When the Internet found out I was about to have a baby, all of my news feeds exploded with every parenting article ever written. There were stories on feeding, on getting the baby to sleep through the night, on illness prevention, on what diapers to use, on developmental milestones, and on baby sign language. If you can think of it, it was probably in my news feed.
It was as if this tiny human automatically granted me admission into this exclusive parenting club, but I didn’t know the lingo (LO = Little One; OH = Other Half; SAHM = Stay-at-Home Mom; WM = Working Mom), and I sure as heck didn’t feel qualified to be a member.
I’ll spare you all the details, but just to ensure we’re on the same page, I’ll say this: I had a baby in January. We named him Kellen (after my mom, who passed away in 2010), and though he came a month early and needed to spend some time in the NICU, he’s a big, healthy, amazing three-month-old now.
Still, after three months of parenting, I can’t say that I qualify as an expert. I know that Kellen likes to be outdoors despite having parents who are practically allergic to the sun (we’re really pale) and that he’d rather nap in the rocker than the pack and play, but more than anything, what I know is how parenthood has changed me.
So for my high school pals and readers of The U Post, here are the top four things you need to know about this new mom.
1. I’m probably not going to share my Oreos with you.
I’ve never been one to skimp in the packing-for-lunch department. A sandwich sounds good for lunch, I’d think. Probably should pack a full loaf of bread, a full package of turkey, and a bottle of mustard. Hmm…what about sides? How about a bag of carrots and a box of cookies? This overzealous packing came in handy when I failed to have candy in my office. I’d offer up slices of bread and handfuls of carrots to hungry students. Carrots are nature’s candy, I’d say.
Something strange happened to me when I returned to work in March. I continued packing obscene amounts of food for my lunch, as I had pre-baby, but instead of sharing it with hungry passersby, I started eating it. All of it. In record time. Sometimes so quickly I’d have to order extra lunch to make it through the day. In my case, pregnancy cravings had nothing on my new-mom appetite.
2. Please don’t knock on my door if it’s shut.
Pre-baby, I would only shut my office door if 1) I was having a very serious conversation with someone, 2) It was comment week and I needed to do hours and hours of editing, or 3) I was having a bad day and probably crying under my desk. (Don’t judge. Feelings happen.) Post-baby, my office door is shut several times a day for baby-related reasons. Trust me; it’s best not to knock. If you suspect I have candy and are hoping for a sugar fix, just wait 20 minutes or so and come back.
3. I’m totally going to side with your mom.
You know those parents who make their kids stand on the front porch for first-day-of-school photos each year? Or the ones who hoard every single child-related memento, from clothing to report cards? Or the ones who sob uncontrollably when they think about their kids going off to college in a few short years?
Yep, I totally get it now.
In all fairness, I took first-day-of-school photos before I had a baby. But everything else? I do it all. Kellen has made me a total sap. He just recently grew out of his newborn clothes, which was a big deal because he came a little early. Now, when I look at the tiny little outfits, especially the ones he wore in the hospital, I cry because he’s just getting so darn big.
I also cry when I’m looking at the thousands of photos I’ve taken of Kellen since he was born. I remember the days, moments, smiles captured on camera, and it makes me weirdly nostalgic for a time that was really not all that long ago.
Why? Because love. This love is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It’s an all-consuming, rises-up-in-your-throat-so-high-you-cannot-speak, can’t-imagine-a-world-where-he-doesn’t-exist kind of love. It justifies the irrational things, like saving tiny socks and weeping during diaper commercials and spending hours watching a tiny person sleep. And it’s something all parents seem to share.
So, really, what all of this means is that your parents are not as embarrassing or overprotective or out-of-touch as you may think they are. They just love you so. darn. much. I get that. Now go give your mother a hug already.
4. Returning to work was hard, but it was also quite easy.
After Kellen was born, people started asking about the length of my maternity leave. There’s no question that the U.S. leaves much to be desired in terms of paid time off for new parents, but when I told people I would be taking eight weeks off, their responses often surprised me. Many seemed to feel sorry for me. These expressions of sadness and sympathy made me wonder if I was doing something wrong by going back to work. Should I stay at home? Should I have taken a full semester off? Was I bad for wanting to return to work?
I was home alone with Kellen for two weeks before I returned to work. I enjoyed the afternoon cuddles, the one-on-one time with him, and the fact that I didn’t have to put on real pants (sweatpants are the best), but I also got kind of bored. I missed the feelings of confidence and accomplishment that work gives me, and I missed interacting with the coworkers and students I love.
Even though I was ready to come back, the first few weeks were hard. For his entire life, Kellen had only ever been with me or his dad. But once I went back to work, we had to trust someone else to take care of our boy. Doubts came flooding in. But Nathan and I had done our homework. We picked a daycare that made us feel comfortable. We liked Loretta, the main provider, and we liked the set-up of the place we picked. Plus, we bought everyone donuts on Kellen’s first day so they would like him. We were ready.
What made the transition easier was talking about it. It helped, of course, to love my job, but every time a coworker or a student would ask me about Kellen or ask about coming back to work, I got to share that part of my life. If I was distracted by a project or something going on, it would give me permission to take a break and think about the baby. And that always makes me smile.
So, thank you. Thank you for accepting that the new ACL is a little hungrier, a little less available, and a whole lot sappier than the one before. Thank you for looking at pictures of the baby, saying hi when I bring him to school functions, and allowing me to talk about him from time to time. I am one grateful momma.