I barely remember not being a mom. Even more so, I barely remember my first six months as a mom. I blame it on two things: shock and sleep deprivation — not necessarily in that order.
Parenthood is miraculous. It is joyful. It is one of the best things that will happen in your life.
It is shocking. How in the world could you create something so beautiful? Another human being with ten fingers and ten toes? There are no answers. It is unexplainable. It is shocking — in the best of ways.
And it is a whole heck of a lot of hard work.
I’m watching this play out (again) through my daughter and her husband.
It’s mostly due to sleep — or lack thereof.
Babies sleep a lot. Parents do not. It is nature and the grand scheme of things
Babies need to eat often, much like I wish I could do. But I am not a baby, so I must control my impulses, even when it comes to chocolate.
Babies know nothing about control but much about impulse. If they are hungry, they cry. If their diaper is wet, they cry. If they are tired, they cry — before going to sleep, often in your arms.
Human babies are born especially vulnerable. They are dependent on others for every facet of life, except perhaps pooping and otherwise filling their diapers. They are experts at that from day one. The other stuff — that comes with time.
My daughter had her daughter two years ago. Granddaughter is wonderful and mostly sleeps through the night, but she is a toddler and that means still needing adult supervision 24/7. We want to keep her safe, after all.
My daughter recently had baby number two (not to be confused with the number two he puts in his diapers.) He is nowhere near a number two in that way. He is a beautiful, 8 pound wonder.
Along with his sister, he (and Mom and Dad) make up this absolutely phenomenal family. She’s a normal toddler; he’s a normal baby. They are all perfect in our family’s eyes. There’s just one thing.
Both grandbabies need hands-on supervision and care basically 24/7, and no matter how you do the math you can’t find 48 hours in any day, not even during a leap year.
So I see my daughter and son-in-law juggling. They are trying to find out their new normal. They are trying to figure it out.
I’m not sure I have to the heart tell them the truth about it all.
There is no figuring it out. This is your normal. You can never go back again.
But this is a good thing. Trust me.
Although it may seem hands-on and taxing and a heck of a lot of work (because it is) you will never regret these days of tiny fingers and tiny toes. You will look back and get weepy over the lack of late night feedings and the pure joy of splashing in the bathtub. You will wish you could search for a pacifier under the couch. You will long to give them a last piggyback ride when you put them down and they beg, “One more time?” You will remember when they willingly let you dress them in matching outfits and when they begged you to cuddle with them in bed, “Just until I go to sleep.”
Because these times, these days, however normal and taxing they may seem in the moment, are more than magical; they are gifts.
Sometimes gifts aren’t as simple as opening a wrapped present; sometimes they aren’t just about getting, but about giving. This may be one of those times. Building anything — including a family– takes hard work, but the gift you give them and they give you is forever — on earth and even after that.
Treat them well. Hug them often and love them unconditionally, as the gifts they truly are. Life has many regrets, but you’ll never regret the love or the hugs. Not ever. Trust me.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.