Parenting After the Trenches

Something has felt different lately for me and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is. Why am I more content lately? Why is life just a liiiiiiiiittle bit easier to handle? Why am I a fraction less stressed, less anxious, even though world events are still just as bad as they’ve ever been? Have I been doing something differently?

Then this week I had an epiphanic moment and I realized in an instant what it was: I’m not in survival mode.

I’ve never not parented in an extremely heightened state. I’ve never not parented in survival mode. And guys can I just say……it’s like, a little bit fun sometimes? I finally get it!

I mean, having three kids back to back to back is no joke. In hindsight, I wish I had spaced things out so I could have been able to enjoy my pregnancies more, rest during postpartum more, and try to be more mindful about how I spent my time with my kids. I was unable to do any of that because we’ve been in the trenches for six years. After Hennie’s first year with so many medical unknowns, cardiology visits, medical genetics visits, and severe colic (UGH), we got pregnant on Hennie’s first birthday and were right back in it trying to survive another pregnancy and postpartum while navigating toddlerhood for the first time. Wells wasn’t colicky but he was an extremely fussy baby with a tongue and lip tie, intense gastrointestinal issues, and a deep aversion to sleep . Then when he was seven months old we moved from the city to the coast and spent a summer settling into our new fixer-upper before we decided to get pregnant again. While I was navigating the nausea of the first trimester with a toddler and preschooler we heard about this new thing called the coronavirus (UGH) and embarked on a year in lockdown. Finallyyyyyy in late 2020 our last baby was born. Phew! But with three kids under the age of four at home (and one who had to be bounced 20 hours a day) it was pretty tough that we weren’t allowed to have anyone over to help us out. Again we found ourselves with a baby with severe colic and every moment felt like the hardest moment of the day. Sometimes I thought it was going to break our family forever, but I knew that there were so many in the world who had it much worse. I cried every day those first few months but somehow we survived the sleeplessness and back-breaking baby-bouncing of those first few months.

We’ve seen three babies teething. Three babies nap striking. Three babies sleep regressing. Three babies learning to crawl and getting into trouble. We’ve painted and DIYed every little corner of our home with three kids awake and running wild and drawing their tiny, horrible masterpieces on the wall. And I never realized we were on the other side until this very week.

So now our kids are 2, 4, and 6.

Life is nowhere near perfect but the crucial, significant difference is: it feels manageable.

So if you’re in the trenches with your first or second or third or fourth baby, please know that one day you will sit down again, if only for a moment here and there. One day you will sleep again and not wake to a screeching monitor but to a sweet whiny face. One day you will have a really, really, really hard day with your kids and it won’t cause you to spiral into despair or wonder if your life will every go back to normal. One day you will eke out small moments of time for yourself and hear yourself think your own thoughts and maybe, just maybe, you will pee alone. Some of us are still waiting for that one.

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