The Pendulum Swing

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These are the days. I’m sitting on the couch drinking coffee and watching Wren scoot around on her mat, playing quietly. She looks up at me, I smile and say “hi Wren!” She gets a huge grin on her face and then returns to what she was doing. I’ve realized we made it. We’re on the other side of the pendulum. I’ve been waiting for this for months. For the first time since she was born I’m no longer looking forward. I’m just here in this time with her. I don’t want her to get older, though I’m excited to see her continue to grow. But there’s no rush, even though the relentless nature of time means it will slip by anyway. It took six months to adjust to each other. Growing is hard, for all of us. But here we are. The pendulum has swung from uncertainty to certain, deciding to have a child was the right choice. I look at her and am overwhelmed with a love I’ve never known, and feel the utmost privilege to get to experience. There’s my heart just rolling around on the floor in front of me. Its the most vulnerable and joyful experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

There’s never a right time. Before having kids, this is what we heard the most when we expressed doubt about when/if to have kids. Especially with an insanely demanding career like Alex’s. To have a child during residency was a huge leap of faith, it would mean a lot of sacrifice, but they said it would be worth it. And, well, there’s no time like the present. I’m actually surprised we had Wren when we did. Neither of us were certain we wanted kids, we knew we didn’t like babies. Residency is HARD. Adding a baby to the mix seemed insane. And yet, here we are. Ultimately we thought, well we would love a family eventually, so might as well jump now. It was that simple, and that impossible. And then a year later after that discussion, we had a two month old baby.

I spent the first three months trusting that it would be worth it. Though I loved her, it was hard to give up a life we had so carefully built. But they all said, just wait, the good is coming. As she turned three months we began to see the light. Slowly, she became more of a joy to be around, the difficulty was no longer overshadowing the good. Which is deeply oversimplifying it. On a day to day basis having a baby, even a newborn, was manageable, the truly bad days were seldom, and for the most part we were happy. But the adjustment was hard, even if the highs were deliriously high (and resulted in spending an hour just watching my sleeping baby in a haze of sleep deprived, hormone riddled joy). There was an undercurrent of loss. And then suddenly at six months, as was promised I realized the good now firmly outweighed the hard. And the realization that life was returning to somewhat normal. Or, a new normal. Maybe even a better normal.  I’m so grateful to everyone who told us to just jump and trust. That we would make it work. That we would thrive. Because this little trio is a great version of life.

I don’t think having a baby is right for everyone, but looking back it’s obvious its a choice that was good for us. I still think we could have chosen to not have kids and lived a very happy and fulfilling life. Perhaps with a twinge of “what if?” But I think the amount of questioning we did was more a sign that we should take the leap. The hardest choices we’ve made have always had the biggest payoffs. Wren is no exception. I love our family, and how much more dynamic life is now.

I never really saw myself as a mother. I’m not sentimental or very nurturing. I like control. But I love being Wren’s Mom. Even if I have no desire to save a clip of her hair when she gets her first cut. Or cringe at the names “mommy” or “daddy.” Or politely decline invitations to things like “mommy and me music class” and instead opt to hang out at a brewery with friends and their kids. For whatever reason it didn’t occur to me that I could be an excellent parent, even if I don’t fit the narrative I had in my head of what moms are like. Before having kids, people really like to tell you about how your life is going to change. The “just you wait!” phrases that serves to only irritate the recipient turned out to be mostly untrue. I didn’t lose my identity, or suddenly become some common mother trope, I did change in that my identity expanded to include “parent.” But I am not fundamentally a different person. And I feel confident about this parenting gig. Not like, I know everything, or anything really. In fact the amount I didn’t know on the day she was born was impressive. I took no classes and did almost no reading. But I am confident that I’m smart and adaptive and can learn on the fly. And I have. It’s been fine. I still have no idea what I’m doing a lot of the time, but in getting this far I know it doesn’t really matter, it’ll work out, we’ll figure it out together. It’s all good.

Plus having a baby fuels my love of research. I now know loads about development and current (evidence based!) research on parenting methods and philosophies. I still don’t know why this interest only manifested once she was born, but I’m glad it eventually did. I feel confident in our approach to parenting. I found her a pre-school (and future community) that echos the same principals. Ours is an authoritative, respectful, conflict resolution over strict discipline model, with a heavy dose of nature and age appropriate risky play, for those curious. Of course there are a million ways to raise a child well, mostly, that we love them. But having a blueprint sure helps in the more often than not situation where I don’t know how to respond. Plus it means I’m armed with research on why, no, I don’t actually need that horrendous light up-music toy that serves to drive adults crazy. Just like all things in life Alex and I are just learning and adapting together. And in true to us fashion, eschewing anything that doesn’t fit our lives no matter how popular.

And here’s the thing no one told us. Or if they did we didn’t understand: no matter how tired you are, or how difficult of a day/night/week/month it might have been when they wake up, and you go to them and they smile like seeing you is the best thing in the entire world everything is worth it. And that is the most fleeting, eventually we won’t be the center of her world, so we’re hanging tight onto that, for as long as we can.

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