Susan Vollenweider - The unimagined, very real and dizzy life after the baby arrives

07/29/2013 12:33 PM

07/29/2013 12:33 PM

Life is dizzying. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, planning for the unexpected and rolling with what we are presented. And from what I have seen, none of those come into play more than when a new baby joins a family.

Two confessions:

One: I get very excited about babies, even ones that I will never know.

Two: I had a live feed of royal baby news up once the Duchess of Cambridge went into labor. Every so often I would flip from my work to peek at the (mostly boring) doors of a London hospital. I turned it off after the Prince’s name was announced, the history geek in me taking a back seat to my mom-ness; I didn’t want to get my I Don’t Need To Know nose in the new family’s business.

As a mom I was excited for a new member of our maternal club, but as a parent the event resurfaced some filed-away and dormant memories. While the scale and circumstances may have been extremely different, the Prince’s entrance into the world and his parent’s proud first show-off moments coincided with the anniversary of Brian and me doing the same thing with our second child, our own first son.

The event made me curious and reflective. Did we share any parental experiences?

Did they marvel in awe at the unexpected emotion of looking at the face of their newborn?

Did they wonder at what exact moment they ceased to be a simply a couple and became a family? The moment that they first felt like a parent?

Did they see a lifetime of potential when they stared at their son’s sweet, smooshed face, when they instinctively let him grab their fingers?

Did they have a jolt of bliss/fear when they held him?

Did they fall in love anew when they saw each other as a tender parent?

I wondered if they had been like me and filled their pregnancy imagining what life would really be like once their son arrived. How many times did they hear others tell them, “You can’t imagine it; you have to live it to understand,” but still attempt to imagine?

I’m 15 years past my pregnancy with Luke — 15 years and nine months of imagined scenarios have gone through my head.

Few of them have proved accurate.

I never imagined that a healthy pregnancy would end with major complications and strict bed rest for me.

I never imagined a difficult birth, an ambulance ride for a newborn and machines to breathe for him.

I never imagined not holding him for a full week after he was delivered; never imagined having a conversation with my husband that began with, “What if he doesn’t make it?”

I never imagined the emotion of joy/concern/love/worry/relief when we were able to finally bring him home. I never imagined the rollercoaster ride of his first year as he hit all the developmental milestones that I did imagine him not achieving.

The person that I imagined Luke would be and the life that I dreamt for him when I was pregnant never came to be. But the life and the person who did is proving so much more fascinating than my imagination could ever have created.

The years that have followed since Luke’s birth have led me to one solid realization: you can plan all you want, you can be happy when it works according to plan and sad when it doesn’t, but when a birth doesn’t go according to plan it does make you better prepared for the dizzying life of a parent.


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