In the blink of an eye, it’s been a year! Gosh, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. Maybe it’s the stress of coping with a new job, new home and a young infant; or maybe it’s just how quickly each day passes by in a flash because we try to adhere strictly to routines for baby Xuheng and so have given up much of our evening lives. In any case, with a chronic lack of sleep, our body systems are usually shutting down by 8:30pm or so.
I would be lying if I didn’t say parenting a newborn is real tough; but it is also full of joys. Cliched, I know. Yet, our reality was that the difficulties were often so in our face that it was difficult to see the joys. There were many nights Weili and I spent hugging each other in tears not knowing what to do with our screaming baby who refused to sleep; either because he was over-stimulated or sick.
Amy Begel, a family therapist I had the privilege of learning from once shared that one only gets a PhD in being human when we have kids. I suppose one day I will have to pass my Oral Defense then in the presence of my Maker.
We struggled. Big time. To adjust. Adjust what? EVERYTHING. Having a newborn turns everything upside down. I am sure my fellow parents will agree that there is no sphere of life that is left untouched by the presence of the newborn; whether it is the social, mental, emotional or spiritual. It is one of the life-changing events that rocks the proverbial family boat like few others can.
There were some things that Weili and I decided on doing early on that helped us tremendously; some others were not so successful and we had to further adjust along the way.
1. Routine, routine, routine
In our desperation to help Xuheng sleep better so we could get more rest (trust me, it’s not easy juggling work and sleep depravation), we decided to implement a strict sleep routine for him. This meant being home every single night by 7pm so we could put him to sleep the same way in the same place. For this, we pretty much gave up our social lives and sometimes even time with our own families for the routine. It meant that it was hard for us to go for Cell Group, or have meetups with friends. But after a year, I have to say, the sacrifice was worth it.
Xuheng now sleeps pretty much on the dot from 7pm pretty much till the next morning at 5am. He still wakes up a couple of times for the pacifier, but is getting better at putting himself back to sleep. The best part is that on good days when he is not overstimulated, he takes just 10-15minutes to fall asleep. That means that Weili and I can have a leisurely dinner together and time to do our own thing afterwards be it reading, exercise or a slow warm shower before heading to bed.
2. Maintaining relationships
While it definitely was more difficult after Xuheng came, we tried our best to keep in touch with important friendships. It helped that our Cell Group was very understanding about our absence and never once made us feel bad about not attending. We tried to attend gatherings when they were held on weekends. Whenever we could, we also made time to meet up or hang out with friends for meals.
These relationships, seriously, kept us sane. Whether they were friends who were single or fellow parents, having time when we could take our attentions away from the little ‘bundle of needs’ we were constantly having to take care of helped give us a mental breather.
3. Coming to terms with the New Normal
It took some time for me, but slowly I began to adjust and come to terms with the fact that parenting was not business as usual. We will never return to our lives as singles; or even our married life before the kid came. The very definition of ‘normal’ had changed.
For me, the biggest adjustment was to come to terms with the fact that many things in life I had chosen not to pursue before would now be impossible. I also had to come to terms with the fact that my capacity to take on and pursue new interests if they came along would now be much more limited. In fact, life now consists on very little apart from work and taking care of the little one.
One helpful thought was to realise that my first responsibility now lay in my roles as a husband and as a father; and that the rest needed to be put aside for now. It certainly helped that Xuheng is very attached to us and absolutely loves every minute and second he spends with us!
4. Good food and Coffee. Lots of it.
For a while, Weili and I ordered tingkat for our dinners as it was getting troublesome to buy dinner every day and have to think of what to eat. Honestly, it worked very well for us for a while. Quite a long time in fact, I think we were on it for about 4 months. But you know, it does get sian sometimes. And for me, a good meal is critical to my sense of wellbeing after the end of a difficult work day. Very few things are worse than a bad dinner after a long and tiring day.
And so we stopped the tingkat. Now we either dabao or I invent simple recipes that I can whip up in 20minutes after Xuheng goes to bed. Now, Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals make a lot of sense.
And so we survived.
I’m think I need a nap..