A few days after my daughter was born, my husband, my dog and I took our daughter for her first walk in the stroller. We passed a neighbor pushing her little boy in the other direction. “How old is your baby?” I asked. “Six months.” she told me. As she walked away she assured me, totally unprompted, “Don’t worry. It gets easier.”
That day I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. My balance was off, I was dead exhausted, and my feet were so swollen I had to wear my husband’s gym shoes. But hey – it was day 4. I was fine. Soon the baby would sleep through the night, she’d get on the infamous “nap schedule,” eat three meals a day, and we’d live happily ever after. What was wrong with that lady?
And then my husband went back to work. And my baby not only was up every hour at night but refused to nap during the day. And had nursing issues. And gassy issues. And never wanted to be put down. And pooped 12 times a day. (Why does nobody tell you they poop after every.single.feeding)? And side note – how did I not realize how often they had to be fed?!?
My house was a mess. I couldn’t take a 4 minute shower without her screaming. Or make myself a sandwich, let alone finish one. I think I changed clothes every 24 hours, but sometimes that was at 3 a.m. I clung to that woman’s words. “It gets easier.” One had to hope, because, sorry to say, life was no picnic.
Meanwhile, all of the people who used to annoy me to no end, questioning me as to when I was going to have a baby and insisting children were happiness personified changed their tune. “Oh yeah – you’ll never sleep again.” they assured me. “You just get used to it. Life will never be the same. But don’t worry – you’ll just adapt.”
What? I liked my life. No one told me about this secret club of misery where you never sleep, shower, or eat ever again. Why were people taking such great pride in telling me “Your life has changed forever? Mwa hahahahaha.” Why would anyone ever do this on purpose? Or heaven forbid – twice! I got depressed. I was hit so hard with anxiety that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even walk down the street without the world spinning and the sun seeming too bright. Things were not okay.
Fortunately I had a good doctor who diagnosed PPD and PPA and who got me back on track relatively quickly. And it was still hard. But over time, it started to get better. Not easy but better. My daughter slept through the night. The infamous nap schedule eventually did come together (at 9 months, in case you were wondering). There was still a lot of rocking a screaming baby to sleep, only to get a 15 minute nap. And forget getting anything done – ever – during my daughter’s waking hours. She wanted (and still wants) to be held all the time. Some days - 26 months later - it remains an adjustment.
But what prompted this post was a blog that came up in my facebook feed the other day. Since I’m about to disagree with the conclusion of this woman’s wonderfully honest account, I am not going to link to her essay. Essentially she argued that three years after he son was born, having a child still hasn’t gotten easier. She does, however, concede that things are okay because she’s gotten better at parenting.
I liked her post. A lot of it resonated. But it got me thinking that in my case it really did get better. Yes, I am probably more skilled at parenting, but having a toddler (for me at least) is night-and-day easier than caring for a newborn. And honestly, nowadays we’re having real FUN!
At just over two my daughter is smart, curious, precocious, sweet, and looks just like me except a million times cuter. I know, I may be a teeny bit biased, being her mom and all. But it’s true. She pretty much rocks. We “cook” together, we read, we play games. We tell “jokes,” we walk to the park hand-in-hand and spend hours in the sandbox “making tea” and burying our feet. We splash around in her kiddie pool and we make cookies out of Play Doh. We snuggle in her rocking chair before bed, and talk about everything we did during the day and what will be exciting tomorrow.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is still a work in progress. Today, just as my sciatic nerve was acting up and I was literally starting to limp, I ended up carrying my irrational, tantruming toddler home from the park, potty-accident-wet-shorts and all. In fact, come to think of it, I am sitting here with a pee stain on my shirt as I type. TMI? I’m just being honest. And yes – I plan to shower before bed.
But it doesn’t feel taxing the way it did. It doesn’t feel exhausting – most of the time. It just feels like part of it. And the overall experience is really rewarding.
A few times, new moms with tiny little “bundles of joy” have noticed me out and about with my daughter and struck up a conversation, nearly always ending with “does it get better?” I can’t speak for every parent but as someone who struggled very much initially I can honestly say, “Yes. Not only does it get better. It gets fun.” Just don’t ask me when I’m having my second…I’m too busy enjoying #1.
If you’re a mom looking for support, camaradie, and some really good coffee, consider joining our support group for moms of infants and toddlers: http://www.meetup.com/New-Moms-Group-at-Purple-Monkey-Playroom-Bucktown/
Our group, so far, is 60 women strong, with participants coming from as nearby as Bucktown, Wicker Park, and Logan Square and as far away as the North suburbs of Chicago. Check it out!
Dads, if you’re interested in participating in similar events, email us at email@example.com and let us know what interests you!