GUEST POST: 8 Things I Didn't Expect About Life with a Baby

While I'm on my quasi-maternity leave from the blog, a number of my favourite bloggers are taking the helm. Here's Caitlin writing on a topic very close to my heart...!

Hi all! My name is Caitlin and I blog in two places, on my personal blog and on my mom blog. I haven't written a guest post in years, so what better time to try again than during Sarah's maternity leave?

For some background: I live in Vermont, the U.S., with my husband Rob, our baby and dog. Our daughter is 7 months old and so far her infancy has challenged and delighted us in ways we never could have known. Adding her to the family has enriched our lives so much, but it's also been the biggest adjustment we've ever gone through together or apart (and my husband is a combat veteran, so this is saying something).

I thought that since Sarah is about to experience the incredible rush of feelings and contradictions and love that comes with a baby I'd share some of the things that I didn't expect about life with one.

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1. How uneven the balance of work would be. My husband, Rob, and I have always operated our marriage outside of most gender norms. Rob does the cooking and the lion's share of the cleaning, I have been the breadwinner for several years (and still am). Before we had our daughter, we talked about how we wanted the responsibilities to be split and like most people who don't have kids yet, we genuinely believed that the way forward would be somewhat predictable. The baby completely undid all of that. From the day she was born, I was her primary parent and 7 months later it is by far still the case. That isn't to say my husband isn't a devoted father or that he does nothing--he still cooks, cleans, and takes care of our dog--but the bulk of the baby care has always just sort of defaulted to me. I'm sure this is partly because she is breastfed and short of some kind of medical miracle, my husband will never be able to lactate. But I have mom friends who have bottle fed from the beginning and by and large our experience is the rule rather than the exception. Honestly it's something I would like to investigate further--is it because boys typically are exposed to fewer babies as kids? Is it because I'm just more likely to run and grab her when she starts crying? Is it just because there's no one quite like mom and the baby just prefers me? Whatever it is, it's taken a bit of getting used to for all of us.

2. How much better my singing voice would get. I don't consider myself a talented singer by any stretch, but I have noticed an improvement in my singing since our daughter was born. This is an obvious consequence of having a very colicky baby who is only soothed by music and dancing. My daughter's favorite songs currently are "All About that Bass," "Shake it Off," and "Over and Over" (by the Dave Clark Five). Those are all sung around our house all day, every day and they never get old.

3. How protective I'd feel. Before I had a baby, I never understood why more mothers didn't put their children in daycare for at least a few days a week to get a break. When I was holding my own 6 pound screaming bundle of pink joy in my arms, though, all I could think about was the many ways in which some other person other than me could hurt them. Your mind goes to some dark places with babies. Disclaimer: I have no problem with daycares or the people that run them--this was just to illustrate how irrational my baby made me.

4. How much I'd miss mundane tasks. The advice you constantly hear with a new baby is "sleep when the baby sleeps" which drove me totally bananas. The advice I give new moms, since I figure they hear "sleep when the baby sleeps" every other second of the day, is to find time to do a chore or two. For me, folding laundry or vacuuming offers a chance to do something predictable, something I feel confident doing and something that doesn't scream at me. Plus watching the laundry and dog hair and dust pile up around you can be a little soul-crushing.

5. The bond with other parents. We hear a lot about the mommy wars nowadays and while they are a real thing, my experience has been that parents are far more likely to help you than to judge you. I was breastfeeding my daughter at a hockey game and instead of glares, people with their own tiny children were offering to help me balance all the crap I had to carry with my still-very-new baby. Other parents who I haven't spoken to in years came out of the woodwork to offer much-needed support during my daughter's colic when I felt worthless and frustrated and exhausted.

6. How much crap a baby needs. Seriously, a weekend trip requires an entire carload of stuff. Even going to the grocery store is somehow a production, especially in the winter.

7. How something can be hard and also incredibly boring. I work from home so I'm with the baby all day during the summers when my husband works. I didn't really expect how difficult and yet incredibly monotonous it could be to spend my day with a baby. Especially in her colic days, outside of work my entire day centered around keeping her from crying and usually failing in doing so.

8. The depth of my love. You knew this one was coming--what post about parenting would be complete without a whole bunch of mush? I won't speak for anyone else, parent or non-parent, but the love I felt for my child the second she was placed on my chest is unlike any other love I've experienced or could have anticipated. I could spend all day breathing her in, staring at the veins that form a heart on her head, kissing her impossibly rosy cheeks. Though her infancy has had its difficulties, I feel so incredibly fortunate to be her mother and to have the experience of raising her.

Sarah, I am so excited for you to experience the magic, the difficulty, the complete awe of motherhood. Best of luck in these first few weeks!

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