It can be an overwhelming task preparing to bring a little love into the world. With all the pre-birth parental decisions about cloth vs. disposable, crib vs. co-sleeping, and daycare waitlists, it never fully occurred to me what a holistic impact one little person would have on all the relationships I have ever formed.
Sitting there rubbing my awesome belly, I dreamed about my relationship with my son and how it would grow over the years. I got lost in a magical land of kissed boo-boos and couch cuddles. But months later, as I sat alone in the dark at 4 a.m. feeding and rocking for so many days in a row, I couldn’t even remember when one day stopped and another began. Suddenly and surprisingly, it hit me that nobody knew who I was anymore. Not even myself.
I remember what I thought parenthood would be like before my little guy joined the earth. I imagined my life as “me+” or “me 2.0.” I thought I would continue to function as I had for 37 years; strong, independent, and tenacious. Only on top of that, I would have this sweet mini-me alongside. My little sidekick. But after one year of parenting I am just now beginning to comprehend my new self. I am neither a plus version nor a 2.0. I have been completely restructured as a ‘Mother with a capitol M.’ I look different, I move different, I think different. I am even positioned differently in the world, and it is nothing close to where I sat pre-baby. Sure, I still have some base-line coding that can’t be rewritten, but the transformation goes so core-deep that I have to truly grieve who I used to be. I have to comprehend the loss of who I was, and what it means to rebuild who I am. It is exhausting and ugly sometimes. It is a daily struggle to not judge either side. I try not to think that it was so much easier/better/fun back then, but instead recognize that it is futile to compare apples to candy bars; they both serve different purposes.
I recall consciously understanding that my relationship with my partner was going to change. I might have even bought a book or two (which I never read) about how to stay connected after baby. I guess I imagined the transition to be like other challenging roads on our journey; we would probably fight a little, have a few awkward silences, but eventually we’d sort out our differences. Instead, after our munchkin was born, my partner and I were totally different people. It was nothing like facing an obstacle in the road; it was like being on a whole new road. We’d lost our car, picked up a weird hitchhiker, Google Maps was broken, and neither of us spoke the same language anymore! It was terrifying. Forget about finding pick-me-ups in self-help books; I had to basically reintroduce myself to this perfect stranger; all while being sleep-deprived and barely functioning.
It has been a long road for my partner and me, and has taken a lot of letting go of us to find our way again. I had to let go of expectations and reframe goals so we could find a family stride together.
After baby, relationships with friends changed as well. Most of them don’t have kids. My partner and I are on the vanguard of that front in our small, social circle. What I failed to recognize until recently is that my dearest and closest friends kinda got thrown into the aftermath of our decision to procreate. I still feel pangs of guilt for not being the friend I was before our son came. I miss the solace and sanctuary of biweekly happy hours, and leisurely weekend brunches. My friends and I were massive resources to one another, and would often get lost in our bubble of conversation and support. But now I feel like I have taken away a vital tool I used to move through this complicated life.
My friends and I have had to delicately get to know each another again, and reestablish our boundaries and needs. Honest communication has been a life boat. We have to recognize seasons of life, and relax in the fact that seasons change and cycle. And someday biweekly happy hours will be a thing again.
Never underestimate how hard rebuilding relationships can be, especially doing it at a vulnerable and raw time when you are not at the top of your game. Be gentle. And be patient. It takes time.