Somewhere along the way, whether it was before I was born or since I’ve been living, I feel like I developed an aversion to the idea that we are to expect the unexpected in life. When people solicit this advice I usually nod and then convince myself that it doesn’t apply to me because, dammit, I’m prepared.
I took the parenting classes. I made an earthquake kit. I read a hundred and twelve stories about giving birth. I check the weather report. I tell people what I want for Christmas.
And yet, it’s always, always just like they say: the only thing you can depend on in life is that it’s unpredictable. Dammit.
I think the other truth I need to come to terms with is that life knows what I need better than I do and these things are usually turned loose just when I think I have it figured out. But one of my favorite things to do is ride wild ocean waves and one of my favorite people is a baby, so maybe I’ve misunderstood my own enjoyment of unpredictable things after all.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia clothing, says “When everything goes wrong, that’s when the adventure starts,” and I love that line because it reminds me that unexpected setbacks bring good things.
Even though I took a class about breastfeeding it still took me seven weeks to figure it out. Week five I was in my OB’s office tearing up and nodding while she said “You are frustrated because you expected to better at this because you prepared.” But then week eight came and I fed my daughter peacefully in the cotton candy colored morning light while the south wind gently blew the curtains and wind chimes around. That moment felt more significant, but similar to that time I got a B- in College Algebra after months of tutoring. I was a hero in my own small story.
When he asked me how motherhood was, I told our friend Dave that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever loved. It’s true. I wouldn’t give up this much sleep or this many waves for almost anything else. And what’s hardest of all about parenthood to me is how unpredictable it is. You can’t see what’s ahead. There isn’t really a schedule. There is no map. There is no stopping.
As erratic as my now two month old daughter is, I am figuring out her rhythms. I got her to start sleeping through the night the same week nursing her finally started to seem as magical as it did in the videos shown in the class I took. I am rediscovering my love for trying to put the untamable ocean beneath my feet, even if I bang my knee on the deck of my board every time I stand up lately.
In the end, or at least for today, I’ve settled on the idea that life is good because it answers questions you didn’t think to ask, presents you with problems you didn’t prepare for and turns you into a stronger person than you probably meant to be.
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