In my roughly eight years as I parent, I’ve been amazed, time and time again, at how wrong my perceptions were pre-kid.
I suppose this is true — to some degree — for all parents. How could we truly know what we are getting ourselves into until we experience it for ourselves? Just as the love a parent has for their child is immeasurable, very often, the problems we encounter raising our children can defy logic.
I can distinctly remember a particularly desperate moment: Emma was about six weeks old, and the honeymoon period was decidedly over. I was still very much in love with my newborn, but I also sobbed almost daily in that time period — absolutely convinced that I would never, ever again sleep for eight hours in a row.
Now, somewhere in my mind, I am sure that I knew — logically — that this couldn’t possibly be true. And yet, I felt utterly doomed, based on how I imagined things would be way before actually caring for a child ever became my reality.
I mean, sure, we’ve all heard those stories from the front lines of new parenthood — how you’d better catch up on your sleep while you’re pregnant because many endless nights lay ahead. But somewhere along the way, I managed to convince myself that those infamous 2 a.m. feedings are only for about — what? The first week or so?
And then, surely, I reasoned, everyone, both mommy and baby, settle into their new lives and go about getting that much-needed rest. It is unfathomable to someone who has never been through it that the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-thing can go on for months and months — and many times means waking up more than once a night.
I suppose it’s similar to the cardinal rule of never speaking truthfully to an expectant mother about how bad the childbirth pain really is; doing so threatens the very future of the human race. Although I must say — I’ll take one event of excruciating pain over the bottomless pit of sleep deprivation any day of the week.
Another related, desperate moment: My baby is almost 10 months old and while the sleeping (hers and mine) has improved, it’s nowhere near eight hours a night (hers nor mine). Still, my husband and I are excited to finally go for our first night out alone — a holiday work party that has us sharing a table with several couples.
A seasoned mom of a 9-year-old and a 4-year-old jokes (but not really) about how she wonders why they call it “sleeping through the night”, since everyone knows kids never achieve any such thing. The other moms give resigned, what-are-you-going-to-do affirmations, and I swear, it’s all I can do to not drown myself in the fountain of champagne punch.
Alas, things did, of course, improve. Which is to say, my children have either perfected the art of sleeping with disruption, or I am now managing to put them back to bed without actually waking up myself.
And I suppose we can all live without quite knowing the real truth of the matter.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.