Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 10:12 PM
This piece is written with the intention of appealing to those who intend to start a family in the near future and I write this because I wish I had access to such pieces when I was pregnant. See this as a sort of preparation article on what to expect. It is absolutely imperative to have full knowledge of what parenting entails before you take the plunge (while I do believe that nothing can truly prepare you for what comes).
Pregnancy, I now realize, is the easy part about the whole deal. It’s still just you and your partner, preparing for the future, and dealing with the minor changes that come along the way. Yes, you worry about labor, and it does come and go… but that’s not the part that you remember in much detail in the future. So what do you remember? Your remember this – your baby’s first year. The longest, most difficult year of your entire life.
Pregnancy is short and temporary- a minor bump in the long road to parenthood. Look at it as nature’s way of giving you some responsibility before unleashing a whole lot of it on you very soon. But once the baby arrives, its not going anywhere. And then it gets real.
Parenting is hard. And that’s no joking matter. It is really hard. Think about the hardest job you have ever done. Now multiply that by 10. That’s how hard parenting is. It’s about making daily decisions about the little one. It’s about giving them constant attention. It’s also about being 100% accountable for them.
Parenting makes you forget about vanity. You will not have time to do your hair or nails (or shave) for a while. Your doctors will ‘see you’ from all angles when you look your most unflattering and your whole house will too… while breastfeeding, while caring for the baby, with white spit-up marks on your shoulder. Unkempt looks and the works. Get used to it. It doesn’t last, but be sure that it won’t escape you either. The good news is that nobody cares. Because you just made life. Your car will have to make room for that car seat. Nope, no more convertibles. Get used to that too!
Parenting is anti-social. There will be no more time or energy for that friendly get-together. Your single friends wouldn’t want to hang out with you anymore because no one wants to be around a baby for extended periods of time. Play is fine, screams are not. They will all come to occasionally meet you and see how the baby is doing, but meet-ups will have to wait. No bars, clubs or sodas. You will have to find parents with kids roughly your age to hang out with because then you can do the same activities. Welcome to this new league.
Parenting is selfless. I remember driving to the hospital three days after delivering to admit our baby for jaundice. I also remember caring for her when my own body was in pieces. My husband and I forewent sleep, comforts and even meals to care for our little one. Our needs and demands are just not as important anymore. That fancy shirt can wait because buying those new bibs is more important. Spending $200 on a baby carrier will be your new idea of ‘shopping’. No vacations and no more movie theatres for a while. And what’s more, you will be fine with it. Because every day will end with that great feeling of accomplishment at having taken them through another successful day.
Breastfeeding is mean in the beginning. It is the reason most women slip into postpartum depression. I had no idea that it would be so tough. Your nipples will be sore and cracked but you will still keep going because your doctor, pediatrician, lactation consultant, family and friends will keep reminding you that breast milk is still best for your baby. And it really is. But the struggle is very real, my friend.
Parenting makes you forget about sleep. Sometimes willingly but mostly forcefully. Newborns don’t sleep through the night. Their pea-sized stomachs need constant feedings. Infants wake up at night for various reasons too. Discomfort, teething, hunger, reflux, etc. You wake up in the middle of the night with them and play the guessing game. Its fun. Or not.
Parenting is expensive. And it makes your house look a lot smaller. That crib, bassinet, swing, play mat, high chair, toys and stroller need money and space. Get ready to loosen those purse strings and save up to move to a bigger house. Don’t forget to save for their college, future and your retirement. The list is pretty long and no matter how much you make, it is never enough.
Parenting is research-oriented. Everything will be new for you and everything will require research. Bottle-feeding and pumping queries, what works best for colic, best baby sitter, best day care, best pediatrician, best toys, best baby carrier, best rocker… your little one deserves the best of everything and that requires research. Signs of teething, symptoms of infection, the color of their poo - will all be topics that you will find yourself googling on a regular basis. Every free minute will be spent imbibing new knowledge. Soon you will be giving gyaan like me.
Parenting requires support. Those first few weeks after your first baby arrives will be maddening and you will need a parent or friend to take you through them. You will need to learn how to bathe the baby, massage the baby, etc and an experienced eye will be key to take you through your learning. As the months progress, you will need to find support groups, in your locality or online, to stay in touch with parents like you to discuss daily problems and to realize that you aren’t alone in this.
Parenting is anxious. You will always be worried – about them eating enough, sleeping enough and pooping enough. You will wake up in the middle of the night to check if they are well and breathing. You will compare their monthly milestones with their peers and see if they are doing okay. You will worry if they aren’t. Even when they really just are!
Parenting is time consuming. The cycle of feed, burp, sleep and change is endless and you will find yourself going through it almost eight times every day (it gets better with age). And the cycle with take time. Weekends will mostly be spent catching a breath. And your little guy will be your new boss.
Lastly, despite the troubles, parenting is oh-so-rewarding! Their cute little faces, supple round cheeks, the way they smell, the way they hold your face with their little hands when you lean in, the way they sleep with a smile when you are close, the way their faces light up upon seeing you, the way their breathing and warmth feels against you when they fall asleep on your shoulder… is all so precious and irreplaceable. It is going to make you forget every struggle and it will remind you to find that super human inside you to keep them alive and thriving. Because everybody has it in them. You just need to find it. And then the joys are unlimited. Happy parenting!
Picture of my love for attention.