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Part Three. This will hopefully be a bit shorter than the rest as I’m NOT looking to bash Peter at all or share our innermost secrets. I want to share more general experiences we’ve had.. in an effort to round out my experience, and to connect with you on a “Hope I’m not the only one.” level.
First off, if you don’t know us much.. Peter and I have been together a LONG time (on and off since 1999) – check out a short snapshot here in the featured story HERE about our wedding back in 2009 in The Washington Post (Thanks Ellen again!)
Peter and I are the typical “Opposites Attract” couple with a few places where we meet in the middle. I’m more of a homebody than Peter is (Actually with undiagnosed ADD, Peter cannot sit still more than 3 hours at home without him getting antsy and wanting to go out to do something. I know it’s a cause of always being ON while at work, and not being able to sit and rest.) He’s a spender, I’m a saver. I’m not saying Peter isn’t sensitive, he is a sensitive guy… but I wouldn’t call him HIGHLY Sensitive like I am. *I believe that is because being Highly Sensitive is typically beat out of boys at a young age with “Don’t Cry, Be a man, Don’t be a pussy” but I’ll talk about that more in Part Four) I won’t go into it here but where he is strong I am weak, and vice versa. That’s what makes us a good team, most of the time. We help each other move forward when the other one is struggling. Of COURSE it’s not always comfortable to be pushed out of our comfort zone but why not with the person who knows you the most, right? Okay okay… sometimes it’s more like a SHOVE out of our comfort zones but I guess that’s why they say “In good times and bad.”. We get into arguments when the other one is pushing us… when we’re afraid and unsure of how we’ll face what we’re dealing with. I push him and he pushes me and let’s just say it’s not always fun. I think you get the point.
That said – Being parents have so far been the toughest on our relationship and NOT for the reasons you think.
It has NOTHING to do with Leo being too much to handle. It really doesn’t have anything to do with sleep deprivation. Honestly we are pretty lucky that he’s a pretty happy baby for the most part, aside with what I’ve come to find out is normal newborn experiences (Gas pains, fighting going to sleep, etc)
Of COURSE both of us have NO idea what we’re doing. I honestly have NO prior newborn experience and like I’ve said earlier, I haven’t read all the books I probably should have to give me a better idea of what I was in for. I know Peter didn’t either.
From the minute we got to the hospital to start the induction process.. Peter truly took care of me and he still continues to do that till today in a way I’ve NEVER seen before. The month of November was a dream, he took a few days off during the hospital and a few days after, then for two almost three weeks, he did half days at work (8-3 which is unusual in the restaurant industry) so he could be home to take care of us. He was always making delicious meals so I wouldn’t have to think about cooking, and because he knows I’m sensitive… he was way more understanding and tender to me when I was having a “Holy Shit I’m failing moment”, especially around breastfeeding and Leo not knowing me. He put Leos birthstone in the necklace he gave me on our wedding day (photo here), and gave me the matching earrings (from Leo of course) for Christmas and gave me my first mom Christmas card – I bawled my eyes out)
Peter is honestly a natural when it comes to taking care of our son. It blows me away. I honestly think he’s the happy baby he is because Peter just LOVES to make him laugh and play with him (If you can play with a newborn that is). Being Highly Sensitive… I can take life and the role as a mama WAY to seriously and Peter is the one who initiates the laughter in this house. I am SO GRATEFUL that he does.
That said… the ways in which we’re opposite can definitely be a trigger for us. Because I’m HIGHLY sensitive… I definitely do not abide by the letting him cry it out philosophy… Peter is slower to react to Leos cries (adopting the “Give him a minute to figure it out.”) and it always puts a damper on our teamwork. Also, being Highly Sensitive.. I want to give all my focus.. my energy on being with and understanding my son, when I am taking care of him… so I usually put everything else down when I’m taking care of him. *Sometimes this sucks when I’m hungry. I try to limit him being overstimulated… but honestly I think I’m doing that because MY sensitivity has increased. When doing the night shift, I don’t put the TV on so disrupt me focusing on Leo feeding and getting back to sleep by the flicker of the TV, and Peter is fine with it being on. I tend to be WAY more quieter when I’m with Leo than Peter is. Again, I think this is a reaction to my own increased sensitivity… but it’s something that pushes on both of us. Peter is not a quiet guy…so telling him to be quiet can definitely ruffle his feathers. I want Peter to focus on being with Leo… not on his phone or watching TV when he’s in his care. This has been hard to get across to him as I’m SURE it’s frustrating that I always need quiet… and for Peter to be more reactive than to let him “figure it out.”
Because both of us have different philosophies with how to take care of him (I can already see the “toughen up boy” attitude in how Peter cares for Leo where I am more wanting to understand what LEO is experiencing), really listening to and paying attention to his different cries… it causes arguments and honestly… there have been some doozy arguments about these differences. I’m NOT saying I know Leo better than Peter does… but because I’m around him more…just that I tune in more… and well… it’s not always easy to communicate that.
