To My Son on Our First Mother’s Day

Hello dear readers, it’s been far too long! Pregnancy, a new home, and a newborn sidetracked me for over year. But, I’m back! And, what better way to kick-off a new season of blog postings then with another Mother’s Day post. This year, I am lucky to be celebrating my first Mother’s Day as a mama to a truly incredible little boy. Last year, I honored my extraordinary mother, and this year, I would like to do the same for a very special little boy.

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Dear E,

I am not the type of woman that yearned to be a mom, per say. In fact, a few weeks back someone asked me if I loved being a mom. I hesitated before I answered. I admit that I miss my pre-baby freedom, the option to sleep in, get drunk, or sleep in after getting drunk. I miss getting to make plans after 5:00 p.m., working without guilt, or enjoying uninterrupted time with your Dad. I miss feeling and looking well-rested. I miss having breasts that don’t leak. Yet despite all of this, I can honestly say that I love my new, sleep deprived, chaotic life. I love it not because it means I’m a mom. I love it because it means I am your mom.

I may not oohh and ahhh about you in public; in fact, I probably seem pretty flippant about the whole thing. But truth be told, I miss you when you are at daycare, I miss you when you are asleep (although all I wished for the first three months of your life was that you would sleep); in fact, your dad and I have been known to look at pictures of you while you are slumbering just down the hall.

The seams of my heart buckle when I see you smile—it’s brighter than any star I’ve ever seen glimmering against the cobalt night sky or sun ray I’ve witnessed dancing atop a mountain peak urging the day to wake. When you laugh my very own cheeks hurt from laughing with you. No aria, harmony, melody, or song can compete with you as surely, no sweeter sound has ever been heard.  My eyelids are constantly working overtime to hold back the rush of joyous tears as your tiny, soft hands grasp at my chest and cheeks while nursing (even when you are shoving your fingers through my tightly pursed lips. How are those little hands so strong?). I resist the urge to squeeze and kiss you to smithereens as you drift off to dreamland, whispering good night to the day with a gentle sigh escaping through your puffy, parted lips, burrowing closer to me.

And to think, this is just the beginning. I cannot wait until you start saying crazy shit, talking all sorts of non-sense. I cannot wait to watch you figure out who you are and change your mind 10,000 times during your evolution. I cannot wait for your awkward teenage years, when your Dad and I just look at each other and shake our heads at your outfit or whatever crazy slang you kids will be using then. I cannot wait until you become an adult and fall in love. I am excited for you to experience the love your Dad and I share. The excitement, the mundane-ness, and the contented-ness of true love is inspiring. I hope you are cherished, respected, and adored. I wish you to be on the receiving end of a look from your partner that is so powerful that no words are needed, because with that glance you know you are and will forever be loved.

As you love, I promise to put my money where my mouth (or research) is and not only accept, but welcome your partner into our family. I know that one day, you will no longer reach for me when you are scared, I will not be the first person you turn to for advice, or the person whose hug makes everything better. Someone else will fill that role and that is how it should be. But please know, my son, that even when I am no longer your home base, I will always be your home.

So on this first Mother’s Day we share together, I want to thank you for the privilege of being your mom. I thank you for forgiving my mistakes and loving me in spite of them. I thank you for allowing me to connect with my mom, your grandma, on a new level. Now I know what it is to truly love someone to the moon, back, and all around. For that is how much I do and always will love you, my sweet, sweet pumpkin pie.

All of my love,

Mama

The Baby Race: Becoming Parents

From the moment you find out a baby is on the way, whether through pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption, you plan and prepare for your bundle of joy. You research all the latest gizmos and gadgets, read up on how to successfully keep your tiny human alive, and spend an exorbitant amount of time (and money) preparing the perfect nursery, and why wouldn’t you, becoming a parent is one of the most rewarding (and challenging) transitions you will experience.

However, in all that planning your relationship with your partner often gets lost in the shuffle. Although becoming parents is one of the most profound events you share will your partner, it can also be extremely challenging on your relationship. Suddenly you go from showering each other with love and attention to being solely focused on your small eating, pooping, and peeing machine.

