I didn’t know what to expect after becoming a parent.
Mostly I was terrified that I would be a bad one.
Squish is laying in bed next to me, hours before the the sun will come up, cooing loudly, trying to fit her left foot into her mouth and having a conversation with her right one.
These are my favorite moments.
And I didn’t expect that.
I didn’t expect to love it when her eyes pop open at the crack of dawn, ready to start the day, and that I would relish in the coos and smiles instead of desperately trying to find my way back to sleep.
There’s a lot of things I didn’t expect.
1. I didn’t expect to have less anxiety.
Parenting comes with it’s own sets of worries and anxieties, and I do have them, but I do not have the needless, endless worry that I used to entertain on a daily basis. Early on during my maternity leave, after the severe sleep deprivation wore off and the parenting instincts started to develop, I realized that I just did not have time to worry about useless things. To be anxious about the future meant that I was missing out on the present, and I did not want to miss one moment of our precious time together. I took a lot of emotional baggage out with the endless piles of dirty diapers and decided that I was going to embrace each moment, good or bad, for what it was. I want to spend my time enjoying this new life instead of worrying needlessly about inconsequential things.
2. I didn’t expect to have better body image.
Pregnancy was tough. I really struggled with all the body changes and spent a lot of time looking forward to “getting my body back.” I told myself that I wouldn’t be like the crazy celebrities that look as if they never had never been pregnant just six weeks postpartum, but secretly I wanted to look like I had never been pregnant six weeks postpartum.
Or at least by three months.
I still looked six months pregnant for at least six weeks and now I sport a fluffy new “mom pouch” south of my bellybutton.
My arms are thicker and softer, my clothes are all a size or two larger, and I haven’t lost a pound since the week after I left the hospital.
I wish I could say that none of this bothers me, but it does bother me a lot less than it would have in the past.
And I’m finally starting to appreciate what my body can do instead of what it looks like.
I built a human for pete’s sake.
And I carried this full sized human to term in an exceedingly small torso on a small frame.
I am not a rubber band.
I did not “snap” back into shape.
There are pockets of fat in places I never expected but I know that they are there to continue to nourish this tiny human.
And I’m appreciative that my body does what it knows is best, despite my (irrational) brain’s attempt to tell it otherwise.
3. I didn’t expect to become more flexible.
I don’t mean yoga flexible.
I haven’t been yoga flexible since 2013.
I mean mentally flexible.
I like routines.
I crave them.
I spent a good 10 years cultivating a daily routine that I rarely strayed from, and if I did, I felt uneasy or anxious.
Newborns laugh in the face of routine.
Even though I knew a new baby wouldn’t embrace I routine, I somehow thought that I could at least still maintain one.
I tried to wake up nice and early, despite being up all hours of the night.
I tried to work out in the morning, my rigidly preferred time, despite having no idea when she would wake up and need me.
I tried to make dinner every day at a reasonable evening hour.
It was a hard transition, but I finally learned I had to become more flexible or I was going to drown in defeat.
It was like finally being freed from my own mental prison.
I could change and adapt as the day went on and nothing terrible would happen.
I finally relinquished control.
And it’s one of the best things that I have ever done.
I’m constantly amazed at how someone that has been on this earth for just four short months can have the capacity to change negative habits that I have been harboring for decades.
Finally I can be the person I’ve always wanted to be because I refuse to be anything less for the Squish.
Taking care of her has made me realize just how important it is to take care of myself.
4. I didn’t expect to be more confident.
Even though parenting is often a series of failures and mistakes, I am more confident than I have ever been in my entire life.
Because every night, when I lay Squish down to sleep, I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment that we made it through the day.
And every morning when I wake up, I am just so damn proud of myself that I was able to nourish her through the sleepless hours and awake knowing we made it through another night.
Parenting is easily the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am doing it, and that makes me feel good.
5. I didn’t expect P-Daddy would be everything that he is.
Oh, I knew P-Daddy was going to be a good Dad.
I knew that he would be loving, caring, and hands on.
I’ve always known that.
What I didn’t know is that he’d be the perfect partner and I’d come to depend on him more than I ever have before.
P-Daddy has always been very involved.
During the pregnancy, I was tired.
While I was sleeping, P-Daddy painted, decorated, and organized the entire nursery.
He folded and hung the clothes, stacked diapers in drawers, and added various baby items to shelves, bins, and dressers.
I was beyond grateful, but in the back of my mind I thought the novelty would eventually wear off for him.
I was sure the newness would fade into the mundane and eventually he would forgo these activities all-together.
I was so wrong.
P-Daddy is forever throwing in a load of never-ending laundry, folding cloth diapers, vacuuming the house, loading the dishwasher, and cleaning the kitchen.
All of this on top of rocking the Squish to sleep, giving baths, reading books, and ensuring Squish gets her daily dose of tummy time.
P-Daddy works long, hard shifts and it means a lot to me that he helps keep the house in tip-top shape.
He could easily let those things fall to me given he spends a lot of his free time doing yard work and endless house maintenance, but he picked up all the extras without complaint.
I have come to depend on him more than ever and we have become quite the team.
Sure, we still need lots and lots of practice but it helps knowing that we always have each other’s back.
I truly could not do any of this without him.
6. I didn’t expect to feel the way that I do about breastfeeding.
I knew from the start that I would breasted but I had no attachment to it.
It was just something I had to do because it was biologically the best thing for baby.
It was hard.
One of the hardest things I have ever done.
The beginning was so, so rough, and I just didn’t understand how people said breastfeeding helps you bond with your baby.
I was in excruciating pain, dreaded when she would get hungry, and just trying to get through each feed.
Still, I persisted, because in my mind, there was no other option.
Over time, something magical happened.
The pain subsided and I actually began to enjoy the experience.
I would look forward to our time together and was awe struck while I watched her eat.
I became passionate about the topic of breastfeeding and read as much as I possibly could about it.
I go to support groups and participate in a Facebook page to support breastfeeding.
I had no idea how important to me breastfeeding would become.
There really is an unspeakable bond that I just can not put into words.
It’s incredible how our bodies can speak to each other in a rhythmic dance of production and nourishment.
Did you know the composition of breast milk changes over time based on the needs of the baby?
All of this happens without words or intention.
Her body asks and mine responds.
It is such a unique and temporary connection and one that I have truly come to adore.
Even though it will eventually come to an end, I hope it sets the stage for a bond that will last a lifetime.
Here’s a cool article about the magic of breastfeeding.
7. I didn’t expect to love every day as much as I do.
The small, joyful moments contained in each day make this life one big ball of awesome.
I didn’t know how much I would come to love these small things.
Picking out her clothes at night for the next day.
Packing her bag for daycare.
Driving around town together.
Reading books before bed.
Listening to her babble for what seems like hours.
Discovering what she likes and watching her play.
In another life, I was bombarded with “busyness” and rarely stopped to enjoy where I was at.
Now I constantly take breaks to just soak up the moment.
Watching a child learn and grow is possibly life’s greatest gift.
I am so glad God gave me this Squish, even when I had doubts that I could do this at all.
I am so grateful for this family.
I am so grateful for this life.
And I never expected all of that.