Referring to the months leading up to the Hammer’s arrival as “stressful” is a massive understatement.
I was out of my mind with anxiety, from worries about future restrictions on money and and sleep and time, to concerns about both the baby’s and Mom and Buried’s health, to wondering how I would possible survive the post-delivery ban on sex, my mind was overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty.
Now, of course – exactly as I kept telling myself it would be all along (to little avail) – everything is fine.
I mean, it’s a total nightmare – we’re not quite six weeks in, we have a colicky new baby on our hands, and are getting a lot less sleep than usual (and we didn’t get a ton to begin with), and have a long, looooong way to go – but everything is fine.
Some things are harder, and there are more challenges, but mostly there are just new challenges. Whether you’re going from no kids to one, or one to two, the specifics are different but the generalities are the same. We’re still parents trying to do our best and surviving as best we can. The need for some stuff has taken on increased urgency, i.e., money (I’m available for freelance work!), and naps (or not), but otherwise it’s just one day at a time, like everything else.
Don’t be afraid of parenthood.
Having a kid is difficult. Having two kids is difficult. Caring for babies is difficult, protecting toddlers is difficult, raising preschoolers is difficult, handling kindergartners is difficult, god knows tweens and teens and college kids will be difficult too. Everything just keeps getting harder, but it’s less of a pile-on kind of hard and more of a trade one thing for another kind of hard. It’s the same for people without children; life is a continual trade-off. It seems to me that it’s about balance, and letting the anxiety take over skews it too far in the wrong direction.
Being nervous and getting stressed out and having anxiety in advance of a major change of any kind is normal. But it helps to remember that the anticipation of the change is almost always worse than the change itself. Because, all the worrying aside, once it actually happens, there’s no more speculation, and there’s a lot less time for agonizing. Once the levee breaks, the new reality you’ve been freaking out over facing is simply reality, and the new life you’ve been panicking about living is simply your life.
You’re no longer able to live in your head, because when the things you’ve been worrying about come to pass, you’re forced to just live, period. (Or else become a bindlestiff and ride the rails to a new life somewhere else, but there aren’t many parents I know with the balls (or lackthereof) to do that.)
I’m not exactly a glass-half-full kind of guy. I don’t think everything happens for a reason, and I don’t think God only gives you what you can handle. But I do believe that, most of the time, the phrase “this too shall pass” is pretty accurate. (Note: it does not say when. I’m hoping that in my case it’s around 18 years.) I also believe, despite my complete and utter inability to put this belief into practice, that worrying doesn’t accomplish much.
Parenthood is no different. It’s scary, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it.
When you have kids, there are a lot of things to stress out about (most of which I haven’t even come close to experiencing yet) and those things aren’t ever going to disappear. Neither, if you’re doing it right, will your fear and anxiety over those things. It won’t ever get easy. But anticipating the challenges is one thing, and letting yourself drown in anxiety over them is another.
Especially since it doesn’t matter if you can handle being a parent or not; you have no choice. Once your kid(s) arrive, you have to.
So you do.