Ed.: Jackson Anthony was born Aug. 7 at 6:36 p.m., weighing 5 pounds, 4 oz.
I hate change — always have, and probably always will. As we’ve found, however, getting ready for a baby is just one big change after another usually even bigger change. All of our habits have been turned on their heads in the past nine months, and that trickles down to our relationship and other dynamics in our lives. My change-management strategy is a work in progress, but it’s similar to the approaches I’ve come to rely on in other areas of this journey: When things get scary, find some perspective by looking for the silver lining.
Coming together over change
On a Sunday in June, I hopped in the passenger seat and, as Ashlee pulled out of our driveway, I started scrolling through my Facebook news feed. Post after post showed friends and acquaintances clad in rainbows and heading down to Philly Pride, bringing back fond memories of our days of kegs and eggs prepping for the celebration. This year? We were headed to church …
We had been church-shopping in the spring for a faith community in which to raise Jackson and had settled on our top pick, which we needed to check out, of course, on a Sunday morning. That was just one of many factors that knocked Pride off our calendars this year (the vast expanses of Penn’s Landing under the June sun also wouldn’t bode well for a seven-month-pregnant, perpetually cranky woman). Pride was one of a sea of social events we passed up recently and, while turning down party invites or leaving a friend’s wedding early can be a bummer at the time, we’ve found that the upside in changing our social habits is that we have more time to spend together — and in new ways.
On New Year’s Eve, past protocol would have us at a crowded bar. This year, we bypassed that mess to watch the ball drop in front of our TV, with our pooch, doing a puzzle. When football season rolled around, we grudgingly predicted that, of course, this would be the season the Eagles went all the way; as a native Northeast Philly resident, it would have been considered sacrilege not to be at Frankford and Cottman avenues celebrating the win. However, we skipped the big party and instead had a few family members and friends over for the game, getting to see how the wild streets of Willow Grove celebrate a sports championship (surprisingly well!). We recently took a “babymoon” to Bucks County, where at any other time, we probably would have hit up some wineries or done some water sports on the Delaware River. Instead, we went to a thrift store, played mini golf, had a relaxing dinner and walked through a field near our bed and breakfast looking at lightning bugs — before turning in by 9 p.m. to play a board game in bed. That night may have sounded boring to us when we first started dating, but at this stage, that pace was just perfect.
The side effects of pregnancy have also meant changes to our routine. I’ve had to bite my tongue more times than I can count as Ashlee knocks the thermostat down and down. While visions of a six-figure PECO bill dance in my head, I try to remind myself how she really has become a walking space heater. Sleeping is totally new, as pregnancy snoring has me fleeing to our second bedroom many nights. Especially in the first trimester, Ashlee would head to bed by 8 p.m. (sometimes earlier), so I got in the habit of catching up on my cable news with the dog, a nice respite at the end of a busy day. In the second trimester, she started getting hit with the swollen ankles and aches and pains, meaning I had to pitch in with some extra house chores, and by the third trimester, she’d often be propped up with ice packs and there have been times I’ve helped her put on her socks. The forced immobility has been an adjustment for her usually busy self, as has been the need to ask for help. It’s taken me an extra dose of patience and some sharpening of my time-management skills. While the pregnancy-related shifts will fade, learning to navigate these new scenarios is preparing us for what I imagine will be an ongoing transition in both our habits and dynamics.
Apart from bringing Ashlee and me together, the changes we’ve adapted to in recent months are touching other parts of our lives as well. Unsurprisingly, money has been one of the biggest stressors in this whole process, and our spending and saving habits had to change. We had long been a one-car family but, with a baby on the way, I decided to get my own wheels, meaning we had some serious saving to do. In addition to closely budgeting each buck, our lack of social lives came in handy here, as we weren’t frivolously spending on weekends. Previously, we’d often go out to eat a few times a month but have tried to eliminate that process. Instead, we’re trying new recipes at home, making for fun (if not wholly successful) culinary adventures.
Our weekends now also have some other unexpected opportunities. Our frequent trips to Babies“R”Us in their closing days had us honing our bargain-hunting abilities. The nursery-building process has meant trips to home-repair stores are a common appearance in our weekends; perfecting the art of painting woodwork, learning how to steam wallpaper and figuring out how to put together about 4,000 pieces of a crib are all challenges, but also opportunities for practical skills-building. Not to mention, having so many new things under our belts is a confidence booster, and helps us feel a bit more in control of what’s otherwise a very unpredictable situation.
What we can’t control is the future, and that’s one change we’re coming to grips with. I recently received a wedding save-the-date and thought to myself, We’ll have to find someone to watch the dog. It took a minute for me to realize the wedding’s in November — and we’d need someone to also watch Jackson. Ashlee and I have always had the freedom to think ahead relatively free of constraints — to plan a vacation, brainstorm a couple’s Halloween costume or talk about how we can’t wait to see a new movie as soon as it hits theaters. We need to take a quick pause now when we start getting too far ahead of ourselves to remember we’ll soon have a whole new person to consider when making plans.
While we’re adjusting to a new future, we’re also saying goodbye to the entire child-free chapter of our lives. In the past few months, I’ve felt like I was having a lot of “lasts”: the last time Ashlee and I had a kid-free date, the last time I would go out for an impromptu game of Quizzo with friends, the last time I would celebrate Mother’s Day with my family without being one myself.
As trite as it sounds, however, each of these endings will pave the way for beginnings that we can’t even yet imagine. The inevitable changes to get to that point are definitely not easy but, as we’ll find out in a few short days, the payoff will likely be well worth the adjustment.