It’s not that no one acknowledges this, but I don’t think it can ever be fully expressed and understood until you are a parent: it’s really, really hard.
It changes your entire sense of self and what life is and can be like. If you’re like me and never pictured yourself having children, it can be that much more difficult. Especially if circumstances don’t work out the way you think they will.
And with kids, things never work out how you think they will. It’s just a matter when that actually starts. For me, it started as soon as the tech flipped on the ultrasound monitor and we saw two little blobs instead of one at the 8-week scan.
Since then, so much has happened. The boys were born early, as pretty much everyone knows at this point. My plans of putting the boys in daycare and returning to work were blown out the window when Lucas and Henry came home on apnea monitors and taking medication to continue to stimulate their brains and hearts to do their jobs.
I had, am still having, an identity crisis. I was a very ambitious, driven person. I was charging my way up the ladder at the newspaper and had 5- and 10-year plans. Then it was all gone.
Most of the time, I’m completely good with everything. But some days, when I’ve changed the 10th poop-filled diaper of the day and know that I still have more to go and Uber driving to do in the evening, I wonder what life would look like right now if things had gone differently. If the boys were born full-term. Or if we had one baby instead of two. Or we had gotten ourselves better out of debt before trying to get pregnant.
I’ve always been a “what if” kind of person. I don’t generally have regrets, though, because I believe everything works out the way that it’s supposed to. That the things we go through, good and bad, shape us as people. And I’m pretty happy with who I am as a person. But the “what if” thinking just got so much stronger after becoming a parent. Not just about me, but about the boys, as well.
What if the boys don’t develop as they should? What if they have a hard time learning how to do things? What if I’m not able to teach them enough? What if, what if, what if, what if … ?
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. But it’s just not something that gets talked about very much. When you do talk about it, the response is usually “There, there. Everything will be OK.” That’s nice and all, but not terribly helpful.
But this is what parenting looks like. A lifetime of constant worry. The only reason that we go through all that is because of the pure, unconditional, never wavering love we have for our children. Because that’s the other thing that can never be fully understood or explained. Just how much love you are capable of feeling for another human being.