30 December 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
We started the year as parents to one child. We’re ending it as mum and dad to two beautiful girls.
As 2013 draws to a close, I reflected upon our journey to parenthood and how we’ve travelled down this road from our child-free days, through two pregnancies and 2 years & 4 months of parenting to this day.
Back then, we had no idea how much parenthood would change our lives.
For a start, we were scared and helpless. What we were supposed to do with a tiny human being who depended on us for every single thing?
We didn’t understand this baby whom we called our daughter.
We didn’t know how to feed her.
We didn’t know how to bathe her.
For most of the time, we just stared at this little stranger who came screaming into our lives and wondered what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.
Other than buying baby stuff in preparation for the arrival of our first child, we barely discussed the details of our parenting arrangement.
We each kinda just assumed that our spouse would want the baby to sleep in our bedroom at night.
We had no inkling of how we would share the load of caring for a newborn.
We didn’t think about who should be the one waking to tend to the baby when she cried in the ungodly hours of the night.
We only knew one thing: THAT WE WERE A TEAM.
That set the direction for our partnership in parenthood.
I didn’t demand that he woke to help me with middle-of-the-night diaper changes – in the early days when changing a tiny diaper was a mammoth task and 4 hands worked better than 2. But he did.
He didn’t assume that feeding was a mother-only job and many a time, gingerly held a seemingly huge bottle to the lips of a fragile newborn to get her to drink.
He sensed, without me having to voice it, my frustration with my fruitless attempts at burping her and, with his gentle touch, quietly took on the role as Burp Master.
He looked to me to keep track of vaccination and check-up appointments. I depended on him to drive us around. He trusted me to pack the diaper bag with baby care essentials. I counted on him to be by my side to help with the baby until I got the hang of using an unwieldy nursing cover to breastfeed in public.
With that, bit by bit, everything fell into place as we stumbled along. He appreciated my dedication to nursing. I thanked him for his initiative – even for seemingly easy tasks, like washing the bottles every night without having to be asked. He single-handedly assembled the ‘big stuff’ like the cot, sarong frame and cupboard. I diligently managed the inventories for clothing, toiletries and feeding paraphernalia.
If one of us was exhausted, the other was just as equally fatigued.
If we had dark circles and eye bags, and looked constantly un-groomed, we looked frightful together.
Because right from the start, we understood the only thing that our frazzled, sleep-deprived minds could grasp in the early blur of parenthood: WE WERE A TEAM.
And slowly, we gained confidence in this thing called parenting.
We even had some really good times!
Claire threw our smug routine into upheaval with her arrival in April this year. We found ourselves scrambling to tend to an 18-month old and a newborn and feeling like noob parents all over again.
But things gradually fell into place, just as naturally as they did the first time round, and we soon found our rhythm.
If Coco yowls from night terrors, he springs into action and rushes to the girls’ room to comfort her. If Claire stirs and whimpers in her cot, I wake to tend to her. He helps Coco with her meals; I give Claire hers. He’s the P.E. coach who patiently mentors the girls in scootering and water confidence; I narrate stories on repeat and recite endless strings of nursery rhymes and songs. His forte is in discipline and entertainment; mine is in dishing out warm embraces and bedtime cuddles.
Because one thing hasn’t changed: THAT WE ARE A TEAM, although we’re more like a tag team now instead of partners concurrently working on the same project.
Not once do we think ourself more deserving of uninterrupted sleep than our partner. If one of us senses the other’s growing impatience and agitation with a whiny child, we step in to relieve our partner of the cranky baby. We give each other time away from the kids – him to indulge in computer games; pedicures and facials for me. If either one of us is having a demanding time at work, the other automatically steps up on childcare duties so that the busy one can tend to office matters or get more rest. He understands full well that maternity leave is not a vacation from work; it’s clear to me that his work-from-home arrangement doesn’t make him a stay-at-home-dad and that he is just as busy in the ‘office’ as I am.
We both track the stocks of milk powder and diapers, and supermarket runs are a joint responsibility. If I spot a pile of dirty bottles crying to be washed, I do it – even though he claims bottle-washing as his job. If he dresses Coco in a Star Wars t-shirt while all the other little girls are in party frocks, I don’t criticise his choice of outfit – because the main thing was that he got her dressed. I read parenting books and articles – and provide him with a verbal summary. He searches for suitable Dora, Tayo and Micky Mouse Clubhouse episodes on YouTube – and teaches me how to navigate the menu on the smart tv to entertain Coco with them.
So while we have accepted that our lives have changed beyond what our limited minds could have imagined, we know that we can rely on our watertight partnership to cross each stage of parenthood together.
To my partner in crime, croup and poop, I couldn’t have survived motherhood to this day without you. If anyone would think of me as a good mother, it’s because you have helped me grow into one.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR HUSBAND.
I LOVE YOU.