Finding happiness in the unexpected serenity of new parenthood

July 24 | Guest post by Ashley H.
By: Donnie Ray JonesCC BY 2.0

I'm new to it all — breastfeeding, changing diapers, not sleeping through the night because every cough and rumble makes me jump. I feel pretty inept at all of it. Just two years ago I was hitting every bench mark in my plan: job, check; relationship, check; house, check. I moved to New Orleans for a job I loved, finally put some distance between myself and my entire life (or what felt like it). I had lived in the same place until the move (born in Hawai'i but ended up in south Florida for the last 20 years). And besides the customary admission of missing my close family (mom, dad, and sister) I was fragile-ly happy. Please excuse me if I just made my own adverb — I'm clearly sleepy.

Happiness, I guess by its nature, is a fragile kind of thing — poised on some sort of ledge ready to go either way. The details are pretty dramatic — so quickly now, I ended up moving back in kind of a whirlwind because my Dad died. He was a complicated guy and so was his death. I took some deep breaths and figured that this is what it meant to settle down, to kind of have the wind knocked out of you. I've been a lot of things — singer/dancer, student, salesman, waitress, teacher, and I went back to what seemed like the safest thing to me: teaching.

My life had some kind of semblance of order and contentedness: teaching English again in a public school, waking up early, tutoring after the regular work day, dinner parties with friends, endless overflowing shopping carts at several online stores (never really bought — just virtually hoarded). But it was all kind of dull around the edges. Kind of like a weak television show about an even weaker television show. I feel like everything I did was a watered down version of the real thing — like I was the watered down version of myself.

It was just easy to not have an opinion. After a lifetime of really believing passionately (right or wrong) in things I just fell into agreement.

One year later: laid off and having twins. No safety net but elated. Terrified — but in a bad way and a good way? When she found out I was pregnant with twins, an old friend said that I never could do anything half way. And that used to be true — maybe the person I used to be.

I've heard and read that pregnancy is this time that makes you evolve as a person and as woman, but for me it was different. It was kind of like stripping away all the things that had made me a little tougher on the outside (an adolescence filled with frenemies and evil exes, constantly changing one dream for another, compromising, my dad's death — and all the other big and small things that nick at the people we are when we're kids).

The twins came early at 33 weeks by emergency C-section. After being ordered on bed rest for a cervix issue (I didn't even know the cervix was a big deal until I was pregnant) I ended up developing severe Preeclampsia and ridiculously high blood pressure but amazingly, the babies were fine. We did some NICU time and now we're home. Some things come naturally and some things I have to learn (like being polite with advice I don't want and not being hysterical when I'm not getting the advice I need) but the babies make it all pretty amazing.

I knew that having twins would be difficult and I knew that learning to be a parent would be at once beautiful and terrifying. Looking at Gabe and Elia, I think the surprising part of becoming a mother is the effect they've had on me — and how healing it is.

  1. Are you sure that you wrote this post? It sounds just like my life. I am a new mom to 3-week old boy/girl twins, was laid off a week after I told my boss I was pregnant, and my dad unexpectantly died a little over a year ago. I really think you nailed it that happiness is fragile. The new lives my partner and I brought into this world, though, have made everything beautiful. Even the dirty diapers at 3am.

    1 agrees
    • Ack! I'm so sorry that you're up against those obstacles as well! Congratulations on your twins! I know that losing my dad was the saddest and hardest thing for me and then having the twins so soon after made me an emotional mess (as if I wasn't already a wreck from the pregnancy hormones)!

  2. I've got about 3 weeks to go before the birth of my first child – at 40. I know exactly what you mean about the feeling of stripping away, which is sort of a healing in and of itself. I have always wanted to be the mother that I never had, and I know that I will be, and that has made such a difference in how I carry myself. Thank you for sharing this blog.

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  3. I wanted to say that you write beautifully, but I also got so excited when I saw your daughter's name. My mother's name is Elia and I have only ever met one other Elia (she pronounced it Aaliyah so I don't really count it). I was reading Game of Thrones and saw that she was also a character in the book! Love it so much <3

    • 🙂 Thanks! I love the name Elia–I was super inspired by the director Elia Kazan and later just loved hearing it on Top Chef (one of the contestants lol)! … Arya would also be an amazing Games of Thrones inspired baby name ;)…

      1 agrees
      • I LOVE the name Arya and considered it right before our daughter was born. I loved the Character Arya from Eragon as well. It also means Noble and Truthful. I ended up choosing something else because my parents are from Mexico so we picked a name that both sides of the family could pronounce without feeling silly, well almost. Her middle name is De La Paz which my in-laws sound pretty funny trying to say 🙂

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