My path to parenthood was a stressful one. Infertility is a cruel beast. It seems that I spent my whole adult life trying not to get pregnant, and now that I wanted to, I couldn’t. After years of trying, which gets old very quickly, and doctors, and test, and appointments, and hopes dashed, and guilt setting in, I was finally pregnant! With twins!
Pregnancy is beautiful and stressful not just on the woman but on her partner too and on the couple as a whole. Everyone kept telling me, “Enjoy your alone time now!”, “Enjoy your sleep now!”, “Enjoy each other now!”, “Your life is about to change forever!” And, you know, cerebrally, all of this is true, but you really have no clue how much change is in store until the baby, or in my case babies, is there.
My guys came one month early. They needed to stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care) for a period of time. One child stayed for one week, the other for two. Not only was I scared, confused, healing, happy, and tired, but after wanting my babies for so long, I now had to go home empty handed. Leaving the hospital with your babies behind is nothing short of shattering.
Finally, the babies come home, and it’s a new kind of chaos. After 5 days of being home, it was Friday. I said to my husband, “Thank gd it’s the weekend!” But, then I realized when you are parent, you are always on. The weekend doesn’t mean a thing!
Three months later, my husband entered treatment for alcoholism and our lives were further torn apart. Then, I had to go back to work. We had to learn to live new lives as parents and as partners with my husband in the early stages of recovery. I had had enough stress for one lifetime. And, then I had to care for, make decisions, and parent these two precious lives. I worried. A lot. Am I parenting right? Did I breastfeed long enough? Should I have pumped more? If I hadn’t done _________ would my babies have been full term? Are they getting enough tummy time? Are they becoming dependent on the pacifier? Is this the right kind of bottle? Is the crib paint Formaldehyde free? Should I have bought organic cotton sheets? I checked my phone when I was feeding them! Are they going to think I don’t pay enough attention to them? Are cell phone rays harmful to infants? They caught a glimpse of the TV; have I harmed their brains?
And, then one day, I said, “ENOUGH”; I took a metaphor out of the Big Book and decided to let it all go. Let. It. All. Go. Not to be confused with Queen Elsa, but letting go is the best thing that I have learned about parenting.
Here’s what matters:
My children are loved. Wholly. Unconditionally. Fully. They are loved, and I work full time. They are loved, and we employ a nanny. They are loved and sometimes I need a break.
My children have healthy food to eat. And, it’s not organic or always whole grain or sugar free. It’s not direct farm to table or grown in my yard. But, they are thriving and growing.
My children laugh. And, I don’t buy every new DVD or CD or app or tech device or book or toy. Sometimes I just make funny faces while my husband makes up and sings songs about poop.
My children are happy. They loved their 2nd birthday party celebrated with family. They loved the cake from Target; they loved the pizza dinner; they loved the company. We didn’t have a theme. I didn’t pay someone $300 to make centerpieces. I didn’t order customized invitations. I didn’t decorate the party room at Davanni’s. We didn’t hand out goody bags. And, at the end of the day, the boys said, “Mama, Dada, good day.”
And, if you are a parent who is breastfeeding as your child is approaching 48 months, if your children are in daycare, if you are home full time, if they only eat vegan organic food, if you formula fed since birth, if you birthed your children with an epidural, if you buy them every new toy available, if you buy everything used, if you threw them a first birthday party with 65 guests, hired help and place cards… you are doing it right.
I believe we are put us on this earth to experience joy and love and happiness. What feels right to me as a parent is right. What feels right to you as a parent is right.
Parenthood isn’t simple, but I have chosen to make it as simple as possible. I try not to dwell, I try to do what feels good, and I am when feeling scared, or confused, or like I made the wrong choice, I remind myself, “I made the best decision I could at the time given the information available to me then.”
So, while I am in the toddlerhood of my parenting, I know this: it’s a journey, an exploration, there is no right, there is no wrong. Sometimes my kids sleep in the clothes they wore that day; sometimes I forget to give them a bath, and sometimes I don’t empty the Diaper Genie when it is full. But that is real, that is life, and I’m living it.
Carrie Palmer is a mother, wife, educator, and general badass living in Saint Paul.