Becoming a parent was unexpected from the beginning. After a blessedly drama-free pregnancy, my planned natural birth vanished when 36 hours of labor and several failed attempts to push led to an emergency C-section. Still, I'll never forget my husband's yell of delight and disbelief when our baby girl finally arrived — "She's here! She's perfect!"
During the hazy postpartum weeks, my list of to-dos like visiting family, introducing our new bundle of joy to our friends, or — heck — walking around the supermarket in sweatpants on a Tuesday morning were scrapped when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I remember sitting in our tiny nursery, crying into my hands because I had wanted to take our baby to my favorite local bakery. My husband had gently reminded me that our 2-week-old couldn't eat croissants. "But she can look at them," I had wailed. Postpartum hormones mixed with social-distancing ordinances are not for the faint of heart. Though, as the days passed and I slowly found my way through my physical and mental recovery, I realized I didn't need to leave my neighborhood or even my home to find joy as a new parent. Joy was all around me.
I'm not saying new parenthood is easy. It's physically taxing, mentally tough, and a total paradigm shift. Between navigating breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and the constant hum of another person completely relying on you, it's no wonder so many parents consider those first few weeks the most challenging time of their lives. But I think I was able to appreciate the little joys because the early days were so hard. The simple moments of levity were crucial reprieves from the drumbeat of responsibility.
I vividly remember the shocked laughs my husband and I exchanged the first time our baby spit up — and I mean really spit up — on me, on our couch, and, inexplicably, on our dog. Those warm newborn snuggles, the heavenly baby smell, and the sweet way our girl would curl up on my chest like a kitten allowed me to see the positive side of parenting.
Joy occurred in tiny parenting triumphs. It took us a while to get the hang of changing diapers, but once we did, my husband and I became a mini assembly line. If we noticed the infamous blue line, we'd snap into our roles: one of us singing to our wiggly girl and the other grabbing the wipes and diaper cream and getting to work.
Since we were unable to go anywhere during the pandemic, something as simple as taking a walk became an event, the thing I looked forward to and an accomplishment to be had. Timing the walk between feeds turned out to be an exercise in precise reverse mathematics. Cajoling our bulky stroller open and through our tiny entryway was all the HIIT workout I needed. And, oh, the satisfaction when the stars aligned! I'd feel a contented smirk tug at the corners of my lips when I turned the corner of our street with my baby cooing happily in her seat, my too-strong coffee sitting snugly in the stroller caddy, and my disheveled hair crammed into a baseball cap. The little moments of taking care of our baby, of figuring out how to navigate our new normal, are sweet ones I won't forget.
Our baby is now 5 months old, and though we are getting out a bit more (she finally saw the interior of a restaurant!), we are still being cautious and mindful of family and friends' health. I'm back to work (partially in the office and partially remote), and I find myself looking back on those difficult days of hunkering down with a pang of nostalgia. Being a new parent is unexpected, wild, and different for everyone. I take great comfort that our daughter's first memories took place in the quiet, small joys of home.