In less than six weeks I’ll bring a new baby into the world.
I’ve found myself reflecting on the upcoming weeks as a time for personal growth and resolution rather than thinking of the baby’s rapid growth and my parenting resolutions. Perhaps it’s because this will be Child #2 that I know that the baby growing inside is a mostly passive form of growth and that because I’ve been down the parenting road before, I know if there’s a time to focus actively on myself and my growth, it’s now. I want to dedicate these next weeks to myself–to enjoying more of what I love–more crossword puzzles and journaling, more reading by the fireplace, more TED Talks and hot chocolate and snuggling in bed with my husband, Stephen.
While I don’t plan to put my whole self on hold, I do know once the baby is here, I will have to squeeze my interests and hobbies into nap-length increments (if I’m not too tired) or read nursing-length articles (if I’m not too rapt with tiny fingers and soft suckling sounds). My hope is that if I establish my plans now with several weeks to cement them in and become attached to the joy they bring me that I will find ways to keep them going once my time and energy is split between self care and the care of an infant. I want to maintain my activities even if it requires a finesse and orchestration to incorporate them into post-delivery days.
I did a great job mothering my first child, Weston, in his early years, but the part I didn’t do well, the aspect I neglected was my own well-being. I can’t lose myself to the mundanity of breastfeeding, rocking, diaper changes, and tummy time cheers again. Of course, I will do these tasks and try to do them with love and gentleness, but it can’t be at the absolute forsaking of my independent identity.
I currently tackle the common (but often elusive) work-life balance in a remote work world that blurs the lines between home and work, but trying to establish a baby-self balance will be wholly new for me. I’m afraid my plans will feel laughable when distinct night and day turns into a bleary 24 hours strung to the next 24 hours, when my nipples are sore, and the hormones leave me crying for no reason. I’m afraid I’ll be too tired to give my best to the baby let alone maintain my personal space and time.
How can I ensure I devote time, care, and energy to myself in the midst of devotion to my baby’s needs? How can I separate my desire to do so from the guilt I already feel hovering for wanting that for myself? It feels like the ever-present challenge of parents everywhere, mothers more acutely, which is likely why more and more people are opting not to have children or waiting until they feel they’ve lived enough of their personal lives to move into this stage. It took me nearly a decade to feel ready to have another child, and yet I’m still feeling particularly worried that my days will revert to the solely baby-focused days I experienced with Weston. I want to believe in my plans and resolutions, trust in my ability to find a way to be both an excellent mother and a radiant, strong, separate self.