Friends and family have forever been telling my wife and me that there’s never an ideal time to have a baby, but we always quietly disagreed. I now think they might be right.
In 2020, we felt so in control of our own lives. I was switching careers from journalism to education and my wife was rising as an RN in the ICU. We were building our lives together, as we had been for a decade.
In an instant, we changed with the rest of the Covid world. I went from a full time graduate student and journalist to unemployed for the first time since I was 15. I spent my days at home sinking into my hobbies — hours of playing music, chipping away at that growing list of books to read, and discovering a passion for cooking and baking. I found personal fulfillment while my wife’s days at the hospital got harder and longer on the frontlines of the pandemic.
It was a strange time for us. We felt closer in proximity, but our vastly different experiences throughout the day created distance. I felt guilty for my aimless, unstructured days spent learning new skills and building my stay-at-home resume while my wife walked through circumstances so dark that I couldn’t, and still can’t, relate.
She faced death on a daily basis while the healthcare system collapsed around her. The world seemed so vulnerable. But we learned to navigate. We lived with the pandemic in contrasting ways, but got to the other side knowing we helped each other through the darkest days in our world.
As we began to feel normal over the last year, my wife suspected physical changes. Two pregnancy tests were enough to confirm what we already instinctively knew. My wife was pregnant, despite us feeling like we were just getting our lives back.
We felt shock, excitement, anxiety, confidence and fear all at once. We’ve since embraced the idea. There was never a question of whether we were going to have our baby, but that’s about the only answer we’ve got.
In preparation for soon-to-be parenthood, we are working on our house and our son’s room. We’re looking at colors for the walls and new rugs. I’m boxing up my library and replacing it with baby books I’ve always dreamed of reading to my child. We’re packing up our spare room and making it a nursery.
We scour the internet for articles on the best ways to childproof our small home, essential first-time parent items, how to find a pediatrician, how to put our son to sleep and how to camp with a baby. I get the same feeling when I start a new job: overwhelmed with information. Every time we shop, we leave the store with another little outfit instead of items for ourselves, but far more special.
Each day brings a new preparation for January and a newly profound importance. The stakes feel high. We have no idea of what to expect other than what we’re told.
While that would typically terrify me, I know that everything will work, because it has to.
What expectations will we have of our son, and each other? What kind of parents do we want to be? My wife is going to graduate school full time at the end of the year. How will we make that work? How tired will we be? What will that first moment alone with our son feel like? Will we have enough support from family? Will he be healthy? How do we feel about bringing a baby into a world that still feels so fragile?
Our heads are filled with questions. I’m looking forward to exploring them in this blog. The impact of impending parenthood affects me every day —the way I think, the way I interact with my students, the way I behave. I know that most readers are already parents, and it’s my hope that by sharing my own trip to parenthood, memories of those fast and uncertain early days return.
Maybe there isn’t an ideal time to have a baby. Maybe there is. We’re going to find out.
Seth Nolan is a first-time parent. He is a former staff journalist and currently teaches high school literature, works as a freelance writer, and plays music in downtown Williamsport, where he lives with his wife. Through his blog, he hopes to invoke memories of the early days of parenting as he writes about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of raising a newborn for the first time.Seth can be reached at [email protected]