What did I learn in the first few days as a new parent…
ridiculous question… I learned nothing!
Because learning requires thought and I was too f’n tired to think. I lived moment to moment, made decisions with my gut, took the well-meaning advice of others, tried different things (most didn’t work), tried to follow lessons from a book (which almost ended my marriage), I cried (a LOT) and I drank a shit load of coffee but at no time would I say that anything I did resembled learning. What I did do was survive, I functioned like a veritable vegetable barely inhaling and exhaling, waiting for my brain to catch up to my body. Then and only then did I actually think about what had been happening to me for those first few weeks.
Which brings me to the first of my long list of parental F-ups!!!
What did I know as a new parent, in the hospital for 4 days after the birth of our first; every night, alone, by myself, no trusted support, sad, scared, alone…did I mention I was alone and I didn’t know jack shit! When my daughter was born (insert long story of complicated labour here) the nurses said she was the loudest baby they had heard in a while…great!?! My last night there she woke at 2am, ate which brought me so much exhausted joy) and then proceeded to scream for approximately 4 hours (which of course crushed those fleeting moments of joy). What the hell did I know? I thought I knew THE infant rule: eat, burp, sleep. Right?!? So there I was, baby had eaten, was now screaming, the plan was to bounce the baby around (not easy in my physical state) and keep doing that until she burped and stopped crying… needless to say I was exhausted and as a result I had forgotten the most important part of the infant rule…REPEAT!
Perhaps if I had not been alone or if I knew someone to call for support (or that asking for help was even an option) I would have considered that after 2 hours of screaming, burp or no burp, she would be hungry again.
By forgetting to repeat the infant rule I created a state of supreme chaos and confusion between her and I.
Yes, she eventually fell asleep from exhaustion but it was not until weeks later, after I had a chance to sleep and eat and sleep some more, that I realized that there may have been more that I could have done. At the very least I wish I had felt like I had options. But that’s the thing, we don’t know what we don’t know, our kids do not come with instructions. Every cliché and sad pathetic thing any parent has ever said when talking about how hard parenting is, is true in one way or another. But we keep on making these beautiful little bundles of freakin’ joy!!
I share this story of me, as a quasi-rested new parent deep in the throes of ignorance and agony (yes yes and happiness and joy), because of the wonderful lesson I learned that I hope you do not have to learn the hard way.
As new parents we need a tribe (actually maybe even to just be a functioning adult…more on that later) and not one of those mommy groups where all you get is judgment and disrespect but a true tribe of people willing to support you on your path from ignorance to master.
I believe that we need people who care deeply about our well-being who have the good sense to keep out of our way when necessary and who know when to step in and hold our hand. Only a select few will parent your child, others will grand-parent, uncle, aunt, and/or be-friend your child but we each (for the most part) own the precious responsibility of parenting of our children out right. I believe the problem is that individually we do not come equipped with the all necessary skills to do the job.
That is where your tribe comes in, a group of people who know you and are there to help you to understand your surroundings and get your bearings in this new world. I am grateful for my tribe of men and women who have taken my care into their hands and hearts and as a result I have the chance to be a better parent. There came a time when I didn’t love myself enough to like my child, but with the love and support of my tribe I was able to get through, and I learned that as a result I still had the potential to grow into the ultimate parent my children deserve. So I pass this on to you, parents new and old, find your tribe and thank them for knowing you and loving you.