Entering parenthood was not an easy road for me. But let me back up.
I stayed in university for quite a few years, partly because it was safe. I liked the predicability. I liked knowing that I could plan the coming year a year in advance and that most of it would come true. I liked knowing professors’ reputations so I could sign up for their classes, or not. My 20s were, for the most part, predictable. It’s true what they say about university: you learn very little about real life.
Fertility was not an issue. My health was generally good, and the pregnancy progressed well. However, about seven months in, I started bleeding. (Don’t worry – this ends well.) Long story short, I ended up in a five-week hospital stay with partial previa, a condition that could prove deadly for both of us if not caught and monitored early enough.
A necessary but planned c-section brought my son to the world. The doctors thought he was only a day shy of 37 weeks. The pediatrician afterwards said he was likely around 32-34 weeks old at birth because he was mis-dated in the ultrasound and was actually a big baby. (His brother came out at 41 weeks weighing 10 3/4 pounds. So I’m inclined to believe the pediatrician.)
When they pulled him out, his chest caved when he breathed in. The nurses rushed him to the neo-natal intensive care unit. Tears in his lungs, tubes everywhere, IV in his scalp…the last things I had ever imagined for his birth. (The original plan was a home birth complete with midwife doing a load of laundry for us before she left.)
Medical errors and nature landed me in that position. Yes, I was angry, yes, I carried guilt with me for a long time (and still do, if I’m to be honest). The emotional fallout of that experience was extreme. But I’ve now had several years to think about all of it and how far I’ve come since then and present you now with 20/20 hindsight.
Here’s how I would’ve prepared for parenthood: meditating and creating.
Here’s what stopped me from doing that: ego.
Like many people, I thought I knew how to parent (which doesn’t explain why I read so many parenting books). Truth be told, there are only two guarantees when you become a parent: that the child will somehow come out of the mother’s uterus, and that the child will get at least two colds every year, if not more.
Everything else is flying by the seat of your pants, and that was the one thing I was not known for. I was almost like Mel Gibson’s character in Signs: books have the answers; faith in oneself does not.
I believe meditating and creating during pregnancy would’ve been useful because they may have helped me find my elusive centre. I often stretch at night now as a doable form of meditation for me, I write, and after seeing counsellors on and off over the years, I’ve learned to finally find it. I haven’t turned into Donna-Reed-meets-Mother-Theresa mom. However, I’m getting pretty darn good at recognizing when that feeling is missing and summoning it up. I’m able to move past me and focus on the goal at hand more often now than when my son was born.
This isn’t about repressing feelings; it’s about finding that part of you that says, “It’s okay. Everything will somehow work out” and trusting it. It’s the trust that releases the anger so you can freely say what’s actually bothering you. It’s the trust that lets you look at your screaming baby and speak calmly to him or her instead of panicking and running to books to look up the issue. (That’s actually an ironic solution: your baby probably just wants to be held more than anything and not left screaming while you read books.) (And more brackets: I’m obviously assuming here that we’re not talking about a true emergency, e.g., high fever, sudden rash.)
The funny thing is, I haven’t lost my desire for schedules or order the way I thought I would. What I’ve learned now is balance: I may have goals for the day, but I have a family, too. My bad days are actually the ones where I have no to-do list in mind to try to accomplish, not the ones where I don’t accomplish everything. On goal-less days, I aimlessly wander through the day and get overwhelmed by all the choices I have because I didn’t make choices in the morning that filtered my day for me. Those goal-less days stress me, not the unachieved days.
Now my firstborn can list at least 40 dinosaurs off the top of his head. His favourite past-time is going to the Dino Dan website and copying down long dinosaur names. Some of his favourite TV shows have been documentaries, even though he’s not old enough to fully understand them yet. I know not every parent experiences the full joy of parenting. For some, the journey appears to be harder and full of more hurdles than for others. But spending my pregnancy trying to find that deeper me would’ve been more useful than all the parenting books in the world combined. Why? Simple.
Because my heart, connected to my husband’s, and then to my newborn son’s, is far stronger than anything else out there in the world. Use your time in pregnancy to find your true strengths and nix some old triggers. That journey will prepare you more for parenting than any book or website could.