It’s almost 10pm on a Monday night. Although I'm in the library catching up on job work and school work, I'm finding it incredibly hard to focus. I can't wait to go home and spend some time with my “new” family. Almost 10 weeks ago, my husband and I welcomed the birth of our son, Kenzo. When I’m not with Kenzo, I find my thoughts constantly drifting to him. Random questions pop in and out of my head all day: Is he okay? Is he hungry? Is he happy? Did he get enough sleep? Does he miss me?
When I have the luxury to obsess about him for more than 60 minutes at a time, my thoughts become more obsessive and ridiculous! I have to admit that I’ve already pondered if he will learn his ABCs early, what career path(s) will he pursue, will he be left-handed like both of his parents, or have a favorite country to visit. I have to remind myself to get a grip and not dive headfirst into being a helicopter parent. I don’t think I need helping, but if I did, I can’t help myself.
I find solace when developmental books warn that the early infatuation stage is not permanent. Apparently, the parental infatuation stage is rumored to decrease after a baby exits the newborn stage (12+ weeks). But, my friends who are parents scoff at that notion and tell me it’s really permanent. This is troublesome for me. As crazy as it sounds, while I love spending time with Kenzo and obsessing about him, when I’m actually at home with Kenzo, my mind starts drifting and worrying about work and school responsibilities. In rapid succession, I ask myself out loud: Did I respond to that email? Did I give that student enough feedback on their paper? Will I have time to submit an abstract for that conference? Did I miss the deadline for the dissertation award?
On several occasions, I’ve checked in with my husband to see if he also feels like he’s in the Twilight Zone trying to balance it all. I feel frustrated and alone when he tells me he doesn’t feel like he’s in the Twilight Zone, too! I harbor feelings of jealousy because I know he’s better than me at remaining calm, cool and collected in all situations. But, I find comfort in knowing that he always has the right reactions to all of my new parental experiences. He laughed when I told him breast milk leaked through my shirt in front of the entire class while I was teaching. He pulled me in for a hug when I told him I was horrified by strangers who glared at me and my inability to get Kenzo to stop crying in Target.
Like anything else in my life, I’m trying to give this parenting thing the best shot. There are no do-overs. Before Kenzo was even born, more than anything, given my history, I just wanted a healthy pregnancy and birth. While my pregnancy was uneventful and healthy, my birth experience was a bit of the opposite. My birth plan was just that…a plan on paper! I had an emergency C-section and loss a significant amount of blood in the process. Reportedly, I even passed out while speaking to my doctor. I don't remember that experience. I do recall my doctor recommending a blood transfusion and staying in the hospital for nearly a week. While my healthcare providers were exceptionally competent, knowing what I know about health disparities and Black mothers, I still worried about becoming a statistic. In advance of giving birth, I discussed with my husband the need to create a will to protect my assets and the necessity to make sure everything was okay with my life insurance policy. Everything turned out okay, thankfully!
I didn’t realize how much my life would shift after giving birth, but I knew I still needed to just be me. While these first two months have not been easy, I frequently remind myself that I can do THIS. Sure, I might not have a perfect balance yet or know what I’m doing as a new parent (sorry, Kenzo), but I know that I wanted this life. I love being a mother, and it’s all-encompassing right now. The fact that Kenzo is on my mind when I’m not with him, and the other aspects of my life are on my mind when I am with him indicates the complexity of my new life. I love Kenzo and all that comes with it (well, not the sleep deprivation or poopy diapers), but I also value being a scholar, teaching and working. This is why I elected not to take the semester off, why I returned to work early, and why I generally don’t fuss about trying to balance it all. I accept that there is no such thing as a perfectly balanced life, and that’s all right!