It was 3 a.m., and I was standing in the shower, hunched over my big pregnant belly, sobbing. I had been in labor since 1:30 and the contractions were getting more intense, but that wasn’t the reason I was crying.
I was freaking out because I kept thinking, “What have I done? Am I about to completely ruin my life?”
All of the mom blogs I’d read and stories I’d heard emphasized one thing: after you have a baby, your life completely changes. But what if you really liked your pre-baby life?
If that sounds like you, I have good news: your life doesn’t completely change. A lot of things change, and you might not recognize yourself or your life from time to time, especially during the early days. However, overall you remain you and the important things in your life stick around.
Here are some things in my life that have remained constant in the nine months since my son was born:
There’s a stereotypical image of the new mother: sleep-deprived, dirty hair up in a messy bun, covered in spit-up, etc. Well, my messy-bun game sucks, and my body has a finely-tuned ability to feel like a complete greaseball after exactly 24 hours without bathing, so this wasn’t going to work for me. I vowed that I would shower every day, and unlike most of my resolutions, this one stuck.
Granted, I can’t remember the last time I used my blow dryer, and my yummy salon-quality shampoo and conditioner has been replaced by some fancy Suave 2-in-1. I do usually manage to put on mascara though, because I don’t enjoy being spooked by a lashless ghoul every time I walk past the mirror (Curse of the Blonde Eyelashes, egad!). Sometimes I even dance with the Devil and attempt some liquid eyeliner. You don’t know an adrenaline rush until you’re trying to finish the perfect cat eye while your baby screams in the other room. (I jest, of course. I’ve never actually achieved the perfect cat eye.) I tell myself that I’m going for the beachy, natural look. If you see me in person, please don’t destroy my delusion. My hair may look like crap, but at least it’s clean.
A good Bluetooth is a lifesaver for the stay-at-home mom. My best friend recommended getting one after her husband bought one as a last-minute Mother’s Day gift for her. She said, “I acted mad because it seemed like such a crappy gift that he clearly found at the pharmacy while he was buying the card. However, it's actually incredibly useful.” (We’re never admitting that to him, of course – solidarity, sister!)
Babies take at least two hands (sometimes three or four) to wrangle, so a Bluetooth means that you can keep discussing the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show while changing diapers or lassoing a toddler. Genius, I tell you.
It also does away with your friends’ pesky excuses to get off the phone once you’ve overloaded them on baby details for the day.
“Oh man, it sounds like you need to go feed Ben!”
“Nope, don’t worry, I have my Bluetooth and this puppy has an eight hour charge on it. I can keep talking all day!”
Obviously, when baby first comes home, your partner will take a slight backseat. (This is okay, because shaving and wearing normal underwear also take a backseat for a few weeks. Nothing says romance like a nice pair of granny panties and prickly legs.)
Newborns take a huge amount of time and energy, but here’s the great news: they only stay newborns for a few months (this is also sad news because they’re so sweet and squishy and sleepy as newborns *heart eyes*). After that, their sleep starts consolidating and you get lovely three- or four-hour chunks of time to hang out with your partner, get in some hanky-panky, hire a babysitter and go out for the evening, or just stare off into the distance together in a tired stupor.
Things do change in your relationship, but you don’t have to lose each other. My son now goes to bed at 7:00 and generally sleeps through the night, so my husband and I get to take off our “Mom and Dad” hats at 7 p.m. and just be partners again. Usually this just means we get to watch TV in peace, but that’s enough sometimes.
A few disclaimers on this one: my definition of “plenty of sleep” has definitely changed since becoming a mother, and much to my eternal gratitude, my son is generally a great sleeper (so I have it pretty easy here). Also, this isn’t true of the newborn stage for anyone. Ever.
Yes, for the first few months, you will probably feel like a zombie. There are days when you’re so tired that you’ll cry. You will think you can’t survive. You will regret all of your life decisions that led to this point, and you will vow to never have another child. (I’m very dramatic about sleep, if you couldn’t tell.) BUT: This. Will. Pass.
Babies do learn to sleep. They do. I promise. Even “bad” sleepers learn to sleep. You can survive this and someday, sooner than you think, you'll feel rested again. You may not recognize the feeling, but then your baby will start teething or hit a growth spurt or something and you’ll remember what tired really felt like. (You will then vow to never take sleep for granted again, but you will, because humans have terrible memories.)
I firmly believe that naps are the universe’s way of saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful Mother, here is your reward!”
I use my baby’s nap times to chill out, take a nap, read, write stuff, clean the house, or do whatever I need to reset or put my little world in order. Oh yes, I still even have time to clean! (I’ll admit that vacuuming is tricky, but that’s mostly because my dog decides that the sleeping baby needs to protect her from the scary vacuum and barges into his room. The vacuuming he can sleep through, the 80-pound panting beast in his room, he cannot.)
I’ll admit, there are days that my son decides that he’s so over naps and will no longer sleep for more than 20 minutes. Those days are awful. For those moms of babies who always nap like that: God be with you. I don’t know how you do it.
You can’t actually leave the house during nap times, but luckily, I’m an introvert and my social needs are blessedly low. What I need is lots of alone time to putter around the house and do whatever I want, and naps are perfect for that.
Strength training: 40 reps of carrying squirming baby up and down stairs. 20 reps of going back up the stairs to grab the thing you forgot because you’re a mother now and your memory is crap. five reps of holding squirmy baby in one arm while preparing a bottle with the other because he believes life will end if you put him down for two seconds. 100 reps of fending off surprisingly strong baby from whatever you have in your hand that he wants: phone, remote, food, coffee cup, shoe, etc. 10 reps of carrying 35 pounds of dead weight in one hand (infant carrier plus a baby) and a million pounds of groceries in the other because only suckers take more than one trip to unload the car.
Cardio: five sprints to finish unloading groceries from car because you are, in fact, a sucker and there’s no way you can carry a box of diapers, laundry detergent, a gallon of milk, a bunch of fresh fruit for baby food, and a jumbo-size box of cookies for yourself all at the same time. Five more sprints to the door per nap to shut the dog up before she wakes the baby. Bonus points for silent ninja running. (Extra bonus points for running so quietly that the dog doesn’t hear you until you’re on her barking ass.)
Your boobs, belly, skin, and idea of appropriate small talk may permanently change after you have a baby, but the important things stick around. If you’re currently pregnant or thinking about having a baby, and you find yourself panicking about what life with baby will look like, slow down. Take a breath, and remember that there will be a period of upheaval, but things will normalize again. You will still be you, and your life will still include the things that are important to you.
Babies change a lot of things, but they don’t change everything. You might even have time to blow dry your hair again (eventually).
It takes a village!
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