Whenever someone finds out you are pregnant with your first child, inevitably, a comment soon follows about how your life will change. This is, of course, an understatement. The ways your life will change are indeed profound. During a first pregnancy, there is a common misconception that you can somehow prepare yourself for all of this in your 9 months. Sure, you can take classes, register for baby gifts, set up the crib and think about all the different ways that you will incorporate a baby into your life but there is nothing that can truly prepare you for the changes that will come. It is more than the fact that your family of two is now a family of three or that you are now completely responsible for another human being. In a general sense, here is a short list of the ways that having a baby impacts your life:
- Your relationship with your partner will shift. Since there are so many things that have to happen each day when you have a baby (feed, change, figure out how to get the baby to sleep, repeat, maybe a bath, and repeat it all again), the dynamic of who does what in your home may be altered. Sometimes this produces friction. Figuring out how to navigate this can be challenging. Having a baby can test even the best relationships. Also, many dads struggle with being displaced as your one and only priority as well as learning how to comfort and soothe their baby as well as mom does. They will figure it out eventually, but since many men have less experience with babies to start with, they have an even steeper learning curve then first time moms. Communicate is a must!
- Your concept of time and what can be done in a short period of time is drastically altered. If you have exactly one hour before you have to feed your baby again (assuming someone else could be responsible for your child during this time), you could conceivably, clean the house, grocery shop, shove some food in your mouth, throw in a load of laundry, order some diapers online. Or, you could just take a nap and figure that it can all wait.
- Leaving the house with your baby takes monumental effort. Whereas before you could get up less then an hour before you had to be at work, now it takes hours of planning to make it out the door. Before going anywhere, everyone needs to be dressed, fed, changed, maybe fed and changed again, and the diaper bag needs to be ready to go (and actually remembered before leaving the house). It may not sound like much but these simple tasks can take long periods of time to happen. You will get faster but it takes practice!
- SLEEP! Well meaning friends, family and strangers who accost you at the grocery store like to tell you that you won’t get any sleep after you have a baby. Sometimes we even think that the need to pee several times a night during pregnancy will prepare us for frequently waking with a baby. Sadly, nothing can really prepare you for the sleep deprivation that occurs in the early months. Even if you are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps well from a young age, everyone spends at least a few sleepless days, weeks, months, or years, when they become a parent. Even if you are a person who doesn’t think she requires much sleep, the difference is that if you decide to stay up late every night before you have children, this is on your terms. You can decide when you are tired and need to sleep. Once you have a baby, the decision is no longer yours. If your baby is up, because he needs to eat, be changed, eat and be changed again or is just plain fussy, then you have no choice but to go along for the ride. Sure, sleep will come but it takes time and when the adrenaline of being a new parent wears off, they exhaustion tends to set in.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. Of course the biggest change you will encounter is that it is likely that you had no idea just how much you could love another human being or the lengths you are willing to go for this small person. What sort of changes were you surprised by?