Watching my brother and sister-in-law enter into parenthood has brought back so many emotions for me. It's been a while since it was all new for me. It's been a while since that feeling of "Oh my goodness, what on Earth are they doing just letting us take these babies home!" It is often said, but oh so true... No one knows what they are doing as they enter that new realm. They can read all they want, study up on the facts, talk to friends that they really trust, and everything else under the sun. But, one that baby lands in your arms and your breath is taken away by the unmatched love, the gut-wrenching fear, and massive responsibility of making him or her the best him or her possible, that massive wheeled duffle bag you've carefully packed with wisdom looks more like a ZipLoc snack pack stuffed with a few slivers and scraps of sloppily written hunches, assumptions, and speculations.
It is just you, your spouse, your baby (or babies), and God. You have periphery assistance, but it is up to you to know when to call on them. All of those feelings, "Should I take him to the hospital?", "Why is this poop yellow", "What do we say when people want to touch them and we're not ready?" "Is he eating enough?", they go on and on. We get better at them, but all we can truly do is educate ourselves so that we can wallow through the messy pediatric or neonatal medical realm and still gain some sort of respect needed to glean useful information from the powers that be... information that we will then have to put in place on our own. While we shake in our boots.
As I talked to Jen and Hal about their new roles, I tried to let them know that friends, families, strangers... everyone giving advice are only experts of the situations that they lived through... of their own kids swaddled tight in the familiarity of their own families. I am an expert at raising Asa, Addison, Ivey, and Olive. I am absolutely NOT an expert at baby Tripp, or any other child that is not my own. Doing it. Trudging through. Making mistakes. Pulling your hair out. Learning about (and embracing) your child's uniqueness. Being flexible to meet needs of a changing child, changing feeding/sleep schedule, a changing family, etc. These are the stepping stones that get us from that feeling of "I have no idea how to bathe a baby!!" to being able to order for 4 chatty children in a busy restaurant while disciplining two of them, carrying one of them, and staying relatively in budget.
They are at the beginning of a beautiful journey. They already know it's not always cooing and cuddling and smiling. It gets hard. There are tough choices. You cry alot. The protective feeling inside you has never been fired up quite so hot. New insecurities bust out of your chest. New feelings of being unsure and insecure collide with the need to make decisions and stand up for them when contested. We are all reminded that we are, at our core, animals. We have instincts like animals. We are no different than a bear with her cubs, or a doe with her kids. We act the same. And, they each make a sound for 'worry'. For our goats, they talk to their kids in a worried voice by softly and gently bleating. It just sounds like you would imagine motherly worry to sound. We are no different, even with all of the information that we have right at our fingertips.
Although those beginning months are hard, the lack of sleep is crippling, and the learning curve is steep, I still feel that it is absolutely beautiful. I take the ride in its entirety. We have had more than our share of life and death experiences with our children, experiences that make trips to the hospital for stitches look like a party (and we've had 3 sets of stitches so far). We have made crazy decisions, hard decisions, and it is all for the same exact reason as being extremely cautious of newborns being held by different people too soon. In that case, we fear for their health. In others cases, we feared for their life. Some decisions we made we because we feared for their academic and intellectual needs. Some were made because we were protecting their emotional health. These are our jobs, but they are all based in the same root as those first-time parent fears. Those fears that were the reason we strictly followed the neonatologist's recommendations and kept their premature bodies out of church nursery for 2 years (which not everyone understood).
Heck, I didn't even make it to their conception without having huge painful decisions to make about my job. Even though I had not met my future children, I knew they would eventually come to me. And, I knew they were so important that I should take a leave of absence from my job (looked down upon by that witch at the County BOE), yet again spend 2-3 month's salary on meds & treatments, drive to Atlanta multiple times per week for ultrasounds, pokes, prods, and so many blood draws that my arms were two long bruises, just to give my body one more chance to make all this work. That tough decision, which did not earn me many friends, earned me a huge promotion. Although many attempts had failed, this IUI cycle promoted me to Mommy. All other jobs pale in comparison.
Watching Jen and Hal take their very organized and very planned existence and steep it in the unknown waters of parenthood is absolutely amazing. No, babies don't fit in Excel and yes, feeding babies and babies' schedules are fluid. But, if anyone can adjust to meet the challenge ahead, it's my brother. He and Jen have a beautiful compatibility. They are each other's perfect compliment. I was blessed to be able to watch them transform... the way we all transformed. The old you is gone and the new you is a different, stronger, more dedicated, more focused, person that must have grown a larger soul, as that would be the only possible way to contain all of the new feelings for your new life's focus.
I became a new parent over 9 years ago. I was 24 when I went into the hospital. Three months later, I was 25 and the mother of 2 tiny helpless creatures. That was my moment of transformation. Now, I know what genres of books they each prefer to read, I know which way to get their hair cut that compliments their cowlicks. I know how to make, and cut, their sandwiches. I know how they will react to something before they react. I know that if I ask if anyone would like to help me with dinner, Asa will be elated. I know that if I find a great show on the History Channel, Addison will be all over it. I know not to expect them to care about what they wear or if they sleep on a bed, on a bed with no sheets, or on a hard floor. I know them. I am the expert on them. And now, I have become an expert on two more. I guess someone upstairs trusts me an awful lot to give me and my heart so much love and responsibility.
Being a parent is a reminder than nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised to be easy. Being easy does not equate with being worthwhile. Actually, I would say that the most difficult times that I have been through have been the most rewarding. Even if the outcome wasn't always peachy, I find an Earthy sense of connection and life and nature in those painful moments. Without the pain, we wouldn't realize just how bright the sun shines when it's out. I've always been accused of being a serious romantic. Well, I choose to romanticize parenthood as the complete package that it is. I love it, I love all of my gorgeous works of art, and I love the fact that my brother and Jen are just entering this technicolor world for the first time.
Welcome, Tripp. We love you!