The Challenges of Being First-Time Parentsby Erin Edgar
Life is weird.
As first-time parents, my husband & I learned right away that society can quickly mock you if you don’t show your life as a perfect parent. A lot of the vloggers & bloggers that we follow have this perfectly polished look to them. Perfect hair and makeup & an unstained outfit that I even get jealous about.
In non-parents and a lot of other parents' eyes, we NEED to look like we have it together. Give this presentation that parenting is easy. Parents should make working 40+ hours a week, raising a newborn, and attending any and all functions for your children and friends easy work. I call bull on all of this.
You see, we are the “older” couple. We didn’t get married in our 20’s - hell, we didn’t even know each other in our 20’s. We were both on career paths, and fairly established in them when we got married. We paid for our own wedding and had retirement accounts in both of our names. Neither one of us had ever been divorced, we didn’t have any children prior -- honestly, most people were amazed when we would tell them the story on how we met off of Match.com, even though my grandmother and my husband’s mom knew each other prior (I had actually met my husband’s mom back in the early 2000’s). My husband was almost 42 and I was almost 36 when we gave birth to our first (and only) son.
My husband and I had our son at 26 weeks gestation. We were welcomed into parenthood even more clueless than we could have imagined -- even though we planned for this little miracle for years prior. The NICU was an extremely structured environment that was full of questions and heartbreak. Believe it or not, it is even more isolating than COVID has been. But, that is a story for another day. We took a lot of the practices we learned from the NICU and brought them home, which helped tremendously during this pandemic, but also making us better parents.
I had a life that was full of challenges - my dad passed away on my 18th birthday, I was diagnosed with Melanoma at 30, and I had an awful relationship with my family for a good 15-years. But, after meeting my husband, I quickly learned those things didn’t define me. They were “old news” that were part of the blocks that designed who I was. My husband, for the first time in my life, made me feel like I was normal. He never went through the hurt and heartache that I had. He didn’t understand the life he was about to embark on with me. But, I sure did welcome him into parenthood having our son so early.
The whole 92 days we spent in the NICU, that was almost two hours from our home, made him and I stronger as a couple. I ended up having to quit my job (though, looking back, I never really quit -- I just stopped going and wouldn’t answer anyone), my husband became the sole breadwinner of our house. I watched him struggle in the beginning of this new life we did not plan for or choose. I had to stay strong and have my shit together for our son, but how on earth am I supposed to have my shit together for all three of us?
My husband already suffered from high blood pressure, and now with the added stress we were going through, we were watching his blood pressure go crazy again. Me? I was used to having a crazy life, but I was not prepared for this to happen. You can slap me, hurt me, make me cry -- but, how dare you make my husband and this little tiny boy have to fight! I got so depressed, anxious, angry, hurt, aggravated. I was all of these things and more. It wasn’t until April of 2020, almost 9 months of being home from the NICU, that I started to realize how much I was hurting. I quickly reached out for help from a Women’s Health area at the hospital my son was at for all the time in the beginning of his life.
I am able to virtually talk to a therapist twice a week and my psychiatrist at least once a month, I am able to get the assistance I need to help my family stay strong and my mind to stay strong with them.
Parenthood is not perfect. We are not supposed to look like we have it all together. We have to make choices, we have to sometimes hurt people that we love -- all to help the ones that we live with. I was so busy showing how crazy parenthood is in the beginning that I forgot to take care of me -- the axle to the wheel of our family. Our son, who is now almost 16 months old, is perfect. He does not look like a micropreemie - he walks and babbles and has a whole love of life. My son has nicer clothes than I do, gets more baths in a week than me, and has taken over every square inch of my house -- but, to me, that is parenthood.
MY life is not perfect & I am not afraid to show you that you are not alone in your parenthood journey.