control me. I also am rewiring myself for what is really important in life: sometimes it's me, sometimes it's not. I'm increasingly aware of my one life to live and how do I make the most of it (clue: It doesn't always involve me being "tough."). I'm increasingly aware of time and how fast it flies by... and thus also how much I'm missing when I am stubborn and absent from where I want to be. I know now that change is inevitable, but it involves me changing into a better person, so I need to accept it and not try to avoid it.

And I'm now more ok with admitting I was wrong and then moving forward.

I always heard the saying "Having children will change you." I never realized how much that was true, or that it would change me into a better person.

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