What Changes After Baby Arrives (Hint: A Lot)

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A few nights ago during a heated husband-wife argument, my other half slipped in how I am not the adventurous, pre-child lifestyle-maintaining mom I once swore I’d be. This is true. Prior to having my daughter, I would talk extensively about how our life would move forward as normal with the simple insertion of a child. I envisioned dinners out with a quiet baby sleeping in a sling. I talked of routine date nights full of wine and dancing, and I assured our annual overseas vacations would continue without a hitch.

What I promised was based on the life I was living, the only life I had known — one without a baby. What I hadn’t been privy to was the extreme exhaustion, innate needs of my child, and a shift in my own personal desires that would drastically change my perspective and reality of parenthood.

The exhaustion. When you’re weeks away from delivery and family, friends, and even strangers make the snarky comment “sleep while you can,” they aren’t joking. They aren’t making fun (well maybe, a little). They’re simply trying to advise that once your newborn arrives your sleep may be may be non-existent, and even when your baby becomes a routine, 10 to 12 hour a night sleeper — you will never sleep the way you did pre-delivery. You will wake at every noise; you will worry at every cough; and you will rock, soothe, make bottles, and change diapers in a state of delirium at 2 a.m. It gets better, and it gets easier, but it will never be the same. And even after nights when my husband and I get a complete night’s sleep, we’re still exhausted! What first-time parents may not realize is that, after the baby is born, life for most continues on just as it had pre-baby, with hundreds of additional responsibilities inserted before, during, and after work. This equates to complete exhaustion!  My point? I’m tired! If I have free time (which usually comes between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) I want to take a hot shower or watch trashy TV shows. I have no desire to over-indulge in alcohol, dance on tables, or bar hop.

The needs of my child. In my fantasy world, I’d have given birth to an adaptable baby who would sleep through dinners out, car rides home, and stroller trips through the mall. Oh, did I get it wrong. I never accounted for the need to accommodate my child’s schedule. I had no idea that a well-rested, confident, and good tempered child develops from the love of their parents in addition to an environment that provides consistency and routine in every area of their infant existence. This means being home for scheduled nap times, bath times, and bed times. This means waking, eating meals, playing, and putting the baby to bed at regular times each day and night. This means it is very difficult to plan anything for yourself to do because your day is dictated by the schedule and innate needs of your baby. Once I was empowered with this information, I gladly gave up my spontaneous trips to Target, the grocery store and other not-really-important locations, knowing it was vital to develop a routine that would later allow for pleasant mommy and baby trips out.

My own personal desires. I quickly learned that pregnancy and motherhood are worlds apart. What you thought, envisioned and dreamed of while pregnant may be a very different (sometimes better, sometimes worse) reality once a mother. I experienced an instant transformation the moment  I laid eyes on our daughter.  I am consumed by my child and my fierce desire to love, provide, educate, and teach her everything that is possible (and age appropriate). I rarely choose to be away from her, and genuinely prefer playing blocks on our living room floor together rather than shopping or getting my nails done.

Everything my husband said was true. I thought I would be that mom who made parenthood look easy, who made parenthood look, well, not like parenthood. But what I have since learned is that having a child changes your life completely and irrevocably. And if it doesn’t, you’re probably doing something wrong.

How has pregnancy and/or parenthood changed you?