I am five months and some change into being a parent and I have to say... it's not as hard as I expected. I don't believe in "good babies" because no baby is bad, but I can say that Mae is easy; she's happy and easygoing, a decent sleeper, has a great personality, and seems to get cuter every day. Once I got past the first month in which I obsessively Googled every paranoid thought that came into my mind and was convinced that each day would definitely be the day that she died, my parenting style became pretty laid back. I am comfortable leaving her alone in a room or on a blanket on the yard so I can make lunch or grab a tool; if she starts fussing in someone else's arms I let the two of them try to work it out; I don't do things for her like help her reach a toy that is clearly within her grasp, even if she's yelling at it or me; we stay up late and sleep in late and honestly it's all pretty glorious.
Of course, I enjoy immense privilege as a woman with a devoted partner who works hard to support us so I can stay at home with our baby. I recently started working from home on a very part-time basis, and as I find it a challenge to get even an hour of work done, I simply cannot imagine being one of the millions of mothers who work AND raise kids - superwomen, all! Which is not to say I'm idle; I cook and clean and do all the household errands; I continue to volunteer as a mentor and for fundraisers; I recently planned a dear friend's wedding and a multi-family garage sale. I am trying to maximize my time for the greatest good while also enjoying this "longest, shortest time" in Mae's life. I know it's cliche, but babies are miracles! I can't believe the things Mae is doing now - standing with minimal support, drinking water from a cup, imitating things we do, cracking up at the sight and touch of our dog, falling asleep without assistance... the list goes on and on.
Just like I did as a pregnant woman, as a new mom, I get asked a standard set of questions. The sets are different of course; now I'm asked: Do you like being a mom? Is it what you expected? Is it harder than you expected? How was the birth? How's breastfeeding going? (Those last two more often than not are from complete strangers.) What might surprise anyone who followed my pregnancy posts is that these questions don't annoy me nearly as much, possibly because HOLY COW I LOVE NOT BEING PREGNANT, and I also love being a mom, so it's not hard to answer questions about it even if they might be mildly annoying.
The only topic that makes me testy - other than everyone assuming Mae is a boy because she doesn't have hair, seriously people, stop trying to gender every baby you see - is the subject of additional children. Carson and I are both firmly in the "no more babies" camp. ("You'll change your mind," says every annoying person ever.) We are also committed to fostering and/or adopting, and are starting to look into the process to get approved. I share this information freely, for which I am frequently punished with heartless, insensitive comments: "Be careful." "Those kids are messed up." "Why would you want to do that?" Etc. I want to ask the people if they can hear the words coming out of their mouths; if they can hear themselves trying to talk two devoted, competent parents out of providing a loving, stable home to children who desperately need it.
Right after Mae was born, we were having a well baby check with the awesome midwives at Bloom. I made a comment about two video-game-obsessed parents who neglected their baby to death, and how the story had haunted me for days. "Welcome to motherhood," said one of them. "You are now tapped into the universal pain and suffering of children everywhere." It felt like a heavy burden; loving and worrying about Mae already felt like more than I could handle, and now I also had to mourn the fate of every single unfortunate child? It's not like me to sit idly by, and thus my lifelong goal of becoming a foster parent was fortified.
My point is this: "I want to be a foster/adoptive parent" is not a decision one arrives at lightly and should be talked out of, like "I want to get a tattoo at 3 am in Vegas" or "I think I need a third graduate degree." So if someone has given it enough thought to declare out loud that they intend to pursue fostering or adopting, the only appropriate reaction is, "Good for you!"
Of course, a few things have shifted. For instance, I've rekindled my secret, shameful love of instant coffee that I developed while living in South America because I can make a cup of it in about 30 seconds with only one hand. Also, carting around a baby gets me to the front of just about every line I stand in, and my heart swells with pride and love every time Mae stops a stranger dead in their tracks with her smile.
Life moves slower for me these days, and that's not a bad thing. I'm taking the time to enjoy our daughter and the relationship we are building, and I try never to stop being grateful that I have the opportunity to do so.