15 Jan

People have lots of advice when you tell them you’re expecting a baby. Do’s and don’ts, things to buy, portentous but ultimately unhelpful comments about how “nothing will ever be the same again.”  Isn’t that kind of the point?  They call them “life events” for a reason.

The thing no one tells you, or at least no one manages to tell you in a way that makes sense, is the amount of physical discomfort required to properly be a parent.  This is quite apart from childbirth, which I can only speak to as a witness.

As the other part of the parenting tandem, I was completely unprepared for the amount of sitting perfectly still in awkward positions, or oscillating endlessly in the limited range of motion that at any given day and hour is soothing to the infant.  No guarantees the same calf raise-stomach crunch combo will work tomorrow night; you might instead be lifting your ten-pound “medicine ball” over your head and bouncing him/her on your thighs.  While bottle-feeding, my elbows and wrists have been cocked into positions that would give an ergonomics expert nightmares.  The baby loves being held on my left side, but can’t stand the right.  Guess which bicep started a bizarre set of cramps last night that radiated out spider-like across the other muscles of my arm?

It doesn’t get any better after those early days.  Cycling coaches and advice rags harp on the need for core strength and lower back stability; they have no idea of the kind of lumbar havoc wreaked by introducing a child car seat into your life.  A cardiologist was close to diagnosing me with a chronic heart infection before we realized I actually had bruised cartilage from the toddler version of Jimmy “Supafly” Snuka.

Why point out what every parent knows?  Beyond exposing the apparent conspiracy to not tell expectant parents anything truly useful, what else do we get from this discussion?  Most of us choose to do this; we’re signing up for something that we know won’t be entirely easy.  We may be surprised at what’s actually required, but looking back afterwards, we surprise ourselves at our ability to meet those requirements.   Who knew I could still lay a child down to sleep gently even after both arms have gone numb?

Parenting is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable in surprising ways, even if you live in the coddled Western world and have someone to share the duties with.  What I’m hoping is that it will make me stronger as well.


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