I can still remember the fear. It was two days after I had delivered Henry and I was sitting in a wheelchair with my newborn baby, being pushed to my husband in our waiting car. We were taking our son home for the first time.
The nurse talked to me all the way down the hall from the room I had just spend the last two nights nursing my son and then handing him off to go to the nursery. In that room it was rarely just the three of us. There was a constant parade of nurses coming in to check on both me and the baby, to make sure everything was going well. Once, when Henry began choking, all we had to do was push a button and a nurse came running in to tell us how to help him. Shortly after, Henry went back to the nursery, I fell into a deep and exhaustive sleep, and my husband, sleeping on a cot near the door was instantly snoring. I felt happy in that small, cramped room. I had my husband, my son had made his way into the world, and I had experts around me to help me figure out this new little life. I could've stayed there forever.
Instead, I was pushed into the freezing cold February weather by the nurse and the uncomfortable wheelchair.
I sat in the backseat with our son who was peacefully sleeping in a teddy bear zipup that was far too big for his three week premature body. My husband drove slower than I've ever seen him drive in the five miles back to our apartment. We walked in to a clean house with balloons and a sweet "welcome" sign on Henry's crib drawn by my mom. I remember distinctly looking at Brandon and thinking "now what?" Did we need to feed him, should he sleep, should WE sleep if he's sleeping? Where is our parenting textbook? No one told us how to proceed. No one gave us directions for this little life. We were just thrust out into this brand new parenting world and expected to thrive.
In the past thirteen months, the Textbook has still not shown up. And yet, the three of us HAVE thrived. Henry is growing and learning, and he's smart and happy. Brandon and I still have (most of) our sanity. But there are so many days when the Textbook would just be easier. I still don't have the answers, or at least, not what I feel are the right ones. I feel helpless all the time. I feel as if I know nothing and that I'm just winging it day after day. But maybe that's what parenthood is. You just love as much as you humanly can, and you wing it. You do your best, you trust your instincts, and you run with it. You don't often have time to think. You're in the trenches and you have no one to tell you how to get out. You have to figure it out on your own.
But what if he gets his heart broken, what do I do? And what if he gets in trouble at school, how do I handle it? And if he JUST WON'T LISTEN, how do I discipline him? And what if he wants to move away to college and I don't want him far from me, how do I let him go?
If there is one thing I've learned from my thirteen months of being a parent, it's this: You will figure it out. All of those things that you stress about, they are usually fairly insignificant, because something in that Parent heart of yours will tell you just want to do. And if all else fails, just snuggle your baby.