Heart on Sleeve
Author: Casey McCarthy
From: La Jolla
Blogging since: 2008
Hi. I’m Casey and among other things I’m a writer, feminist, activist, media & communications advisor, mother, wife, nomad, hopeless idealist and development junkie.
October 11, 2013
Apologies for the lack of creativity on this blog of late, but I’ve been busy raising this beautiful little girl. A post on first-time parenting is on its way… watch this space. x
On Becoming a Parent
November 27, 2013
Parenting is nothing like I expected it to be. It’s harder than I ever imagined. And it’s better than I ever imagined. I had ideas about the sort of parent I would be. And, more importantly, I had ideas about the sort of parent I would not be. Almost everything I thought before was wrong, if not completely stupid.
Before you have children you have all sorts of opinions about what being a parent is all about: Yes, we’ll definitely be “routine” people. A child needs structure! No! We will NOT co-sleep with the baby! Co-sleeping is dangerous and our child will learn independence early on.
Completely stupid opinions. Because, the truth is, you won’t know what sort of parent you will be until you meet your child and learn what they need and what it will take for you to manage those needs.
You know those parents who seem to talk endlessly about their children? And how annoying and boring you found it as a childless person? I did. And now, ironically — and unashamedly — I am one of those parents. Because my child is amazing. Truly. And I’m glad I know so many parents who are equally enthralled with their children. Because, as I find myself contemplating a lot these days, there are many children in the world who are not lucky enough to have such loving parents.
I am struck every day by just how vulnerable my child — every child — is. And just how great the responsibility of a parent. Having worked in child protection and international development, perhaps the desperate reality for many children is all too vivid in my mind. In the moments I find myself over-tired and frustrated (feelings a parent is all too familiar with) my heart breaks for the children whose parents don’t have the capacity to control those emotions and provide the unconditional love and nurturing they deserve.
Being a parent really is the most difficult job I’ve ever had — and absolutely the best and most rewarding. There is nothing I love more than hearing my baby giggle. I love that she’s all smiles when she wakes up in bed with us every morning. I love her squeals and chatter. I love the way that she, from the very first day, looked at her daddy like he has all the answers. I love her little monkey feet. And the way she splashes in the bath. I love feeling her little hand reach up my chest and gently brush against my skin as she’s nursing.
But it hasn’t all been long nights of sleep and giggles. Those first few weeks? They were some of the longest and hardest weeks of my life. I’m sure my mother’s friends had warned me, but I had no idea what to expect. The physical recovery from the delivery, the pure agony of breastfeeding (a feeling that is, I expect, akin to having shards of glass pierce your nipples every hour or two when your child nurses), surviving with very little sleep, and not being sure how to soothe a newborn who cries and cries and cries.
Some of those days were the darkest of my life. Mastitis didn’t help. You all of a sudden realize just how wonderfully selfish life was before. Life before was so easy — sleep was uninterrupted and deep; days and evenings could be spent doing whatever your schedule allowed, including spontaneously arranged fun activities such as margaritas with the girls. Not anymore.
Now days are spent predominantly dealing with vomit and feces, negotiating nap time, nursing, and attending to mountainous piles of laundry. Every day brings something new — a new challenge, a new sort of joy. Every day I’m learning. Learning about my capacity to be tested. And learning about the endless depth of this new love. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.