I expected the chaos of life with a baby. I mean, no one can really prepare you for that panicked feeling when a 6-week old baby won’t stop crying and then finally does and then you get in bed and they start again and you just lie there going no no no no noooooo – please no. No one can tell you how desperately you will crave a shower just so you can be totally alone for a couple minutes. No one can really tell you how insane things will get. But even if I couldn’t fully understand what was coming, I expected the crazy, the tears, the exhaustion, and the stress of trying to fit in what needs to get done in the shortened time to do it. The chaos proved true.
But what I didn’t expect was the delicious calm that comes with having a baby. I don’t just mean those precious moments where the baby is sleeping on your chest and your heart almost explodes. Those are beautifully still, but they aren’t the calm that surprised me.
In pre-baby time, before I had perpetual tired eyes and did not yet know about the diversity in snot suckers and diaper creams, we were busy. We planned things most nights of the week, had weekends booked out forever in advance, ate dinner late, and enjoyed an endless social calendar. My extroverted heart loved it. In those early newborn weeks, we were busy too, but it was all focused on SURVIVAL and FEEDING BABY and trying to MAKE BABY SLEEP and figuring out HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO HANDLE THIS?
But now, we are less busy with the details of just keeping Henry alive. I’m not saying that we have this parenting thing figured out, but I only do the panic Google thing in the single digits each day, so we are basically pros. We are less busy with Henry, but we are also aware that his schedule demands saying no to a lot of things. This means missing things, but it also means…
… SO MUCH CALM FUN. When you have a baby, it’s like a super trump card, to the point where people just stop expecting as much from you, which is glorious. It’s like you totally fall off people’s social radars and while that can sometimes be hurtful, it also means that you don’t ever have to go to things unless you REALLY want to. People with babies benefit from the power of lowered expectations. In addition to the social vacuum where you find yourself, babies eventually force you into time you never knew you had.
James tries to get home earlier now, even if it means working earlier or again after Henry is in bed. We usually don’t plan things past 7, which means that once Henry is in bed by 8, we have blissfully long evenings where we eat delicious dinners, play jazz, sip wine, read, and binge watch TV. Don’t make me pick which of these activities are less classier than the others. We have time in a way that I can’t ever remember having it. True, we are basically held hostage by our sleeping Tyrant Baby, unable to go out and enjoy the big wild world in all it’s fullness. The slumbering dictator could always wake and scream and ruin everything, but even this constant threat of doom makes the minutes special. What a perfect prison our living room is, in all it’s stocked-fridge and Netflix-ed perfection. I love the calm of evenings at home.
We used to sleep in on Saturdays, and other days too, waking at the last possible moment before work. This meant more sleep, yes, but it also meant days that started late and then rushed their way to a late completion. Now, we all wake up at 6:58 on the dot, like it or not, weekends and weekdays. I shuffle groggily into Henry’s room to feed him and start the day, always planning on going back to bed once he goes down for his nap. Sometimes, I do. But often I find that when my day starts with his, I am fine by the time he goes down. Henry used to get up at 7:30, but then his extroverted FOMO self must have heard me tell James that I wanted to start getting up half an hour early to have some time for prayer and scripture before he woke up, because beginning the next morning he helped by waking me up that extra 30 minutes earlier. Fighting it failed, so we start our mornings in the big chair in his room, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, him trying to eat the pages of the Bible while I read it. It is one of the most sacred moments of my day. A baby swiftly undid my 28 years of coffee resistance, and I love the calm morning rituals of shuffling around our apartment with my mug in hand. I also love the magic power that comes from coffee, though one morning I overdid it and texted James excitedly in all caps while I whirred around the house cleaning and doing pushups off of furniture, only to crash with a stomach ache a couple hours later. If James has a day where he can go to work slightly later, we walk around our neighborhood on breakfast dates. While I miss those blissful extra hours of sleep, I actually love what has come to fill them. I love the calm of earlier mornings.
The chaos of life is so real right now, and when people talk about life with a young baby, I think we tend to focus on what is hard and chaotic, because so much is. But there is also calm, a wonderful calm that comes from the parring back of responsibilities and commitments. Here’s to a life that constantly tilts between the two.