I have been wanting to write this post for a while, yet I didn’t know where to start because I could write a book on this parenting thing. So hopefully I’ve composed my thoughts in a manner that makes sense because I think it is important these thoughts and stories are shared.
However, before I go on, I realize these thoughts and opinions are from my experience raising one child and specifically my journey as a mom with Cullen. I realize that each child is different and each parent has a different experience raising that same child. So my intent is not to cause controversy, jump to conclusions, or offend anyone. I merely want to share my experiences and let other parents know they aren’t alone in this journey. Parenting is not easy but there are some sweet rewards that make it all worth it. So with that, let’s begin.
Life with a baby is hard. . . . .really hard! Don’t let anyone tell you differently!
Both parents are sleep deprived, Mom’s hormones are crazy, maybe she had difficulty nursing, dad has a hard time empathizing with what mom is going through, and now you have a tiny new baby to care for who is unable to do anything for themselves. Then there are those of you who had a baby in the NICU or had medical complications yourself post-baby. I can’t even speak on any of those levels.
Having a baby is a HUGE life change. Hello, you went from only having to take care of yourself to caring for another human being in a matter of seconds. You now are responsible for clothing, feeding, protecting, and raising a child in this scary world. Sure you prepared nine months for this to happen, but let’s be honest, how can you really know what life is going to be like with a child.
The classic old-man face.
The uncertainty scared me the most: what will life be like with a baby? I wondered how my relationship with Craig would change. I tried to envision what running would be like post-baby. During this time I could only speculate what the future may hold, but somehow you get through it and figure out a new normal.
Now that I have an almost-two-year old, I am on the other side of the newborn/infant days and can speak a little on life with a baby. Don’t get me wrong, I only have one child, and I can only speak from the experiences I have had with that one child. As you will quickly learn–if you haven’t already, every child is different, very different, and while there are many, many books out there on the ‘normal’ child, I have yet to meet a child who falls into that textbook child.
One thing I did not expect was how poorly of a sleeper Cullen would be. I braced myself for a couple months of multiple wake-ups, but I did not expect to be up 2+ times every night until he was 18 months old. We have pictures of Cullen sleeping as a newborn, but I barely remember him sleeping. I remember spending hours (2, 3, 4 hours) trying to get him down for a nap or for bed. I remember him being just a few weeks old, he had napped until 3:00 in the afternoon but at 9:00 p.m. he was still up! (Newborns sleep every few hours.) I had had enough, so I loaded him in the car and went for a drive. After 45 minutes of driving, he was still awake!
It took 12 months before his naps got consistent, and at 18 months Cullen finally slept through the night. A year and a half of sleep deprivation can do a number on you. Still to this day, Craig still does not sleep well, and it took myself a couple of months before I slept better too. (I am still not sure how I was able to train so much and set some new PRs.)
Good, quality sleep is so vital for the human body, and when you don’t get enough, it affects everything about your life: your ability to think clearly, your stress level is much higher, you’re more on edge, and everything about your day seems harder. So while there may be other struggles with your child when they are 2, 3 years old, a pre-teen, teenager, and beyond, at least you are (should be) getting enough sleep and be able to function every day! I would argue that the newborn days are some of the toughest as a parent.
While many of the memories of Cullen as a newborn are fading, there are some that are still crystal clear still. A few days after he was born, I remember thinking, “I miss my old life.” “I miss being able to come and go as I please.” With a newborn, it now took me two hours to get myself and Cullen ready to go. I just wanted to hop in the car, go and do some shopping for an hour, but now that seemed silly and not worth the time and effort.
I also remember Craig had a hard time with the first 3 months of Cullen’s life. Cullen was more-or-less a pretty lifeless blob needing food and sleep. Craig didn’t feel like he was needed because Cullen just wanted me all the time for food. This made it hard for me because I rarely got a break. Once Cullen was more interactive though, it was easier for Craig to help out.
As time has gone on, things have gotten easier. After a few months we fell into a schedule. Despite the lack of sleep, I got back into marathon training with little problems. At 12 months his naps finally regulated, and by 14 months he was walking and more independent. (I loved that he could walk despite everyone warning me how much more he’ll get into.) At 18 months he really started becoming more of a person–walking and talking and being able to communicate. He has his bouts of fussiness but they are often due to him not being able to communicate what he wants.
With all that said, I cannot believe the pure joy and happiness Cullen brings to my life. I love him unlike anyone I’ve loved before. I still deeply love my husband, but how much I care for Cullen and want to protect him is definitely different. (Craig has said the same thing.) Cullen is a part of me! He has my genes and therefore is a piece of me.
As with any parent, I could write a book on tips and things I’ve learned along the way. And this was just my experience with Cullen. With future kids I have no doubt I could write an entirely different book on him/her.