Fall of 2010, I gave birth to a precious little girl who fills my life with joy. A year later (almost to the day!), fall of 2011, we purchased our first home. I have spent months contemplating the similarities between those two events, drawing parallels, and trying to decide which was harder!
Like most young couples, we had a pretty limited budget for our home, and we liked a certain geographical area, which made our search even harder. In the end, we felt very blessed to find a home with plenty of space in a very welcoming neighborhood. That said, the home was a short sale, and it needed a lot of work. Taking this old house and making it ours felt like giving birth to a home! (complete with early labor's excitement, active labor's hard work, transition's tears...)
Here are a few of the parallels I've found between these two valuable experiences:
Evaluate your expectations- As we began the home search, my husband and I learned a lot about ourselves and our preferences. My family moved many times growing up, and we always ended up in new houses in newer neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, when my husband and I looked at newer houses, they automatically "felt better" to me. My husband's family lived in slightly older homes, and he fell in love with the ramblers and split-level homes that reminded him of his enjoyable growing-up years. Both new homes and old homes come with advantages and disadvantages- one is not necessarily inherently better, just different. After we recognized our differing views and acknowledged them openly, it made our search go much more smoothly (and neither of us felt attacked if we didn't automatically agree because we had a better understanding of each other). In the end, compromises helped us find something that felt right to both of us!
When considering a birth location/care provider, couples should consider how their backgrounds and experiences will play into that decision. What are your ideas about birth? How does your family feel about birth- do they regard it as a natural, exciting process or one of impending medical catastrophe?
Perhaps one partner comes from a family where home birth is common. This person will most likely feel safer and more comfortable birthing at home. If the other partner has only ever experienced hospital birth (especially crazy dramatized t.v. hospital birth), that person may not be sure how to feel about an out-of-hospital birth. There are advantages and disadvantages to birth at a hospital, birth center or home- it is important that each partner addresses their specific goals, concerns, and feelings.
Take time to become educated about your options, talk about it, and make the best decision for your situation!
Know when to accept help- In the beginning of the moving process, I was so organized, and I enjoyed packing the boxes! In the last days and hours, though, I knew there was no way I could finish on my own. Exhaustion had set in. I allowed family and friends to see my most embarrassing messes as they so willingly helped us get out of our apartment on time. One friend (who has two small children) came over for a few hours on Halloween afternoon to scrub my bathrooms so we could turn in our keys that night. I had never let her past my living room before! We are much closer friends today (hey, once someone has scrubbed your dirty toilet, you don't feel quite as self conscious around them anymore!).
In birth and new parenthood, it can be tempting to want to only let people see you at your very best. It is important, though, to know when to accept help...and to recognize that by letting the right people help you, you will be strengthening important relationships. If you're in labor and your partner is too far from home, call that friend to drive you to your birth place! When a neighbor offers to bring in a meal, don't worry about if the house is clean- accept their offer and get some much-needed rest. If you have the courage to admit to another mom that you're not sure if you are doing it right, they will probably tell you they felt the same way! We aren't made to do this alone...
Stick to your guns We have wonderful, exceedingly helpful extended family members. We also found great contractors, workers, etc. to help with our home. Along with great work came a LOT of suggestions- everyone had a vision of how our house could turn out. We were grateful for the suggestions, and we took many of them, but in the end, we knew we had to be responsible for the decisions we made for our house.
We were glad we said no to some of those suggestions...or maybe just "not now."
The same goes for birth (birth plans, anyone?). As a couple, research and learn about your choices in childbirth. Talk to those you respect and hear about their experiences, but don't bend to pressure to do something you aren't comfortable with. It's okay to say, "Thanks for that idea. I appreciate your input. If I have any questions about that, I'll ask you. We've decided that _____ is best for us." Then, be flexible, and re-evaluate if your situation changes.
Baby Steps We've concluded that even if we worked day and night for months on end, our house will never be "finished." There will always be another project. We can choose to focus on the cracked driveway, or we can enjoy family time in our beautiful home while we save up for more repairs. :-) We've chosen to make a long-term goal list and ENJOY our little girl and our fun house!
It can be tempting with a baby to want everything just right, right now. I especially see this in "sleeping through the night" and reaching milestones (crawling, walking, etc.). You can choose to be frustrated by your baby's lack of ability, or you can hold them close, take a mental picture, and enjoy the fleeting moments. Soon enough...soon enough...
Understand that someday life will return to normal (and you will get to shower!) We decided we needed to paint our entire house (ceilings, walls, trim...everything)...in addition to having lots of other work done. Luckily, we had two weeks where we could live in our old apartment at night and work on the new house during the day. Every morning, as soon as I woke up, I would throw on some old clothes and had over to the new house to start working. Late at night, we'd return home to the apartment and totally crash. My "breaks" were running to the paint store or grabbing some food. I hoped the paint stains on my clothes were enough explanation for why I was out in the middle of the day in sweats with unkempt hair and no makeup, looking like I hadn't slept in days!
In those first days (weeks, months?!) after birth, when those pre-pregnancy clothes don't fit yet and the days and nights are a blur, living in sweatpants and never leaving the house can be totally normal. For those days, it is important to remember that this stage is only temporary...and as soon as you are able, a shower and some matching clothes can go a long ways towards making you feel human again! (Buying a few pairs of normal clothes in my postpartum size was so worth it!).
It just keeps getting better...and harder...and better We have now accomplished many of the projects on the original home improvement "To Do" list. We love our home and the work we've put into it has really paid off. For each item we accomplish, though, it seems we discover something else that needs to be repaired, replaced, or updated. Then, we take a deep breath and remember how much we love the space we have and our nice neighborhood. In the last few weeks, flowers we didn't know existed burst from the ground and have started to bloom. What a gorgeous special surprise!
The first few weeks with a new baby are amazing...and entirely exhausting. Then your little baby starts to smile, to babble, to roll over, and you think, "It doesn't get better than this!" That precious little baby soon learns to get into everything and goes through a cranky teething stage. For each rough spot, parents are rewarded with sweet moments and fun surprises. Our little girl is about one and a half and she is SO funny and super adorable! It just keeps getting better (the challenges are totally worth it).
So now you know why I haven't posted much over the last several months!
I am so grateful for my sweet little girl...and grateful for our wonderful home to live in. The things in life that take the most work are the ones we enjoy the most, right??
Have you found parallels between childbirth and other experiences in life?