I worked like a dog to become a mother spending heaps of money, sacrificing my health and part of my sanity. Now that I am a mother, I love it. It is the scariest and most wonderful thing I have ever experienced in my life, ever. In the morning when my son cries for me in his crib, my heart soars to see his little arms reach for me. He actually stops crying when I pick him up. No other human being on this planet does that when I hold them. Being his mother has conjured up my hidden magical powers. So why in the hell would I mourn my old life before him? Why, because I am human.
On Christmas Day 2012, I carried him in his infant carrier into my house and introduced him to his home. I remember placing him on the kitchen floor, staring at him and trying to decide what to do first. I was giddy and exhausted all at the same time. Then, we survived the next 24 hours somehow. I changed his sleeping location multiple times and woke up whenever his breathing pattern changed. I was surviving on two hours of sleep in 10-minute blocks of time.
Because of the last minute nature of his arrival, I was not prepared. The only formula and diapers that I had were the ones that I stole from the hospital when the nurse left the room. I needed supplies for him and for me. I wasn’t planning to be home much for the holidays so I had little to no food in my house. Before my son arrived, I would often drop everything and run to the grocery store all hours of the day. Now, that ability was long gone. Of course, I could have taken him to the store with me, but the idea of it made me nervous.
My old life died the second I met my son and most days, I don’t miss it. It’s replaced with this new life but let’s be honest, I was too tired to miss it. If a friend did ask me over for a meal, I would not have been able to stay awake through it.
Things though have a way of working themselves out during this time. During the first few months of motherhood, I was showered by so many niceties. People came over and brought food with them. My aunt brought the leftovers of one of her dinner parties over one afternoon and I was headfirst into one of the dishes before she pulled out of my driveway. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her that I hadn’t eaten in several days.
Your basic needs find a way to get meet during this early crazy time. Food will appear for you eventually. Sleep will come eventually. Showers will happen in some form. Laundry will get done. That’s not the kind of stuff that you mourn. It’s all of the other stuff.
The first thing I found myself missing was a sense of order in my household. I had two baby showers two weeks after he was born. Suddenly I had this little guy in the house with heaps of stuff and more clothes than me. A mound of clothes that needed to be cleaned lived and grew on the floor of my kitchen beside my clothes washer. His clothes were getting washed. I was wearing and re-wearing outfits over and over again. I needed to see my floor again and sweep it. I mourned my clean, kept-up house.
Next, I missed exercise. Before my son was here, I was working out or taking some sort of fitness class two to three hours a day. Mornings started with a run. Evenings were Pilates, dance classes and workout sessions with my trainer. One day, I worked out for three hours. Then suddenly nothing. Complete stop. I snuck in yoga here and there and sometimes people came over to let me run, but my workouts were complete jokes. Without decent sleep, I was barely able to workout enough to get my heartrate up. I found myself getting down and overwhelmed often.
Also, how I worked changed. Before my son, I was the person who always worked through lunch and stayed late without much thought. Work would follow me home. Now, I have become “unreliable”. Little kids are sick a lot in daycare those first few years. As the single parent, I was the only person who can take care of him. Of course, I did once let me mom take care of him during one sick day, but I was so full of guilt and worry that I should have just stayed home. My lunch hours were used to visit my son in daycare since it was right there at work, sneak in some yoga and push ups or take a nap. I don’t volunteer for the big projects anymore and asked my boss to remove me from a few of the existing ones. This old self in regards to work was OK to say goodbye to, but sometimes when I see my peers doing more and winning accolades, I think back to this transition. That’s not me anymore.
The biggest change from my old life to my new life was how my relationships with others changed. People that I considered close and enjoyed many social events together seemed to disappear. Many of my childless-by-choice friends made the choice to visit or contact me less. I learned my place in several relationships in my life. Before my son was born a few people were active in my life. Whenever there was something to do, we did it together. Once my son arrived, that person literally disappeared minus some random likes on my Facebook photos. I learned that I was a “playmate” for this person giving this person a partner in crime to do fun things with someone else. Luckily, I can count these relationships on one hand with a few remaining fingers.
What’s interesting are the people who remain in various forms. You learn immediately who in your life is connected to you in some way. Understand that some people are not children people, but when you make a connection with someone, they care about you as a person even if they don’t get to lie eyes on you often. I have friends now that stay connected via text messages and emails to see what is happening. Even though it’s just a text, the fact that someone reaches out to me to look out for me means a lot. For people without children, it’s hard to figure out how to help those of us with children. Our timetables are different, our meals are different and our perspectives are different. Invitations to dinner parties came with special instructions to me, “Amy, I know you need to bring the baby and that’s fine, but if you do, feel free to leave during our after-dinner cocktails.” Yes, I bring my kid with me to places mainly because I don’t want to go even more time without him. Though it’s awkward to be told when I should leave a party in the invitation, I do understand and appreciate the thought behind the invite. You have to let people adjust to your major life change the best way they know how.
As a single parent, you can’t rest on the excuse that you are too busy to reach out to your friends and check up on you. Yes, I am busy, but I can make a 5-minute phone call while driving down the street to make sure that a friend is feeling better. My son eats up a lot of my free time, but I can still reach out and be a friend. This important reminder is easy to forget and believe me, real friends will let you forget and forgive you to a point. During those first months of my son being home, I was useless to anyone besides him. Reaching out to others seemed impossible because I was tired all of the time. Eventually though, you learn to sleep more than four hours a night. Do yourself a favor, upload one less baby photo to Facebook and text a friend that you were thinking about him or her instead.
Realize that changes in relationships around you during this time may not be 100% based in your child entering your life. You don’t know what is happening to others around you at this time. As a new parent, it’s hard to remember that while your life was changing, that other people could be experiencing change as well. Don’t assume that a friend is not calling you all of the sudden simply because you are a mother. Something else could have happening to that person that is affecting your relationship. Call that person.
Things eventually fall into place. If a person leaves my life because my son is here, that’s OK. If our relationship changes and we see each other less, that’s fine. I can’t expect others to live their lives differently because of a decision that I made. It’s just hard sometimes when you pull up pages in social media and see those friends doing things that you used to do together without you. Unlike what Facebook has taught you, you don’t really have 200 plus friends. You have a core of close friends who love you regardless of your new parenthood status. Take the time now to take care of those folks.
I do find that each day, the changes seem much more normal and my memory of my life before my son begins to fade. I chuckle now at my memories of running at 5:30am so that I could get the mileage in before work. My life seems quite full and fantastic now. I can’t wait to see what happens next.