Friday, June 10, 2011

The things I was afraid of before having a baby.... one year later

I'm supposed to be writing about other things, but my time has been so monopolized that I just feel like I have to start with something I really WANT to write about, so here we go...

My brother and sister-in-law are having a baby ... YAY... and it's a girl! My SIL asked me how I feel now about a post I wrote a year ago: What Scares Me About Pregnancy and Motherhood.

That is an excellent question, and since I've been thinking about that since she wrote me, I wanted to ponder it via blog a little bit.

1. Losing my identity as "Kacie". 
With both marriage and having a child, it marks a change of identity as well - from a single woman to a married woman, a wife. Now I'm transitioning to being a mother. Change is inevitable, but I find myself initially reacting strongly against the feeling that I will be a whole different person, never to return to who I was before.
 Just as that fear of losing my identity dissipated when I got married, it has dissipated after having Judah. I didn't lose my identity when I became a mother, I added to it. I am all of the things I was before, and now also a mother. I still feel like Kacie. I feel like my identity is more well-rounded, I am even more comfortable with who I am. I will say, though, that this may be helped by the fact that I am a working mom right now. The first month or so after having a baby are all-consuming and although it was wonderful, you do sort of lose perspective on who you are and what life is like normally. When things normalize it's easier to get back into your life, but I definitely have the benefit of having multiple days a week in which I am "Kacie" without Judah there with me. I interact and am known as a professional and co-worker, so I don't feel completely absorbed by the "mother" role, though it's there and I love it.

2. Fear of the loss of independence and how I will react to it.
Well, this is an interesting one. Two parts. First of all, yes, you lose your independence. I was all proud of us at first that we just continued on getting out and about with Judah in tow, but that changed as soon as Isaac was back in school and I had to take Judah out alone. The car seat is heavy, you never know when the baby is going to cry, navigating schedules and everything you need to take with you is complicated. It's easier now, but still.... It's SO much harder to get things done and I can't just make my own schedule or plan. It gets easier every month as the baby gets older, but it's true... the level of independence is changed.

The key is the second part. How do I react to the loss of independence? The loss is balanced by the fact that being trapped in the apartment with an adorable baby boy isn't half bad! I come up with new things to do that are okay with a baby in tow. Time slows down, in a way, and I really try to soak up those small slow moments with my son instead of thinking about how it's taking away from everything else I could be doing. Before it seemed like once I became a mother that period of life would stretch out interminably. Now I sort of see it the other way around. Say I have three kids. I would have a year and a half total with a baby under six months. That is SO SO short compared to most life stages, and so instead of resenting it when it's all consuming, I keep thinking that in just a few years I will coo over other women's infants and wish I could have the sweetness of an itty bitty one again. So. I lose independence, but it is for a GOOD cause and I will gain it back again incrementally as Judah grows.  I don't resent it, I'm trying to soak it up. Sometimes it stresses me out, but I don't resent it.

3. Fear of not enjoying motherhood. 
Wow. On this one I know some women really struggle so I hate to sound too happy clappy because comparison isn't helpful. However... wow. I LOVE being a mother. I've never felt so useful, so fulfilled, so well-suited to what I'm doing. I'm nurturing an adorable, squishy, smiley little baby. It's fun. I eat it up.

It may be harder when motherhood is what I'm doing all day, but I really do think it's one of the things I would most enjoy doing most all day long. It also may be harder when kids are older and there's more of them, since I do just looooove infants. But yeah. First six months of motherhood have been entirely enjoyable.

4. Fear of figuring out appropriate discipline. 
Now there's a legitimate fear right there. I'd say almost all of the fights Isaac and I have had over the past six months have been related to the philosophy behind discipline. Don't think you'll get away from it because they're infants... that philosophy relates to how to guide or control their sleep and eating habits too. Isaac and I are definitely running on different philosophies and each time we have to actually make a decision, we end up coming to the conclusion that our opinions really are opposite and even understanding the other side doesn't make us change our minds. That means we have to come to some sort of agreed compromise in which one or both of us really does lose out. And giving up ... in an area like shepherding your child is a whole lot harder and scarier than it is when you compromise on picking a spot to eat lunch.

That's still pretty scary, since I know we'll be dealing with discipline for... 18 years. The good thing is that while I don't enjoy conflict, we CAN do it, and do it pretty well most of the time, and in the end it makes you stronger if you do it well. We had a big discussion (read: fight :)) about something this week, but after extensive conversation, apologies, decisions about what to do next time this issue arises.... I feel blessed to have a husband that cares about our child and parenting well, who is willing to work through a discussion instead of just dominate the decision, and who loves me.

