Time for Parenting

Today’s guest blog post comes from Kristina Martin, a Portland author, humorist, and comic, who is also a great cheerleader for other writers, and who can’t use more comics in their lives?

three babiesI am blessed with many people in my life. Ironically, right now a large number of those people are either pregnant, awaiting the immediate birth of a baby, or brand-spanking new parents. A few have asked me questions about what to expect as a parent but since I am known for “telling it like it is” I usually don’t field many follow-up questions about labor and delivery or life with newborns.

But if I did, I would tell that pondering person that babies are all about time.

Simply making a baby requires the type of precision normally reserved for marching bands practicing for the Rose Bowl. While not all egg and sperm “providers” are carefully watching calendars and clocks, a good many do.  And for those folks, making a baby is all about the perfect time.  I hope they enjoy that moment, because it’s the last perfect time they will have for a long time.

I’m known for having little patience for inaccuracy (excepting my own, of course) and so the whole “pregnant for 9 months” belief really chafes. After all, a third grader can tell you that 40 divided by 4 is 10. And by the time a woman gets to nine months, she really wants to deliver at 9 months, not 10. Anytime a bowling ball is lodged in one’s pelvis, one gets really good at counting days between 36 and 40 weeks. And when enough time passes to get to 41 weeks, no one is happy anymore.

Which is, of course, good for the next glorious step to becoming a parent: the counting of contractions. If it is your first baby, the appearance of that first contraction seems fitting for some kind of celebration. Like, “Whoo-hoo! I’m finally having this baby! The contractions have started and this baby is going to be born!” Of course, that is not what happens, at least at any time soon. If the literature is to be believed, before any baby can be born, a timing of many contractions must be done. I wish I had thought to keep those scraps of paper on which I dutifully made all those little hash marks. In hindsight, it would have made a much better baby book addition than that umbilical stump.

Just having a baby requires so much timing. How long are the contractions? How often? And when that becomes routine, other timing issues come into play, such as how many minutes does it take to drive to the hospital anyway?

Of course, there is the time involved actually being in the hospital. I remember reading that the average first birth is 24 hours long and thinking, “I can do anything for 24 hours.” Which is true. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the 47-hour mark though, let me tell you. But once that beautiful baby is in your arms, who worries about time? That new parent of course, armed with the charts requiring copious bits of information regarding how much time has passed between feedings? How many minutes per side? How many wet diapers have there been in 24 hours? That chart goes on and on.

During those first months, time blurs together in 24-hour periods of catnaps and hours spent walking the floor listening to a screaming baby diagnosed with “colic” (also known as a 5-letter word for who knows why they scream every night between 5 and 10 pm.) During that time, I found myself wondering just what had I gotten myself into and why I was so keen to do it again.

But time passes. There are milestones and birthdays and all sorts of things that parents cannot believe would occur so quickly. I look at my babies and wonder what sort of science fiction time machine has been at work these days as my oldest baby ponders the accuracy of string theory, my middle baby discusses career options and my youngest baby is in “big kid” school.

Thank goodness for bedtime. I go upstairs and tuck my babies back under their covers and smooth the hair curling on their very un-baby-like brows and I think how miraculous this time really is. And how quickly the years will go until I have to let them go.

So I don’t tell pregnant ladies about laboring for 47 hours or new parents about having a sick baby who slept in 40-minute increments and only if he was held. No, I tell those very blessed people that the time for parenting is the greatest time in your life. And that parenting time works on a different clock than real time. For some moments will crawl past and you will feel like you just might not survive even another second, but you do. And some moments speed by so quickly you cannot quick make out all the details flashing past.

And the only time that time seems normal is the time you know your baby is right where you want them to be…in your heart, in your arms, and in your life. And if you are very, very lucky, you will remember to count the seconds between each time your heart falls in love yet again, and the hours between hugs and kisses, and the number of days and months and years that you have had time to parent that sweet little person who will always be your baby.

Kristina  has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember.  Her audiences have changed since lining up her dog and stuffed animals on the couch next to her mom, but her need to tell stories has stayed constant. Her first ever submitted piece, A Single Square of Christmas, was published by Gadling.  Her blog, Ten Minute Missive, is updated on Mondays and Fridays and you can find her over at Twitter as @quickmissive.

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5 Comments on “Time for Parenting”

  1. September 20, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Another great post, Kristina. You are so right about the inconsistencies of time. I still can’t get my head around it sometimes.

    • evmaroon
      September 20, 2011 at 6:43 am #

      I knew it wasn’t just me! (He says, after getting only two hours of sleep all night.)

  2. September 20, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Except a month is NOT 4 weeks long, only February is and once every four years, even that month is 4 weeks and a day. All other months are 4 weeks 2 or 3 days long. I can’t put this any better than another blogger did: http://duwaxloolu.blogspot.com/2010/12/pet-peeve-how-long-pregnancy-actually.html

    • evmaroon
      September 20, 2011 at 7:19 am #

      Well, but 40 weeks make a full 9 months, not the start of 9 months. I think that’s what Kristina is pointing to here. Full-term pregnancies last at least 37 weeks and up to 42, so for the majority of women, a pregnancy will last longer than when they scratch the surface of 9 months, right?

    • evmaroon
      September 20, 2011 at 7:29 am #

      Okay, okay, I see what you’re saying. And I’d forgotten about the first two week bonus chip, which count toward pregnancy but during which nobody was actually pregnant. Still, 38 weeks is a long time. See how hard time is during pregnancy, Sylvie? 😉

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