When I was twenty-three, my boyfriend and I talked about how many children we wanted to have--two, three tops if the first two were the same gender.
At twenty-seven, boyfriend-turned-husband and I had our first child, a micro-preemie. Three years later, I had an early miscarriage. One more year, and child number two was born, just a tad early and with an extra thumb and oh, I just happened to have HELLP syndrome.
It's a good thing we didn't want a dozen children. These two have taught me plenty, and I expect more lessons to come. I wanted to chronicle what I've learned as a parent...this may be a series of posts, as I've learned a LOT.
- Life often does not go as planned, especially big events like childbirth. My pregnancy with child no. 1 was going along just fine, right on schedule, then BAM! Welcome to mommy-hood at 26 weeks! Who needs that third trimester, anyway?
- Doctors and nurses with great bedside manners are heaven-sent. It also helps to supply said doctors and nurses with home-baked cookies--though I think they would have cared for and spoiled our daughter anyway (she was held a lot in the NICU by her nurse-mommies!).
- Health insurance. Enough said.
- I picked the right guy to father my children. He is a hands-on, providing, listening, doing-what-it-takes dad. And he treats me very well--something I want both of our children to see and internalize.
- I can handle really yucky bodily fluids of all kinds. I think this helped me conquer my distaste for handling raw meat, too. I was squeamish about making hamburgers before I had kids. Now I can squish together a meatloaf with the best of 'em.
- I'm glad I was a teacher before I was a mom. The experience honed my behavior management skills, and gave me lots of ideas to keep my kids engaged and learning during the summer--reading, doing crafts, going on field trips, listening to great music, playing outside, and letting them be bored to learn to entertain themselves.
- No two children are alike. I thought I had the baby thing down when child number two arrived. I said so to our pediatrician when we were having feeding and sleeping issues, and he just laughed. As a father of four himself, he knew better.
- Even with help, moms break down. There were moments that I deeply regret, when my skills weren't enough and my emotions got the best of me. We made it through. When you counter every child's utterance of "I hate you" with an "I love you, no matter what you say", the relationship is never in question. It helps to remember that the child has an underdeveloped frontal lobe. Repeating to oneself "I am the adult. I am the adult." can also do wonders.
- Trust your experience and gut instincts, and seek help when you need it. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists, speech therapists--they all have jobs for a reason. And that reason is to help your kids. I even learned to do play therapy, a skill that came in handy when I returned to the classroom.
What have you learned by having children?