5. Fear of losing the centrality of our marriage
After I wrote this post last year I read even more about what having children does to marriages. Statistically, marital satisfaction drops dramatically after having a child. They say the emotional affect on a woman is like having an affair. Phew! They say dads often feel left out in the first weeks because mom and baby bond so strongly.

I understand that now. Everything about an infant is made to entirely monopolize a woman's emotional energy, but there is good reason for that. Infants require that much attention and care, and when mom has just fallen in love with that baby, it makes being a mom so much easier. It really was overwhelming how emotional I was about Judah after he was born. I cried over him so often, I wanted to hold him, to talk to him, to be near him. Yeah. Super emotional mommy. Not super different than initial overwhelming infatuation in its level of ridiculousness.

That's great for mothering, but it is weird to have that suddenly hit you like a ton of bricks when you have been focused on your marriage. I'm glad that Isaac and I were both pretty wrapped up in Judah, because while we got very little (or none at all) alone time, we were together in being so into this new little person. Those were beautiful new moments as a family. We were lucky to have Isaac on Christmas break from school at the same time I was on maternity leave.

After that, though, when I went back to work and Isaac to school and we passed Judah back and forth between us... that was much harder. We were (and still sort of are) super busy and since I was pumping and figuring out supply issues, I hated to leave Judah for any extra time to get a date with Isaac. That would be much easier if I were a stay at home mom - then I would have been at home with the baby or kids the whole time and would feel no guilt about getting someone else to watch them for a while while Isaac and I got a date.

The date thing is key, actually. This whole school semester I'd start to feel all the responsibilities weighing on us and start to feel down and disconnected. That would only grow... until we did get in a date. Each time we got a date it would be SO refreshing, so wonderful to be together, and really rejuvenating. Thus... I am a believer in dates and their necessity when you have kids. I'm thankful for friends in my community group that have volunteered to babysit for free, and we're starting to make a habit of it.

Conclusion on that one.... it IS harder to keep your marriage central when you have kids. It takes work. However, date time can be the little trick you need to snap things back into place.


lisamckaywriting said...

Cool post, Kacie. I've been writing a lot of pregnancy related posts lately on some of these issues, so it was fun to read something from someone on the other side! Glad to hear you're doing well and LOVE being a mum!

Sarah said...

Thanks for writing this follow-up. At t minus 6 weeks (give or take) until our little boy arrives, it's good to read honest advice for all the changes about to take place.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog, Kacie! I knew your parents briefly in Papua (they were leaving just as we were arriving, we bought a book from them!!) and I remember my hubby playing football and hockey and stuff with Caleb, so it's fun to "see" your family here!
When we were studying language in Bandung I was always called "Ibunya Katie" (my daughter is Kate) so the loss of identity was a big one for me, I wasn't Donna, I was someone's mother! I hear you on that one. The upside is that people love babies and you get to feel so proud when someone stops and adores your little one and congratulates you as the mum!
Blessings to you and your fam!

Kacie said...

Thanks Donna! Who knows maybe I remember you... in the context of your family. :) Always funny to find out who is reading my blog!

Sarah and Lisa.... can't wait to read your thoughts as you go through it!

AHLondon said...

Sounds like you are doing well, my dear. Advance warning though--because that is what I do--regarding points 2, 4, and 5 they are getting easier now, but only for the next few months. Six to nine months, if you have sorted out the things it sounds like you have, those months are pretty calm, baby wise. Then the change will start. Judah will learn to talk and walk, will lose another nap and begin illustrating a lack of frustration coping ability commonly referred to as the Terrible Twos. (First mini tantrums typically show around 10 months, to escalate until about 18 months when the phase starts in earnest.) Number 2 will get harder, number 4 you and Isaac will have to work out, and number 5 must not get lost. Defend date night--and sex.

Kacie said...

AHLondon.... ah yes. Actually I think Isaac will love having a toddler - lots of play time. I am currently trying to get my head about being an appropriately strict mom, because I am a big softy. It would be wonderful if we have an easy time in the terribly twos (my parents say I was an easy kid to discipline, Isaac was apparently a nightmare).

As for dates and marriage, in December Isaac graduates from school and I think life will get a bit easier in terms of schedules and commitments.

AHLondon said...

About that playtime, toddlers are fun. If daddy and son play gets too much for you, just don't watch. Yasha plays with ours, and sometimes I just can't watch or listen, and I'm pretty immune to loud.