People tell you all the time that parenting is the hardest and most wonderful thing you’ll ever do. And when you’re pregnant you laugh and nod your head because you’ve been told it a million times. But one thing no one ever said to me was that there would be times when I didn’t want to do it. Times when I questioned why I wanted to be a parent at all. I don’t think I’m the only one, but I don’t know because no one says it out loud; it makes you sound ungrateful, unloving, unworthy. It shocks me that I have these ungracious thoughts, even more so that I’m speaking with such candor on a public forum. Being a mom is all I’ve wanted to do EVER – how could I possibly regard motherhood as anything other than a beautiful gift? I vividly remember playing “Little Hon” as a three-year-old, prancing around being “mama” with a pillow under my shirt while my parents crawled on the floor acting as my babies. But the dream of being a mom and the reality of being a mom are two different things.
It’s strange to be filled with emotions that are exactly the opposite from one another. I am filled with a sense of purpose in raising this boy to be a good man filled with dreams to pursue. But, I am curious now whether any of my own dreams will be realized. I’m so, so in love with my Fox, this blessing of a boy, this little bundle of sweet laughter, soft touches, and sleepy snuggles. This baby that’s half me and half my husband is an undeniable miracle. I want to hold him and kiss him all the time, and I will act like a buffoon just to get a smile from him. And yet I resent the relentlessness of parenting; I begrudge being constantly needed and never having time to myself – not even my body is my own anymore, as I am irreversibly changed from pregnancy and birth, and now I’m Fox’s sole source of nutrition. It’s a battle of emotions.
As I write this, my husband is in the nursery trying to get Fox down for a nap. At about midnight last night, he woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Wouldn’t even close his eyes. He would just quietly stare off into the distance at something unseen (perhaps Angels, I remember thinking). My husband and I took turns attempting to soothe him, pushing each other, bleary eyed, out of bed in half hour increments to respond to the inevitable wails from our son at being set down. It was an unusual night – normally he’s a textbook sleeper, only waking up once to eat. But occasionally, these atypical nights will slap me across the face as if to say, “Hey you! Don’t get too comfortable. You think you can get normal(ish) sleep now that Fox is 6 months old? Ha! Think again, bucko.” And I start to derail into full-blown panic in my 3AM delirium, “I want to sleep. Please, dear God, let me sleep. Oh no. Is this going to be the new normal? This is going to turn into a pattern. He’s going to always be up all night. Forever. It’s never going to change. He’s never going to sleep again. I’m never going to sleep again.” It’s amazing how all rational thought disappears the closer you get to daylight.
On good nights my husband and I will joke with each other, “Let’s go wake Fox up!” And, “Mmmmm,” we’ll say, squeezing imaginary dimpled hands and nibbling on imaginary thighs smothered with delicious rolls of fat, “he’s just so edible!” And then we’ll laugh at our imprudent whim, because we’d be fools to wake a peaceful, sleeping baby.
I sometimes wish for the hours that stretched endlessly before me when I was childless. The days upon days when I had only myself to worry about and care for were gloriously free and full of potential. I look back and judge how I spent my time. I wasted it, mostly. I regret that. But, the idea of life without Fox is appalling. I realize that I don’t want to go back to my life before, even if it meant that I could redo things that I regret. Fox is too precious, too beautiful and wonderful and wild – watching him change daily has given me the greatest joy. Often, while I’m rocking him to sleep, I graze his peachy soft skin with my fingertips. I press his nose like a button. I look into his eyes and he’ll meet my gaze with pure, innocent adoration; he’s so perfect. And then he’ll grin at me – a big toothless, mouth-wide-open grin – his eyes crinkling playfully downward. Oh. It melts me. The thought that I could somehow lose him sends me over the edge. He’s the best thing to happen to me. He makes me crazy, and sometimes I want to pull out my hair (Or his, but he doesn’t have any, so I’m thankfully thwarted from that endeavor). I am so unabashedly in love with this kid who has changed my life.
No one told me. But no one could – it gets reduced to, “being a parent is the hardest and most wonderful thing you’ll ever do.” So, you’re left to discover the joys and the miseries all on your own. And the battle of emotions rages ever on.
What is the one thing YOU were never told about being a parent?