I Never Expected That



Mourning lost mojo
Sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First: the Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, and father of two sons. “I didn’t really understand how hard the sleeplessness was going to be on one’s intimate life. The choice becomes, ‘Shall I sleep, or shall I sleep with you?’ That’s the question. I was surprised at how easy it is to fall in to the trap of just wanting to sleep. “We deal with this by making more of an effort to tune in to each other and not just fall asleep reading our respective books. We also make sure to do date nights on a regular basis. It takes work to maintain an intimate relationship when you’re tired all the time. “You have to get the sleep whenever you can. At my house, it gets down to ‘this is daddy time and this is mommy time’. Instead of using that time to do a million different things, the most guilty of pleasures is just me laying in bed reading and possibly just nodding off to sleep. With more sleep we can tune in to each other a whole lot easier.”

No time for pit stops
Teresa Pitman, La Leche league leader, doula and author of 10 parenting books including The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers (with Dr. Jack Newman), and a mother of four. “The 24 hour-a-day nature of parenting was a shock. I don’t get to say, ‘Oh that was a long day but at least now I can get a good night’s sleep,’ because my baby is up at night too. Apparently the Union for Mothers has really failed us, because no scheduled breaks were putin the contract! And it’s really hard. “But motherhood taught me to go with the flow. Instead of thinking, ‘okay at two o’clock I’m going to have a nap and take a break’, I realize that I’ll just have to do that when it happens. Also, in our society, we are too reluctant to ask for help. By asking for help, we’re not failing as mothers. I finally realize that there’s nothing wrong with phoning a friend and asking them to take the baby for a walk so I can grab a shower.”

Great disappointment
Terry Lyn Evans, a Vancouver-based midwife and mother of a two-year-old. “The biggest shock was that, despite all my knowledge, I was unable to breastfeed my own baby. I was absolutely devastated as he continued to lose weight and I realized I was starving him. I was only producing one ounce of milk a day. To suggest that a mother give her baby formula is pretty much taboo in my profession, and there I was having to do exactly that. “I automatically felt guilty when I found I couldn’t feed my baby but I had to look at what was really important to me: that was to breastfeed as much as I could. Luckily my husband was incredibly supportive and managed everything else so I could concentrate on just that. But the first six weeks of my sons’ life were a blur. I had to accept that it is a reality that some people really do need to use formula – and that I was one of them.” An emotional roller coaster Amy Baskin, the co-author of More Than a Mom: Living A Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs and mother of two daughters. “I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of emotion when parenting a special-needs child. There’s an incredible amount of joy in the little things. For example, my daughter was always having tantrums whenever we went out in public, so the first time we sat in a restaurant as a family, with her relaxed and happy, was incredibly joyful. The flipside is that as much as I love and accept my daughter, there is this ongoing grief that hits you at funny times, such as my oldest daughter learning to drive and knowing my daughter with special needs never will. “I had to balance the joys and the sadness, enjoying my child in the present as well as planning for the future. It was important to get to know other parents of children with special needs; that was keyto normalizing the parenting experience. At the same time, it’s important to have interests and friendships outside of the special-needs world. You don’t want to be there all the time.”

Speaking different languages
Scott Mactavish, author of The New Dad’s Survival Guide and father of three boys. “One thing that really shocked me, is that you assimilate into this whole new language that you never knew, from the gear you buy to the medical terms. I had no idea what an episiotomy was before and I didn’t really want to know. I still don’t want to know! But I do. Here I am, a guy that knows all this stuff about babies, where the day before he was born I knew nothing. “The more research you do before you have a kid, the better off you’ll be. You won’t be quite as freaked out as I was. I went kicking and screaming in to the childbirth education classes and it ended up being the best thing I ever did. If I had not done those classes I would have gone running from the birthing room.”

Taking it personally
Family psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It and Mean It, and Stop People- Pleasing Forever, and mother of five. “I never realized how mentally consuming children are in terms of worrying about their happiness. As a parent, I feel every slight that my child experiences. Early on, I used to get this feeling in my stomach because I’d take everything that happened to my child personally. This could be the littlest thing, like when my child didn’t get picked for a team, or not invited to a party; I wanted to call that other parent up and say, ‘What do you mean she’s not invited?’ I’d take it to heart and then I’d have to console my child as well. “I had to learn not to take it so personally. That came naturally as I got more experienced as a parent. I had to understand that my child is not me. Children have a different personality of their own – and wants and wishes of their own. I needed to be able to separate myself in that way so I wouldn’t take every slight against my child as if it were made against me.”

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