When the boys were babies, my friend Sarah and I always compared the newborn stage to being in a tunnel. As much as you prepare and try to anticipate what it will be like, you are still totally disoriented when you are first plunged into the darkness and sleep deprivation after having a baby. At first, you are in a fog and spinning in circles, but eventually you start walking - you gain confidence feeding, changing, and bathing a new baby, you start (hopefully) getting some more sleep. You make successful outings to the grocery store or to visit friends. With each accomplishment, you are making progress through the tunnel.
We used to joke that just when you think you have reached the light at the end of the tunnel, you realize, "Shoot - only a skylight! I'm still in this darn tunnel." At the same time, those skylights are critical because they give you a glimpse of how your life might return to normal if you can just get through the New Baby Tunnel. They make you pick your head up and keep going instead of focusing on the dark ground.
I distinctly remember when Owen was about 6 months old, we came out of the tunnel. His mood shifted, my confidence soared, and suddenly every.single.little.task didn't take a humongous effort. I could pack him up and hit the store without planning a day in advance. We could anticipate his needs and make some intelligent guesses about how to entertain him. We were in a routine with daycare. We were out!
I've been thinking about that tunnel lately. In fact, it's caused me some frustration because, as we approach the 6 month mark with Josh, I feel like we should be out of the tunnel. Things should be back to normal. We should feel like we have fully assimilated Josh into our life. Things should not be so hard anymore... but they are.
And, as I composed this post in my head (at 3 am while nursing the baby 2 weeks ago - it's taken me that long to get the words out of my brain and onto the screen), I realized that I had forgotten something crucial about the tunnel...
Tunnels, by nature, are intended to take you TO A DIFFERENT PLACE.
When we came out of the tunnel after Owen was born, we had to develop new routines, make new friends, and navigate around a completely unfamiliar place. It was easier after those first 6 months because we could see and form intelligent thoughts, but we were still in a whole new world.
I realized that I've been walking through the Josh tunnel facing backwards, trying to get back to the "normal" that we were back in September. But looking back into the tunnel was dark and daunting. Once I was able to turn around and look for the NEW PLACE that Josh's tunnel is taking us, I discovered just how close we were to the end... and the light began streaming in. Yes, things are hard. Yes, we will have to learn to negotiate a new area and find new routines. Yes, there are days where we are completely bewildered by this new place. Yes, we are But some things are also getting easier because... We can see! We can breathe deeply! We can plan ahead. We can envision the way things will continue to get easier as Josh grows into himself. We are out of the tunnel.