Nine months ago, my wife and I found out we were going to be parents. It was the biggest news of 2019. Thrilled, we spent the next nine months preparing ourselves the best we could for parenthood. We read books and articles on parenthood. We even talked to other parents, new and seasoned, for their perspective and experiences.
Being first-time parents, we had many questions that needed to be answered before the arrival of our baby. Living in the time of information, our questions could easily be answered by the Internet. Also, because we’re living in the time of information, it is extremely important to use what information we’re being fed with.
Every person’s experience is different. However, that doesn’t make others’ experiences invalid to us. I always believe in listening to different stories and opinions with an open mind. I would not shut anybody’s story, instead, I would ask myself how I would approach should I be in a similar situation. To do so, I would have to verify the facts first by cross-referring. In my partnership with my wife, I’m often the one who often does the fact-checking.
I won’t be going in detail with regards to what information we acquired as it would make better sense to write another post on that separately. I will, however, share what I failed to prepare for (in my own standards).
I’ve read many books and articles which described delivery to be a trigger of many strong and powerful emotions, from joy to sadness to even possibly postpartum depression. Books can describe these emotions to us well. Although, we can never truly understand it until we or our partner experience it.
As expected, my wife has shown a spectrum of emotions. I wouldn’t say it’s like her mood swings on her periods as it’s more stable. In the recent few days, she’s been expressing that she has been feeling “uncomfortable”. Unable to put her finger on exactly what is causing her to feel uncomfortable, she sometimes expresses frustration. Knowing that it is part of the process, I’ve been trying to be understanding. I can tell you one thing. It is definitely not easy to be understanding when you don’t understand what exactly is going on. So, whoever tells you that emotion management is the wife’s problem, don’t believe it entirely. It almost equally becomes the husband’s problem as the husband will suffer the consequences. Stress has started to build up.
Cultural Expectations & Pressure
My marriage is an interracial marriage. I’m Malay while my wife is Chinese. We thought the difficult part of the different cultural expectations were over months ago. Boy, were we never more wrong. With the arrival of our baby, there are even more expectations.
Each of our cultures has a set of traditions for the mother and child. From both sides, we would hear, “You need to do this”. “You cannot do that”. “You must follow this”. Need. Cannot. Must. Three most common words we would hear, almost dictating what we have to do or avoid. If we chose not to adhere, we would receive an earful. Although it is of good intention, it can be pretty stressful. I’m a very logical person and often a justification for any actions. However, many of the traditions are not justified by science and not logical to me. Having said that, my wife and I are very lucky that our parents are understanding and often, we’d meet in the middle.
Due to expectations and wanting to meet them, it resulted in pressure.
Time & Sleep Management
If you ask any parent or read any parenting book, they would touch on the topic of time and sleep management. Throughout the nine months, every parent would remind me to get enough rest. If you google “how to get rest with a baby”, you would get plenty of advice and theories. Do, however, keep in mind that they are just theories. Many of the parents I know, despite knowing the theory, are still unable to practice it.
My wife suffers from this more than I do. It is definitely not because I’m not doing my part. I wake up as much as she does to attend to our baby’s needs. I’m also always the one staying up with our baby when he doesn’t want to sleep. So, why is she suffering more than I? Simple. It’s simply because I’ve been working on 12-hour shifts for almost seven years now. Should I have not been working shift, I would be suffering as badly.
Everything I’ve described above contributes to the stress that’s snowballing within us. It seemed manageable at first but have recently seen to be a little more challenging than I thought. That stress has started to hit me just two days ago. I haven’t found an outlet to relieve my stress. Neither has my wife. That stress would definitely start to put a strain our relationship if not addressed. We’re not upset or disappointed in each other. Rather, it’s due to the stress we’re facing individually.
So, in conclusion, I had managed to prepare myself enough theoretically but no matter how much more I could have done, even if I could turn back time, I believe that I would never be prepared enough for parenthood. Parenthood is something we can only prepare better as we experience it. That doesn’t mean that we should not prepare at all. What I meant is that we should prepare ourselves for parenthood to the best of our abilities and understand that without the experience, we can never be fully prepared.