Monday, June 8

Blindsided by a Diaper: Over 30 Men and Women Reveal How Parenthood Changes a Relationship. Edited by Dana Bedford Hilmer

Main reason I picked up this book is the attractive title. When I found out that it is a collection of essays written by writers who are parents themselves I was even more enthralled. It is my personal belief that there is much to learn from the experiences of others; people who have been there and done that. The added bonus is they are written by established writers. As such, other than benefiting from their experiences, I get to enjoy their wonderful writing styles.

Essentially the authors shared their experiences in dealing with the birth of a child and how they were blindsided by all the changes, how they cope and find the equilibrium again. It is definitely insightful and enlightening as stuff like these can't be easily found in the Parenting sections in a bookstore. This is an attempt to summarize and consolidate my key thoughts after reading the book.

It is a given that life will NEVER be the same once a baby enters into the picture. While it is necessary and advisable to prepare for the arrival, accept that the preparation can never be 100%. No one truly knows if one will ever be ready for the massive responsibilities and that is not the point. What is of more importance is the willingness to accept that it is a journey with its ups and downs, joy and sorrows; that you won't be great at this parenting business right away (except for a blessed few). That with love, patience and perseverance, you will reap the fruit of your labour and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are some of the major changes:

1. Expect severe, relationship-altering sleep deprivation after the birth of a child.
Parents just have to accept that this is the reality. There is no point in being resentful. It is a stage which will pass sooner or later.

2. 2 become 3.
We have to bid goodbye to coupledom and accept that the adorable and sometimes terrorizing little bundle is going to be part of the new life forever.
"We were never going back to the way we were before. We were forever altered by the startled awareness that the two of us have become three and that part of hearts were forever going to belong to the child."

3. Know that this baby totally depends on you for his/her basic needs and these needs evolve all the time. You sign away the carefreeness forever, as parents never stop worrying about their child.

4. Your priority and lifestyle will change. Embrace it.
Awareness is always the first step in any journey. The next thing is to learn from these parents how they cope with all the changes and enjoy parenthood with its intrinsic bliss and pain. Marriage is often tested when the little one arrives and conscious efforts have to be made to prevent breakdown from happening.

a. Accept and embrace the change. Live in the moment and avoid reminiscing the carefree past.
..Instead of trying to claw our way back to a couplehood that no longer existed, we totally surrender to our new existence. We adapted. Perhaps this and this alone is the key to survival- not to mention happiness – in marriage and in life: to embrace the change inevitably wrought by dramatic event, to recognize that looking back is not only pointless but destructive. What doesn't bend breaks.

b. Know what to expect.
For example, baby will be in phases; it has nothing to do with how good or bad the parent is. Preference for one parent is a normal stage.

c. Just keep going. It shall pass. Whatever it may be- the colicky moments, sleeplessness, the never ending demands. Just keep going.

d. Parenting is demanding. Period.
Know when to surrender and not fight for control. As one of the writers wrote,"there is nothing else I can do." I believe the Serenity prayer comes in handy here.

e. It is important to figure out how to balance responsibilities between couple.
It won't always be equal but it should be equally acceptable. Yes, your marriage will be tested and there are 2 primary factors (according to the book) to determine whether a marriage will improve or worsen after a baby has arrived.
a) Husband's ability to put his own needs aside and support his wife in her new all-encompassing role
b) Wife's ability to forget about baby now and again and pay attention to the man.

f. Communicate.
Make effort to do it. One writer shared about her 3 AM marriage where she and her husband bond and rediscover each other at that time daily.
“here we are just two people rediscovering each other in the dark. It is in these hours that I remember all the reasons why I chose my husband, why I will never leave his side and how he makes my life complete.”
Another one said, "A marriage, like a house will last a lifetime with proper care. Without it, it fails with alarming speed. Words are the foundation of our relationship. When we don't make time to talk, the foundation cracks and alienation fills the void."

g. Honour your vows.
"Think of your commitment to your spouse as permanent as your commitment to your child. Take a long view of your relationship so you don't take slights personally. And of course to schedule play dates...I learn the importance of appearing good natured, being able to discuss irritating behaviour, rather than criticize character, to attempt to understand the source of brattiness, rather than react to it.”

h. Know and claim your prize.
Most of the parents share of their prize in parenting. What they have gained, how they have become better and stronger person as a result of the little one. This is the part that I find most encouraging and that I will cling to and claim should I become a parent one day.

"Parenthood, like any intense experience is a crucible. It changes you, certainly but it also shows you what you were made from in the first place."

"I am now different, but not less. I discovered a fuller, more enriched version of myself. In labor I was introduced to a woman who was stronger and more determined than the girl I knew. In motherhood, I found more patience, more compassion, more intuitive power than I knew I had."

"But for each of those dark moments, there were a hundred more where we were overcome by pure bliss. ..this tiny everyday miracle; each movement she made, each sigh she issued, mesmerized us. Every time I looked at her, my heart felt bigger. Why didn't anyone tell us about that?”

I appreciate that each parent's journey will be different. It seems to me that the joy and reward seems to be the same. I have always believed that parenthood is a divine calling. Not everyone has the opportunity to walk through that path and for those who have the blessings, do cherish and embrace it.

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