Time to shower is scarce, let alone time (or desire, do you really want to leave that precious bundle?) to squeeze in a date night. So, your relationship probably needs a bit of retooling and that may not be something you planned for during your baby blitz. But, with some simple preparation and dedication you can make sure your relationship doesn’t experience the baby blues.

Although some people believe that having children reduces relationship satisfaction, this is not always the case. First, ALL marriages or partnerships experience a decrease in satisfaction. For marriages, satisfaction usually dips within the first three years of marriage, which happens to coincide with the introduction of the first child, for many couples. Therefore, a lot of people blame the baby, not the natural progression of the relationship for the dip in satisfaction.

However, research by Lawrence and colleagues suggests that compared to non-parents, parents do experience a more drastic decline in satisfaction. Yet, individuals who are highly satisfied going in to parenthood and who planned to be parents (versus unplanned pregnancies) continued to have high levels of relational satisfaction after birth. In other words, if you have a strong relationship it will stay strong. However, if you have a rocky relationship a baby won’t make things better; in fact, it will make things worse.

So, what can you do to make sure your transition to parenthood is successful?

Start with a good base.  Don’t add children to your family if you don’t have a strong relationship or if you or your partner are indifferent or do not particularly want children. Also, when possible, plan your addition. The transition will be less stressful if this it is something you and your partner mapped out, rather than it coming out of left field.

Talk about it. Talk to one another about how the addition of a baby will change your relationship, lifestyle, and your own life. Will one of you be a stay-at-home parent? If so, money matters may change as well as expectations regarding who does what around the house. Or, will you both be working? If so, balancing work and family may become a stressor for both parents.

Research shows that even in the most egalitarian households, women still end up doing more childrearing and household tasks. In fact, one study by Ted Huston and Anita Vangelisti found that of the 36.2 household and childrearing tasks that couples encounter each day, women complete 28 of them, even if they are employed full time.

Therefore, it’s important to have a conversation about how you will split childrearing and household tasks, whether one of you works in or out of the home.  Researcher Caryn Medved found that couples often employ multiple strategies for balancing their parenting responsibilities, somewhat equitably, such as alternating (one night you give the bath, the next night your partner does) or connecting with partners throughout the day to “check in” on the child and childcare responsibilities (for example, calling mid-day to see who is in the best position to pick up the children).

You won’t be able to plan for every change that parenthood brings, but acknowledging that things will change and having a tentative plan will help ease the transition.

Moms, let Dads parent. Mothers are often very protective of their children, even with their own fathers. In fact, research shows that mothers often act as “gatekeepers” and limit or interfere with interactions between baby and Dad. It’s important, however, for fathers to be able to parent and spend time alone with their children. And, when fathers feel that their wives have confidence in their parenting they tend to be more involved. So, keep quiet if the outfit the baby is wearing doesn’t match, or if that’s not the exact way you burp your little bundle.

Have realistic expectations. Both overly negative or overly positive and unrealistic expectations of parenthood can impact how successfully you cope with becoming a parent. Don’t expect that you will be out with friends one week after birth or that your sex life is going to be the same. Mentally preparing for these changes can help as you encounter them.

Ask friends to candidly tell you about their transition, what was difficult, what was unexpected, and how did they cope? Know that things are going to be different and, at times, a bit difficult. But, know that it is only temporary and soon enough you and your partner will settle into a comfortable rhythm.

Take time for yourself and each other. Babies take up A LOT of time. In those first few months you may feel like all you do is feed and change, feed and change. Therefore, it’s important to take time out for yourself and your partner. Take a shower, get your nails done, watch the game, or talk to a friend on the phone. Doing things that you did pre-baby may make you feel more human, even if you’re only running on two hours of sleep.

Also, take time as a couple, but do it in a way you’re comfortable with. Your first post-baby date doesn’t have to be some all-night extravaganza. If you’re like most parents the thought of being away from your bundle may be heartbreaking. So, take an hour and go for coffee or grab a quick lunch. Or, just watch a movie or play a game when the baby is asleep. The point is to make sure you’re focusing on each other for bit, so do that in whatever way makes sense for you.

Becoming parents is definitely challenging, but extremely worthwhile. If you and your partner work as a team, you’ll be highly satisfied parenting pros in no time!

Until next time,

Sylvia

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