This is a follow up to this post, a post I wrote, a few weeks after Ryan was born, in an effort to be truly honest about how difficult newborn-hood can be.
Recently, I have had a lot of friends/acquaintances give birth, and as has become my practice, I have shared with them the essay I wrote when Ryan was a tiny little guy in order to let them know that it is OK to think having a newborn is pretty awful at times. But, I also find myself saying, "It really does get better! I promise!" And so, I want to give equal time to the truly amazing parts of parenthood.
Ryan was not an easy newborn. He did not sleep well at all. For the first three weeks he slept TERRIBLY until we figured out he had a milk protein intolerance and I cut out all dairy from my diet (since I was breastfeeding). After I did that he was like a new kid. But he still wasn't a kid who slept for long stretches of time. In fact, he didn't sleep allllll the way through the night until he was 14 months old. And no, I don't mean that he didn't sleep through the night consistently until 14 months...no, I mean the FIRST TIME he EVER slept all the way through the night was when he was 14 months old. Once he started sleeping through the night I realized how much interrupted sleep affected me! This is all to say that Ryan wasn't one of those super easy babies. But other than sleep, as of about 6 months, he was PRETTY. FREAKING. AWESOME!
For any new moms out there, I know 6 months sounds like such a LONG TIME AWAY! I remember when Ryan was about 4 weeks old and a friends said to me, "Just survive the first 6 months, and you'll be fine." I almost fell over in despair. SIX MONTHS?! I can barely think past the next 6 days. How do you expect me to make it through till 6 months?? I wanted to hear from them that it would be better in a week. But 6 months is when (at least for me and my husband) parenting got really great. As of about 5 weeks (again, for me, Matt, and Ryan) it was MUCH easier than it had been. And from 5 weeks to 6 months things got gradually better.
At 6 months Ryan started crawling. He was interested in and really interacting with his world. He smiled all the time and cooed constantly and even started saying Mama and Dada consistently at around 7 months. Caring for a child who can give back to you through smiles, coos, clapping, and kisses is so much easier than caring for a child who pretty much only cries, poops, pees, and doesn't sleep. Of course I ADORED Ryan as a newborn. I was intensely in love. In love in a way I had never been before. But looking back now, I can see how very hard it was and I can say that parenting just gets better and better.
Ryan is now 26 months old (or he will be in a few days). And he is so much fun. He talks in complete sentences and will say things like "I want to help Daddy put da trash in da dumpster," (after a jog during which Daddy picked up errant trash along the way as he tends to do. He is such a good citizen!) 10 word sentences like this that communicate such a robust understanding of the world stop me in my tracks. In only 26 months he has learned so much about the world. It is amazing to watch. He also will be found giving spontaneous tight hugs and saying, "I love you best, Mama!" He is a sweet, sensitive, caring little boy. And he just makes my heart sing on a daily basis.
Don't get me wrong. He can also be a sassy, loud, overwhelming little bundle of energy at times, too. Like at my Dad's birthday party the other night. He decided 2 minutes into sitting down to eat that he was "All done. I going to play now." To his credit, we were eating 2 hours earlier than his normal dinner time and he probably wasn't hungry. But I still wanted to wring his neck and say "JUST. SIT. DOWN!" I tried to contain him, but it was to no avail. So, we let him play. Of course, he didn't just go play quietly in the corner. He was getting into Nee-Nee and Pop-Pops fragile home decor items and sharing poorly with his cousins (who upon seeing Ryan soon decided they were done too). And of course, this stressed me out. Why is it that kids seem to be on their worst behavior when the most people are around to see them? Its embarrassing. My brother lovingly said "He's a handful." He didn't mean any harm, and I know he truly does think Ryan is such a good boy. But I wanted to cry and say, "No! Really! He's not! He is usually so good and so easy!"
And yet, even with these embarrassing and difficult moments being Ryan's mom is still the best thing I have ever done. Matt and I look at each other sometimes and wonder what we did to be so lucky. We truly adore being parents. It is rewarding on a level that cannot be surpassed by anything else. My favorite moments can be found during weekends when it is just the three of us living life: running errands...going for a jog...playing "Ice Cream Shop"...or eating dinner together (yes, most of the time Ryan sits nicely and eats a good meal). We are creating a family. A family full of love and joy and occasional frustrations. But the love and joy overflow in abundance. The frustration is just a little distraction along the way.
So, yes, newborn-hood is pretty exhausting and overwhelming. In fact, it is at times so miserable that I sometimes think, "Seriously? Do we really want to do this newborn thing all over again?" And then I just need to take one look at Ryan, and I can say, without a doubt, most definitely, YES!