For me, quarantine started off strong. I felt extremely equipped to live life in lock down. I was already staying home with my son, Ezra, and we were already going out to explore parks several times a week so it felt like not much had changed for the first month and a half. My partner, Alex, was able to work from home so we were all safe.
But I knew something was wrong when, on a beautiful spring afternoon, I went jogging and didn’t feel elated. Usually the combination of physical activity, beautiful weather, and sunshine makes me feel so happy like I’m just bursting out of my skin with gratitude. But I felt frustrated, and like everything was a struggle.
There is an abundance of articles, books, influencers, and smart people espousing the idea that you are doing something important when you aren’t doing anything at all. That just being is important. I’ve wholeheartedly bought into this idea that the fetishization of productivity (doing) is negative and I have worked to develop a healthy (in my view) balance of both doing and being. This includes making sure that time for relaxing and recuperating is built into my schedule. I think of this as the anti-hustle culture and it asks us to question our busyness and in the least reject it as a virtue.
I’ve had very little experience with peers having babies. Here are some things that I have found to be true in my experience as the first person in my friend group to have a baby.
Non-parents compare parenthood to their experiences in pet ownership
It’s hard to have a conversation about what I’m going through and learning about when someone relates it back to pet ownership. It feels more like an interruption than part of the conversation because the two are so entirely different. Even constantly being woken up in the night by a pet is not the same as having a baby who does not sleep through the night. A lot of times I felt misunderstood when I’d talk about sleepless nights. I would get “yeah I have a new puppy and these sleepless nights are tough.”
I’m in a time of my life filled with big changes. I sometimes find myself desperately trying to keep things status quo and keep my routines predictable while trying to hold back from making tough decisions and actions. I alternate between this and trying to redirect back to a place of embracing change, taking inspired action, and not resisting my life moving forward. There are a few areas in which I have a considerable amount of experience and knowledge. Two of these areas are connected in that I’m deciding that I am not going to use this knowledge anymore. I find myself struggling with letting go, as if I’m hoarding all that ever was because maybe one day I’d like to repeat passages of time.
It’s really difficult having a baby. Do you know what would make it more difficult?
I know how to take care of a newborn. This knowledge was hard won. Within a few days of bringing Ezra home I realized while I had been “well prepared,” I had no way of understanding what the lived experience was going to feel like. I was completely bowled over by postpartum activities. The identity shift, lack of sleep, round-the-clock demands on my body to feed my baby while simultaneously recovering from labor, not actually knowing what Ezra’s cries meant yet, and the drastically reduced bonding time with my husband completely depressed me.