I am going to do my very best to say what I want to say without sounding judgmental, ungrateful, or like an ass. So here goes nothing.
For most people, especially women, the first time they really put themselves last is when a child is brought into the picture. I don't mean putting themselves second or third, but definitely last. Last to shower, last to eat, last to go to the doctor to get refills for the headache medicine. Last to obtain good sleep for months on end. And that's crazy love and sacrifice, but also a rude awakening to what sacrifice means. I imagine, anyway. And even more women say that the ultimate definition of love is what you go through when you become a new parent.
Some women do this and don't look back while others struggle. Some women think they can't do it another day and others have another kid less than 18 months later. Whatever, you know? Some women have that one thing they can't seem to get their kid to do- eat, sleep, poop with regularity. And it breaks my heart when a new mom posts a minor complaint on Facebook or Twitter only to met with, "That's just being a mommy! LOLZ. Get used to it!" I mean, what the hell? So her kid was sleeping and now isn't- I think that warrants a complaint. But noooo, new parents can never complain about anything ever, cause you know- it's so funny to see someone else suffer. I probably won't share much about my struggles because people seem incapable of being helping but would rather remind you that you're going to be tired for the next 5 years. I'd rather just ask someone in private, which I will do.
Now back to love and sacrifice. I guess I'm privileged enough to already know what putting myself last feels like. I already understand what it's like to worry my head off about the very well-being of another human. I understand true, soul-sucking exhaustion that seemed to eat at me for weeks on end. I know what it's like not to know if the clothes I picked up off the floor are clean or dirty, but wearing them anyway. I know what it's like to shower at 4am because I was up anyway and also, it might be the only time I can enjoy it for a few days.
I have feared for my husband's life in a way most people are lucky they don't know exists. I have helped nurse him back from near death. I have cut rotting flesh from his wounds. I have watched him cry from frustration and pain. I have seen him struggle to feed himself. I saw him in an utterly helpless state, something most adults don't experience, even in their final days.
And in all of that, I was last. I wrecked my little body over and over again, to the point of being unable to walk for days. I have been in the ER more times for tension and migraine headaches since Aaron got hurt than in the past five years (or longer). I am pretty sure I lost my hairbrush at one point, and went around in public looking like a Minion. Good times.
And you know what? For some people, I still might not know what love and sacrifice is. Somehow, an infant is still going to be the hardest thing I will ever do. Love and sacrifice and exhaustion only applies to caring for a child, but never anything else. And while no one has been malicious or continued to argue the point after I made my feelings clear, it has still been on my mind enough that I wanted to write about it.
If someone is going to look me in the face and tell me that what I've done for my husband isn't the same as what I'll do for my child, or that it isn't as difficult, then I have nothing to say. Simply put, if having a baby is worse/harder than what I've already done, then I probably won't be too happy about it. Who in their right mind would sign up for that? What person would look at everything Aaron and I have been through and say, "Bring on something harder! I still don't know what being exhausted means! I don't know love because I haven't had a child!" Seriously. And I am not the only caregiver who feels this way. In fact, even my caregiver friends with kids have let me know that compared to what I've already done, what I'm about to do is totally manageable.
I understand that it won't be the same. I, of course, with my human brain am aware that I will encounter situations I can't fathom until I'm pulling the puke and shit from my hair (but to be fair, I know a lot of caregivers without children who've dealt with their fair share of puke and shit). I am not stupid. I know that this will be challenging in whole new ways. Some things might even feel impossible. I bet a lot of things will. In fact, I am sure I will wonder what the hell I think I am doing at least three times a day. I am not being flippant about my entry into parenthood. But I will say that I have certain skills and tools I've gained throughout my experience as a caregiver that have undoubtedly prepared me in a way that most people aren't privileged to understand.
The biggest damn difference in all of this is that I have a partner this time. When things get rough with the baby, I can look to Aaron for comfort and support. We can make tough decisions together. If there is something wrong, I won't have to be the only one to sign the paperwork that sends the baby to surgery. With Aaron, I had to make decisions I wouldn't even want to make for my puppy. Alone. And while I had the love and support of our families, the decisions were ultimately mine to make for him. I won't have to do that alone again. If the baby ends up in the hospital, needing care, Aaron and I can comfort each other. We can go through it together. And that, right there, is all I need to know to be absolutely positive that having this baby is going to be just a bit easier than helping save Aaron's life. And if helping save his life isn't also an "ultimate" definition of love, then I really don't know what is. Everything I need to know about love, I already do. Anything past this point is just icing on the cake.