All 7 pounds, 2 ounces, 21.5 inches, and dark brown hair of my perfect little son arrived at 5:25 p.m. on his due date, December 14, no induction necessary. Considering that only about 5 to 10 percent of babies are born on their due dates, I’d say he had a brilliant sense of timing if not for the fact that the labor lasted twenty-six hours, and that’s if you don’t count the day and a half of painful contractions leading up to that. But all’s well that ends well, everyone’s healthy and recovered, and although I can’t speak for the kid himself, he seems to be enjoying this world as much as the world enjoys having him in it.
And so now I’m a mom. Time to roll up my sleeves and dive elbow deep into the hard work of parenthood.
But…is this it? I dare not even whisper the word “easy” in present company, but I will say that the experience so far has been overwhelmingly pleasant. Of course there’s the usual elation and slackjawed wonder at the miracle of it all, but what I’m talking about here is how much pure fun it’s been doing the “work” part of having a baby. In the weeks leading up to the birth, I’d really taken to heart the old chestnut that advises us to expect the best but prepare for the worst, and by the time the kid was undoubtedly on his way, I was well rehearsed and ready to star in my own B-movie zombie extravaganza; bring on the sleepless nights, under-eye circles, and daily menu of braaaaains–anything will do so long as I have five uninterrupted minutes to eat while the meal’s still hot. And yet, now here we are more than two weeks later and I’m still waiting for the director to shout “Action!” When will the oft-cursed misery of first-time parenthood begin? Have I really been lucky enough to dodge that bullet?
Granted, the little dude is only sixteen days old and we’ve had family helping out and extra leeway with our jobs and very few expectations from anyone–including ourselves–to do anything but care for and get to know our son during these early days, but…Nevermind. I just answered my own question. Having help, leeway, and reasonable expectations are just as important to surviving newbornhood as being prepared. Books, magazines, websites, blogs, and even childbirth classes won’t do as much for your sanity as will a grandma who can soothe an infant while Mommy takes a shower, or as friends who will hand-deliver a couple of burritos from your favorite take-out restaurant.
It is work, yes, but it’s a different type of work than I expected. I thought it would be more sleepless, more thankless, more of a challenge to my identity as a woman and a spouse and an individual. Maybe those days are still to come, and maybe I should stop peeking around every corner looking for them. For now, the best use of what little free time I have is definitely best spent counting my blessings and kissing baby toes rather than tidying the kitchen or thinking about my office job or worrying about the hospital bill. Having a baby adds a lot of extra tasks to my to-do list, but it also helps prioritize it: everything is now second to Being a Good Mom.
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