2006 was, of course, the year that Andreas and I became parents. It will therefore never be forgotten or dismissed as a minor, banal year. No, 2006 will be remembered by both Andreas and me as the year we went through the change.
Becoming parents has been as much and more than we expected. It has been a simultaneously marvelous, terrible, exhausting, difficult and sweet time.
The depth of our love for Kai, while probably easily enough predicted, comes as a lovely surprise. Both Andreas and I marvel at this little being that we have created. We watch him sleep, eat, play, laugh and everything he does is such a miracle to us we can’t stop talking about it. Oh, I know that every parent feels this way, but when it is your own child it is just so intriguing and compelling you can barely look away. There is such a purity to the love that you feel for your child that you can’t imagine it until you are a parent. It is simply wonderful.
So it is easy to understand why everyone has an opinion about babies. Babies are humanity concentrated and we need them to remind us about the wonder of life and the miracle of human existence. They are a topic worthy of a million opinions. Still, this multitude of opinions was a shock to me during our first few months as parents. I am a chronic over-achiever and I take pleasure and pride in doing things “right” and thoroughly. Well, as I quickly learned, everyone who holds an opinion about babies believes to the bottom of their soul that they are right. Absolutely right. When you actually try to investigate the actual scientific evidence regarding any one theory of child-rearing, you will undoubtedly find that there are just as many scientific studies supporting one theory as another. So, in the end, you are really on your own to do what you instinctively feel is right.
Finding confidence in my own instinct was difficult, especially as I muddled through sleep deprivation and the physical recovery from pregnancy. The watershed moment occurred when I read a book called “Our Babies, Ourselves” which describes the huge variety of child-rearing practices across the world. And despite this huge variety of approaches, babies grow up, for the most part, to reach adulthood. In other words, I figured out that if we just winged it, Kai was going to survive!
One interesting fact I learned in this book was that our culture is particularly focussed on sleep. In some cultures, mother can’t even tell you if their baby sleeps through the night or how many times he or she wakes up. Imagine!
Kai sleeps fairly decently now, but I’ll never forget the night when he was about a month old and he just wouldn’t go back to sleep at about 3 am. I was so exhausted that I just lay on the floor next to him and wept with the frustration. You can’t imagine the exhaustion that you feel in those first months. Everyone warns you about it, but you don’t realize that you will also be recovering from pregnancy at the same time as dealing with this little being who hasn’t figured out night and day yet. It does end, and I almost get enough sleep now. Our secrets? Co-sleeping, accepting that he will sleep through the night when he is ready, and sleeping during the day when ever we need to… Of course, all of this went out the window when he started teething.
Ah, yes. Teething. Kai has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to teething. He has been having symptoms of teething for about two months now. We have had many discussions as to whether or not he was actually teething. About two weeks ago, he woke up screaming and continued to scream for hours. Lo and behold the next day a little tooth poked through the skin. However, the screaming lasted for another week, followed by an infection in a sensitive area (ouch), a fever, a cough and a cold. I’m happy to say that we seem to be through the worst now.
Of course, during the teething, Kai wanted to spend his entire day being held by us. Exhausting. It is hard to believe that I ever thought I was busy before we had a child. Free time? Two minutes surfing the net is a luxury these days. I think that the most difficult part for me is that I never get anything done. As a goal-oriented person, I need the satisfaction of a completed project. The process of child-rearing is much more subtle and you rarely get to think: there, I’ve finished that. So I take great pleasure in cooking these days because it is the one creative endeavour which I can actually accomplish.
Andreas and I have had to learn these little tricks (like letting me cook so I get my creative fix) as we have progressed in our parenthood. While talking with my mommy friends, one common topic is the contributions of Dad and for the most part, most dads don’t seem to be living up to the expectations of their partners. Honestly, I think that the reality of motherhood is so overwhelming that every mother looks for someone to rescue her from the weight of it. And of course our partners are the first in line in our minds for this job. But they are working hard too (especially Andreas) and they are adjusting to the new realities of parenthood as well. The best advice I got was that you can’t wait for your partner to figure out how to help you. You just have to tell him to do it. (Thanks Jacqueline!).
Andreas and I are getting the hang of the parenting thing for sure. Andreas is a very supportive partner and has done his best to help me with the weight of motherhood and the isolation that comes with staying at home with a baby all day long. It hasn’t been always easy, but we are fine tuning our lives to find the balance that we all need.
One of the greatest joys of the last few months for me has been watching Kai and Andreas fall in love with each other. At first, the babies are very focussed on their mothers (milk!) and I think that this is a very natural stage. As Kai started to interact with his world, he suddenly noticed that there was this guy sleeping in our bed with us. And he was a funny guy at that! Kai started to light up whenever Andreas came in the room and to laugh uncontrollably at Andreas going about his daily business. Andreas undressing was HIGHLY amusing for Kai. And how could Andreas not respond to this adoration? It is so lovely and wonderful watching them play together — these have honestly been the happiest moments of my life.
These first eight months of parenthood have brought us both the most wonderful and the challenging moments of our lives. It is hard to believe that Kai has survived our extreme inexperience, but he seems to be doing OK. It is such a privilege to share this time and we look forward to every day with him. 2007 will bring, I am sure, more wonderful and challenging moments with this lovely human being.