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Change can be hard, especially for parents. A former neighbor (and at the time, soon-to-be mother of five) once explained the logic behind family planning in basketball terms to me. I am paraphrasing, but it went something like: If you have one kid, the parents can double team and persevere. Two kids means man-to-man coverage, while three kids or more is a zone defense.
I have four children, but I think bringing home our first baby was the most difficult transition. My husband and I were together for eight years before my oldest came into the family portrait. We were both working full-time and living the life of happy hours and impromptu weekend trips.
Once our baby girl came along, late nights consisted of poopy diapers and a screaming newborn. We also had to get on a schedule, something we’d never had to do before because we were two adults with no other living beings around expecting us to nurture and care for them (aside from our spoiled dog, of course).
It was hard to go from a couple to a family. While the double-team coverage was great in caring for my daughter, it was also irritating because my husband and I weren’t always sure who should take the lead. There were times when I could have thrown a bouncy seat at my husband’s head, because we each thought the other had already checked to make sure the diaper was clean before getting our contentedly-sleeping newborn strapped into the car seat.
When it comes to taking care of your first baby, I believe there is no worse statement to hear from your significant other than, “I thought you did it.”
The first six weeks of parenthood were rough. There was not a lot of quality sleep and we were dumb enough to think we could overfeed a newborn. We have many photographs of my daughter with a red, screaming face, and I think to myself (now) how she was probably hungry, or tired, or both. We had tons of grandparent help, but growing into our family meant we had to figure it out on our own.
And we did.
I got smarter after a particularly brutal bridal shower experience, where I foolishly thought my six-week-old would love to come with me and be shown off to my college pals. I was in the wedding party but instead of helping with shower duties, I spent all my time locked in a guest room with my dress pulled up to my shoulders trying to breastfeed a screaming infant (bridesmaid fail!).
During that excruciating afternoon, I got a lot of advice from new moms. A fellow bridesmaid recommended a book called “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” and others emphasized the importance of swaddling and having a swing.
After driving home with a screeching baby co-pilot, I told my husband we were going shopping. We bought a swing and stopped at the library to check out the recommended baby book (because I couldn’t wait for it to arrive via online shipping). I dug out a swaddle blanket gift we had received but not yet used because I didn’t think my baby would like it. Ha!
The first night we committed to swaddling led to our daughter sleeping for six straight hours. We never looked back, and to this day I am in love with the glow worm look of my baby wrapped like a burrito.
It also helped that my husband was (and still is) a hands-on dad. He was elbow deep in mustard-seed poop right there with me. Things got easier for us both once we realized parenthood did not mean our lives had to completely change. Maybe it wasn’t practical for both of us to still play weekly co-ed volleyball, but we could still take hikes. Going out to eat also did not have to go by the wayside; some of my best parental memories are of my four-month-old sitting in a bumbo seat at our favorite pizza place.
The first year with a baby was not the easiest, but I would probably go back to that time given a genie and three wishes. Prior to that point in my life, I’d never felt so much love for another living being. Kids are just different and they can make us such better people.
It’s a cliche because it’s true, but having a baby really does change everything. My husband and I already had a great life. Adding a child may have made it a bit harder at times, but mostly it just made us grow to be better.