The truth about having a baby

So you’re having a baby.
We’ve all seen it in the movies: a tiny swaddled bundle sleeps peacefully in his crib; mom is standing by the door smiling, her husband’s arms wrapped around her shoulders as they steal a quick glance at the miracle they created together before they peacefully head to bed to make passionate love. WARNING: that’s not how it goes in real life.

There’s nothing quite like going through pregnancy for the first time. The giddiness. The expectations. The naïveté.

If you’re anything like me, you planned for this. Charted your temperature; examined your cervical mucus; made sure you kept your legs up a minimum of ten minutes post natural insemination (blush). And then you waited and googled.. a LOT!
I have a headache, am I pregnant?
I’m constipated, am I pregnant?
My husband just vomited, am I pregnant?

Seriously, that waiting game is torture…
And then, one day, you wake up at 5 am in Germany and can’t wait any longer to take the test so you tinkle on that stick and the words “pregnant” slowly start to form. You run ecstatically up the stairs to wake up the hubby, who lifts up one side of his eye-shades, gives you a quick squeeze on the forearm and goes back to sleep. (True story!)
Well… maybe it didn’t happen quite like that for you 🙂

We were overjoyed to know that we had created a new life and it was growing inside of my own body. On the flip side of joy, there was worry. Google remained an ally as did Amazon and the library.
Pregnancy was wonderful. I didn’t experience one minute of morning sickness. Hormones were good to me: I exercised and slept well all the way through. Increased libido was the unexpected cherry on top. D-day came. Delivery didn’t quite go by the book but I look back on it fondly. Giving birth is empowering to say the least.

Photo of Sarah Badat Richardson holding her infant daughter
A day after delivery. Exhausted but still blessedly clueless.

Two days later, we strapped our tiny infant in a carseat made for giants, and drove home, blissfully unaware that we were completely unprepared for what was to come.

The first few months with that baby were grueling. Sleep deprivation quickly took a toll on my physical and emotional well being. Breastfeeding was painful and exhausting. The days were long and lonely and the nights a complete shock to my system. I was a new mom and despite all the books I had read (52 total), it was clear, I was clueless.

I cannot change what was for me, but I hope that I can bring you some solace as you embark on this journey of parenthood.
Let me lean in and hug you close and whisper words that I wish someone had told me eight years ago: “It’s going to be harder that you ever imagined. You are completely unprepared for this. BUT… You WILL figure it out (well mostly). It WILL get easier. (But never easy sorry).”

Raising a child will take all you’ve got. As you hold your baby and gaze into her eyes, you’ll feel the weight of all the life’s baggage you’ve been dragging behind you.
All the mistakes, the regrets, the shame, the hurt, it’s all magnified when you witness the beauty and innocence of your own child. You will (rightly) feel unqualified for the job but you’ll rise up to the occasion because you’ll want nothing more than to spare him what you went through.

Doctor Laura Schlessinger says: “We have two chances at a parent/child relationship. The first time, we are the child and have no power. The second time, we are the parent and have all the power.”

If you were blessed with good parents and a great childhood, you have a blueprint to follow; lucky you. The rest of us, the ones who have suffered more than any child should, we have to start from scratch. More days than not, it will feel like the blind leading the blind. But we, more than anyone else, know the value of Love and we have an abundance to give.

We do not have to repeat the cycle of brokenness. We can be the parents we wished we had.

When the dark days come, (and they will), hold on to this: Parenting is hard; it will stretch you beyond your limits, but it will not break you: it will shape you; it will grow you into who you were always meant to be.
Though you may feel alone, you are not. We, parents, are all in this together.

You can do this!
I believe in you.