Having a baby changes things. While struggling to keep my eyes open last night during the last quarter of the Superbowl, I was especially struck by this realization. A mere three years ago I hosted a keg party at my house in honor of the Superbowl. This year I didn’t even turn it on until halftime when Emmalee was asleep and I finally had a chance to make myself a sandwich and relax for a few minutes. This got me thinking about other things that have changed in my life since Emma’s arrival.
My level of self-consciousness. I’m not sure at what point having a child lowers your modesty expectations, but I’d say it happens in the hospital sometime after the fifth relative stranger has stuck their entire hand up your lady parts. You suddenly just don’t care anymore what other people think of you. And even months after the baby is out, you’ll find that trying to do anything with a baby takes up so much of your mental energy that you don’t have room left in your head to worry about what you look like to others. Most people are paying more attention to the baby than to you anyway.
My shopping habits. Though I continue to be a bit of an impulsive and emotional shopper, I no longer have much interest in buying things that are not for Emmalee. The baby and toy departments of stores used to be foreign countries that I dared not visit… and now I call them home. Buying a new pair of shoes for myself used to make me happy, but I’ve found that the feeling can’t compare to the joy of buying Emma a new pair of shoes. Even though I know she’ll kick them off her feet in about 3 seconds and they will be wasted because keeping them on her will be impossible. Emma looks so much more adorable in clothing than I ever could. And hello? Who doesn’t love toys? Having a baby is an awesome excuse to let your inner child run wild in the toy section!
My ability to be reasonable. I used to think of myself as a mostly logical and rational person. Now that I have a baby though, I can see that is no longer always true. When my husband started traveling for work and I was left alone with Emmalee I had trouble sleeping. Some of my fears were understandable. What if there was a burglar/murderer/fire? How would I keep Emma safe? But my biggest fear, the thought that kept me up until the early hours of the morning frozen with terror, was that I would die in my sleep and Emmalee would be left alone, scared and hungry for hours before anyone realized something was wrong. I am 26 years old with no known health problems other than nasal allergies, so clearly this is an unreasonable thing to worry about. But to be fair, the people on the television show House are always reasonably healthy before collapsing with some life-threatening disease. If those people had been home alone with a baby they wouldn’t have been rushed to the hospital, meaning they would have died. And what would have become of the baby??? I think you see my point.
My mental capacity. Research has proven that having a baby does not impact your cognitive abilities. And yet… I swear I used to be able to remember things like when the cell phone bill is due, or what day is trash day, or why I needed to go to Wal-Mart, but these days things like this slip my mind more and more. Perhaps it is again due to the amount of mental energy a baby requires. With all the worrying about how long she sleeps, how much she eats, when was the last time she pooped, is she happy, is she developmentally on track, how many days are left until her birthday, am I spoiling her, will she go to college, and on and on and on, there just isn’t much room left for mundane things like paying the water bill or feeding the dogs. This “Mommy ADD” as I like to call it also impacts me at work. My to-do list used to be brief and manageable, but these days it seems to get longer rather than shorter. Though I try my best to focus on work while I’m there, Emmalee is never far from my mind.
My free time. Free time used to be something that just was. I have some time to kill, maybe I’ll watch a couple hours of TV or read a book, whatever strikes me at the time. Now that I have a baby in my life, I view the rare moments of free time with a different set of eyes. While rocking Emma to sleep I get excited thinking about what I might do with myself once I lay her down and I find myself planning out my two hours of “free” time. First I have dishes and laundry and sometimes I still need to eat dinner, but what about after? Should I read? Watch Teen Mom? Hit up Babycenter.com? Write a blog? I’ve got to check Facebook. The possibilities seem endless and I want to do it all… which means I end up staying up way too late trying to balance my responsibilities with my intense desire to just relax and waste time.
My priorities. My world used to revolve around me. Yes, there were other people in it that I cared about, but there was no one I was responsible for other than myself. If I was hungry I ate, if I was tired I slept, if I wanted to read or watch TV or just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour, I could fit it in. These days my world revolves around Emmalee. My first concerns are about whether or not she is hungry, thirsty, tired, etc, and these needs are met before my own needs are even considered. But I am not complaining. Because even though being completely responsible for another human being is exhausting at times, it is also unbelievably rewarding. My life has taken on a whole new meaning because now someone depends on me. And yes, things have changed. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When it comes to adding a baby to your life, change is awesome and so worth the sacrifices.