Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thinking Back...and Ahead...

A friend of mine had a baby today. It's an old friend, one I don't see often. A former co-worker, actually. Thinking of her as a mom is admittedly a bit of a switch for me, since the last time I hung out with her at length was back in her prime party days. But we all grow up and many of us take this route in life--marriage, house, kids--and where we were before doesn't generally matter anymore as long as we're happy and comfortable with our choices. I'm sure there are people from previous eras of my life that have a hard time thinking of me as a wife and mother, either because they still think of me as a little girl or because some interaction with me made me seem particularly un-mother-like. I couldn't be happier for her, that she's happily married, no longer in sports (and as a parent, that's truly a good thing, regardless of passion!), and now, a mother. As hard as this job is, it's one of the best. Recently Jacob's been really willing to hug and give kisses (if you catch him at the right moment), and just this morning I got a fantastic hug that just made my day.

Anyway, following her in the last few weeks on Facebook has been interesting, and in many ways it has mirrored what I experience following pregnancy bloggers, primarily the ones featured on parenting.com. I've mentioned these blogs before, and they're really quite enjoyable as a parent. One of the pregnancy bloggers recently had her baby, and she was over a week overdue so there was a LOT of buildup to her delivery. All of that buildup left a time of time for pre-delivery ponderings, with many of the same thoughts I remember having. Although, my early delivery didn't leave a lot of time for serious wistful ponderings, but even if I never blogged about them or got a good "last _fill-in-the-blank-non-parenthood-activity-here_", I probably thought about them at one point or another. I've blogged about it before, that sweet time pre-delivery where you have all of the excitement and anticipation, but none of the responsibility and stress and sleep deprivation. I suppose it's good that we all go into first-time parenthood relatively clueless. I mean, we all know it's going to be hard and stressful and exhausting, but you don't truly know until you're in the midst of it. And even then you're too preoccupied and tired to really think about it. You just forge ahead, doing what you can. And once you've finally emerged from it (or at least from the deepest depths), it's an interesting exercise to look back. I look at other people's baby experiences and at Jacob's early baby pictures and know I missed opportunities or didn't savor the little moments nearly enough. We all look at new parents and think of what an exciting time it is for them. And truly, it is. It's immensely special and unique. But due to the reasons I listed above, I almost don't think it's possible to step outside of the situation and take the time in the moment to truly savor it and realize just how significant it is. Maybe I'm just a unique case because I didn't have the normal first week with my baby. We were separated more than most parents and babies are, and the stress of Jacob's illness probably took some of the joy out of it. Those special early weeks home were spent playing catch-up and figuring things out and worrying far too much about screwing up, rather than just being able to sit and enjoy. Such is life for new parents, I suppose, but I guess it takes looking at other new parents to realize what you may have missed out on. But then again, as outsiders you're not having to survive sleep deprivation and its related mentally taxing symptoms, nor do you have to coordinate a baby's feeding and sleeping schedules, so it's easy to see just the simple moments...and having been there, know how fleeting they really are.

Another blogger on the Parenting site had a great point today. She's preparing for baby #2 and has realized how she needs to enjoy her time with her two-year-old daughter before her son arrives. She likens the current period to the time before she had her first, where she should have been making more of a conscious effort to savor the freedom she had. Instead of spending all of her time and energy thinking about the baby she was about to have, she forgot to enjoy her time without the baby, getting in last bits of what she referred to as "irresponsible" behavior like going on a long vacation, going to more movies, going to bed late to sleep late, just because she could. So, this time around, she's trying to focus on this time with her little girl while it's just her as the center of attention. She's trying to move at her daughter's pace, and savor the time that they have left of exclusive mommy-daughter time. I think she says it beautifully here:

"I don’t know if I’d have been as mindful or as grateful of this last summer
together if I weren’t aware, all the time, of a very different future we’re
travelling toward. It’s nice to see the joy ahead and appreciate the joy behind,
but for right now it’s even better to spend these lazy summer days living
absolutely in the present—and loving every minute."

She makes a very good point, and as we're debating the timing of baby #2, I keep trying to remind myself of all of the things I should be doing right now before that's even a reality--spending more time with Jacob, figuring out the logistics of potentially working part time, taking down the border in Jacob's future bedroom and pondering new carpet, etc. There's no rush, I guess, but before I get all caught up in what could be, I suppose there's plenty to take care of in the present. So many things will change, and I suppose if I think of them all right now, we might never get to baby #2. Sometimes you just have to go with it, and figure it out along the way. I do hope to enjoy things more the second time around--both before and after--but I think, much like the blogger above, I should start by living more in the present now.

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