“Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
This was one of those weeks. My husband had some work commitments and so I was on my own with our daughter, who is under the age of one, for most of the week. I love my daughter. I love spending time with my daughter. I think she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. And she can’t even talk or walk yet. But, single parenthood is taxing, and my hat goes off to all who do it, by choice and not by choice.
As such things go, she got her first stomach bug on my watch this week. Of course, this transpired after she joyfully inhaled a giant dinner and just after I put her down for bed. I heard a cry through the baby monitor. Ok, not totally unusual but not usual either, it was two seconds and so I just let it go. Half an hour later, I heard another noise. Yes, an unmistakable noise. And thought, “Did she just? Oh my…oh no. She did.” I ran up the stairs opened the door and well, the war story is one many parents are familiar with. It was like an emergency room triage, complete with my mother on speaker phone and me saying, “What do I do?!” And, God bless the nurse at the doctor’s office who stayed on the phone with me while my daughter was literally getting sick. Or my best gal friend who said over text, “You’ve got this.” Yes, it was just a stomach bug, and it passed quickly, and I figured out how to manage the mess and the child and myself and felt like I’d run a marathon by 5am the next morning when we were each in our own bed.
But, this is parenthood. It’s not always the first word, first step, new toys, and nursery rhymes. It’s snotty noses, vomiting, dirty diapers, teething, and bumps and scratches from trying to pull themselves up on unsteady things that didn’t seem a danger just yesterday. And, yet, when she wants to cuddle in while she’s sick, I delight in every moment of smelling the back of her baby shampoo head. Because I know, she won’t cuddle in forever.
No one told me that I’d finally get her in bed at night, and then start looking at her baby photos. What? “Who am I?”, I think? Someone in love. As my husband, the experienced dad, told me before she was born, “You have no idea what’s in store for you.” He was right on so many levels.
All these things make it hard for me when I see neglect of children or parents who just don’t parent. And there are parents who don’t parent. I thought long and hard about becoming a parent, and possibly too long and hard because by the time I was really ready, I almost wasn’t able to have one of my own. I was fortunate that it happened and even more blessed that she was healthy with a sweet little temperament.
Five and a half years ago, I was a single gal in my late 30s, traveling the world, working in a corporate job with very few cares in the world other than making sure I got my coffee before arriving at the office. My life is very different today. I’m glad I thought hard about getting that “tattoo on my face” because I don’t have any regrets. Not that people regret kids, but I think sometimes going into it too blind leads people to have unrealistic expectations about it all.
I don’t have an agenda for my daughter. My only agenda for her is that I provide her with an environment where she can grow, flourish and be healthy and her own version of happy. Her name means steward, and that’s how I view her often times, she’s my steward, my little guru. Teaching me about the limits I have right now, the limits I can surpass, and that love really has zero limitations and is unbelievably unbounded.