At two months and four days in, I can honestly say that having a baby is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
That’s not to say I’ve never done anything difficult in my life. I believe pain serves to make us stronger and that the best things don’t come easily. That’s why I choose to give birth without an epidural. But every other challenge I’ve undertaken had an ending point. This kid is mine from now until forever. He’s dependent on me for at least the next 18 years–almost half a lifetime for me.
Right now I’m grieving my former life: the one where my husband and I could decide on a whim to go to India, to go visit my grandfather two days before we left, or even to go to the mall without strategic planning around feedings and nap time. I’m not depressed; I’m just mentally adjusting to my new reality.
Those of you who are parents are nodding knowingly, and those who aren’t are probably glazing over. I would have been, too. It wasn’t anything anyone could have warned me about or prepared me for. If someone had tried to tell me pre-children (and I’m sure at some point someone did), I would have shrugged my shoulders and thought they was whining. Now it’s true: this isn’t going away.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, people would ask if I was ready. I never knew how to respond, because, really, you can never be ready for the unknown no matter how many parenting books you might read. You just wing it. My husband always told people how excited he was. I think he thought he was going to be playing with his son all the time. I couldn’t honestly say that because I knew sleepless nights and limited freedom were coming. Reality set in for him a few weeks ago, and he’s still adjusting.
Right now I feel like all the responsibility is mine: I’m breastfeeding, so this child is 100% dependent on me for sustenance, and I’m attached to him for several hours each day. On top of that, I’m home with him on maternity leave right now. Naturally I become the one who is more skilled in soothing him, in rocking him to sleep, in learning his moods. I didn’t ask to be this (non)expert.
I could end this on a cliche and say that while it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, parenthood also the most rewarding thing. But at two months and four days in, that’s not true yet.
Ask me again in about 25 years, when I see the man he’s become.