Finally… I believe in the power of keeping Leo on a schedule. (I am following the EASY schedule from The Baby Whisperer – EASY – EAT/ACTIVITY/SLEEP/Time for YOU – See more here about it.) I notice a HUGE difference in his happiness when he sticks to a routine. He doesn’t cry much when he is on schedule… and is obviously off schedule when he’s not a happy camper. Nice long 3 hour naps when he’s on schedule is admittedly also very nice for mama and it’s how I was able to get out a few dozen Christmas cards this year. Since Peter is not with Leo all the time, he doesn’t see the difference being on schedule makes… and just wants to be with him when he gets home. I TOTALLY understand he misses his son while he works… that him happening to be sleeping when he gets home impedes in Peter spending time with him. I’m with him all the time and have to deal with the fallout of him being “off schedule”, where Peter isn’t as affected. NOT JUDGING… I understand he just wants to be with him, but I’m the one that has to get him back on schedule and that’s where it can suck. Thing is – I don’t want to be out and about.. I want to be home… taking care of my son and I haven’t figured out how to get Peter to understand where I am. I know the cold weather has something to do with that, I don’t want to take him out in this freezing cold and if it were warm out.. we’d be going for walks every day. I know he can’t get me to understand how life doesn’t have to completely change with a little one, that I can “go out” and do what I would used to do before he came.
That said… because Leos easier to care for when he’s on schedule.. it’s definitely heightened my own fear of going out. At home.. I have everything I need to keep him on schedule, but going out… who knows what will happen that will throw him off schedule. Peter, having undiagnosed ADD cannot sit at home for long periods of time like I can, so it always causes arguments about going out and staying in. He wants to always go out (Lets go to the mall, let’s go…. NOT be here and I just want to stay here to keep him on schedule)
This has caused quite a bit of stress between us.
Sure, I LOVE when I can get out a few hours so I can go to the grocery, Trader Joes and stop off at Chic-Fil-A for a spicy sandwich and Sweet Tea… but while someone is here… keeping the lovebug on schedule. (HUGE Deep and Humble bow to my sister for being VITAL to me having the space to take care of him while I run errands. Love you Auntie Kristine!!!) I’m not looking to go OUT. I don’t want to meet my girlfriends for dinner right now because most of them have no problem coming to the house to spend time with me and Leo. Peter doesn’t get that and I understand it conceptually but practically… it’s where we significantly differ.
THANKFULLY, he was able to push me out of my comfort zone enough to get me to go on our first road trip up north for Christmas.. and while I was VERY nervous about his schedule (there was a little fallout), I think I was more afraid that I would have a meltdown. It was out of my comfort zone for sure but I’m really glad he did. It helped me feel more confident traveling with a newborn, and I am grateful that Peter was able to help me work through my fear in that experience.
These two topics have caused us to have two of our biggest and perhaps the most troublesome arguments we’ve EVER had. It’s pushed us to the edges of our comfort zone… and honestly, both of us have entered territory that we’re afraid of, unsure of, and honestly not sure how to manage…
So we dig our heels in deeper in what has worked for us up to now.
And because as humans, we get to choose FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE, when these moments happen… we both pick one of them and it hasn’t been the same reaction. I typically go to fight (wanting to talk it out) and Peter goes to flight (Getting the HELL out of the house, so he can cool off and think it out.) This difference has been where we need to find a way to meet in the middle and honestly there are times when I’m not sure we know how to do that.
What I do know is I believe in us. EVEN if we don’t know how to proceed, even if we’re not in a happy moment with each other.. I know we both have the same long term vision and so I need to remember that when we’re dealing with the short term moments of being NOT on the same page.
That said… I would say to soon to be mamas and papas to talk about the few things that would make a difference in creating a strong team, even if they’re different.
– How do you handle when the baby cries?
– How do you feel about creating a schedule for the little one (and sticking to it), or being more go with flow?
– How do you handle it when your partner feels differently than you do about how to care for baby? *FIGURE THIS OUT NOW. Even if it’s just conceptually.
– How will you handle it when unexpected things come up (like in our case, having to introduce formula, having a cesarean, etc…) and how can you create UNITY during these very sensitive moments?
– How will you come together to face each others fears? How can you talk about them without making them worse?
Just a few thoughts I wish we would’ve at least found a middle ground before Leo came. I didn’t know I had to know these things.. I also didn’t know how my being Highly Sensitive would be intensified and how protective I am of him not dealing with something he can’t yet handle. I KNOW we both need to be pushed as parents to grow… to help our son grow.. but how can you do that in a way that won’t cause upset?
I don’t know the answer to this. I’m not looking for advice. I’m just sharing where I am. AGAIN, I’m sharing this and asking for your ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. I want to be seen by you.. to hear “oh yes, you’re not alone.” and maybe what worked for YOU as new parents.
What I know about Peter and I is that we WILL figure it out. Yes, it might not always be fun, we drive each other crazy with the ways in which we’re different and unable to meet in the middle… but I know we always find a way to move past it (even if it takes a few days) and end up a little bit stronger the next time. We both, I feel are incredible people… with such love for each other (even when we want to kill each other, figuratively) that we just need to find better tools to get us through the times when we’re unable to stretch out of the corners of our comfort zones.
One thing I KNOW FOR SURE – we sure do love our boy. Oh my goodness we both want to literally eat him sometimes. *Why is that? Both of us find ourselves wanting to suck on Leos cheeks… SO yummy! We are united in our love for him… that I know we will find a way to work through these differences… some way, some how.
WE ALWAYS DO.
*okay, so that wasn’t as short as I thought… Guess I should have known. 🙂