Henda Al-Biatty, MPH
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Co-founder and Project Manager for MOVE
There they are, the two infamous blue lines. Now you’re struck with excitement, anticipation, wonder, fear, and anxiety all wrapped up in one overwhelming burst of emotion equating to happiness because you have conceived a life. A miracle and blessing that can never be taken for granted. You spend the next 9 months in preparation for the joyous day to meet your little one, from reading parenting books, to buying a whole load of baby products (you will realize that some are just unnecessary and useless) and just nesting. When the high alerts start sounding off announcing the arrival of your little one, you somehow unleash a physical and emotional courage that you didn’t think you had. And just like that, as if nothing happened, no pain or agony. The last 9 months are erased, and there wrapped in your arms all warm and smelling like a meadow of flowers, is your new baby. You know from that moment your life is not what it used to be.
Now every new parent anticipates that their life will inevitably change when bringing a new life into this world, but ‘how?’ is where it gets blurry. You have already accounted for being sleep deprived, home bound and probably covered, sometimes unknowingly, in your newborns “gifts.”. While you try to recover physically and emotionally, you simultaneously have to adapt to the ongoing needs of your little one. You probably naively thought how you’re going to control all of the x-factors that will get thrown at you. You imagine yourself dodging obstacles exceptionally well because you have superhero-like powers now. This is where you need to toss the playbook on what type of parent you wanted to be or you thought you’re supposed to be and start being the parent you need to be for your child. We don’t know what our children will be like. What their temperaments will be like, if they have any health issues after birth, if you as a parent just can’t do it alone. We don’t spend enough time preparing for the aftermath mentally, especially with the first child. We all have the invincibility cloak on, thinking we “got this” even if we spent countless nights thinking about all the “what ifs”. You will eventually get it, but after some trial and error, loads of crying, and a strong support system.
Once you and the baby have adjusted to the new planet of parenthood, things become a little calmer and mechanical. You come to realize that you no longer really remember what life was like before the 3 am alarm clock arrived. This is where you realize you took too many turns off the road map and now you have to find your way back to visit “me-land”. Not as easy as it may seem. While you have enjoyed conquering planet parenthood for the time being, you long to visit “me-land” even if for a moment. Returning to your hobbies, spending some time with friends, having a moment to collect your thoughts or even looking at yourself in the mirror. It’s easy for some and much harder for others. Everyone has their own circumstances governing their lives but everyone should find a way with the help of their spouse, family and friends, to break free of this automatic cycle. Stepping away, even just for a few minutes, restores appreciation, gratitude, and energy for your little one.
While parenting is difficult, to say the least, it’s well worth the reward.