Happy 1st birthday to my baby boy, Myles!
Today’s post is a very special one. My husband, John, and I took listener questions and reflected on our first year as parents in this candid, honest, and personal conversation. Some of the highlights are in this post, but if you want a full taste of our cheesy jokes and personalities, I encourage you to hit play and listen to the whole episode.
But before we start, I want to first say that we don’t ever take for granted that we are truly, truly blessed—even in those hard moments. I recognize that there are so many people out there who are struggling with fertility and I want you to know that my empathy and my thoughts are with you.
After 1 year of parenthood, what was harder than you expected?
John: Prior to the baby boy making his entrance into the world, I was so, so, so excited for him to be here. I’m an optimist. I’m a dreamer. I had rose-colored glasses for sure. And it has been an absolutely wonderful journey, but it’s also just tough, man. Just the late nights and him teething and one thing maybe that was harder than I expected was just seeing him grow and things like teething is an easy example, I guess. Seeing him go through something that’s painful and there’s not much I can do about it. That’s really, really difficult for me. Obviously that situation is highly stressful. A baby that’s teething and crying and won’t go to sleep. That’s already difficult as it is. But the emotional piece of me seeing my baby boy in so much pain and there’s nothing I can do about it… way harder than I would have imagined it being.
Jenna: The harder than expected would definitely, hands down, have to be breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was way harder than expected. It’s literally a full time job.
What surprised you the most?
John: I am actually surprised…this is gonna sound mega cheesy…I’m like mega sentimental. I am surprised how great of a capacity that I think we have for loving this human. When Jenna was pregnant, I was already like, Oh my goodness, I love this baby so much and he’s not even here yet. Then once he was here and then seeing his personality grow and everything about him — the depth of love that I have for that baby is actually a bit surprising to me. I knew I would love him no matter what. But just the depth of love and I’m surprised that the love can even continue to grow. Yeah, it’s just crazy.
Jenna: I nannied in college for 2 families. In one, there were 5 kids; the other family, there were 3 kids. The youngest was an 8-month-old and then the oldest was a 13-year-old between the two different families that I nannied. And so going into pregnancy, it’s just so shocking—surprising you might say actually, when you actually have a baby—how much you thought you knew and then you actually don’t know. Like I knew I didn’t know everything and I knew that it was going to be harder than you could ever prepare for. It was like incredibly shocking how much more intense especially the newborn phases of parenthood and babyhood were.
What was easier than you expected?
John: I would not really consider myself a baby person. Thinking about having a son, I was super, super, super excited about [playing ball], that kind of stuff. Or teaching him how to snowboard or going to movies, reading books with him like Lord of the Rings. And I guess it has been much easier than I would have expected to really enjoy baby phase because I’m not really into babies. That sounds bad, but it’s just I’ve never been one to be like, Oh, your baby. But as much as I had looked forward to the the older Myles stages, it’s been easier for me to really, really enjoy baby face times.
Jenna: I guess it would be the same as what yours. I’ve never been a baby person either. But anybody who was close to me growing up and in high school and college knows that I was not the motherly type.
During early parenthood, how did you and your partner balance the nighttime responsibilities?
Jenna: I’ve said this before on my Instagram, but I had a relatively decent tear after labor and a prolapsed bladder. And if you don’t know what a prolapse is you can Google it. So I definitely wasn’t physically able to sit down and I couldn’t stand up for very long either.
John: But anyways, the point is when it comes to the newborn phase, the fact is there’s only so much, unless you’re doing the formula route then I guess it’s a whole other game. But for us with the breastfeeding route, there’s only so much the dad can do. But I wanted to do everything I could even though I knew those limitations.
Jenna: Besides being the heaviest sleeper probably on planet earth, John is very, very supportive and helpful in all areas of life.
John: Aww. But for those nights, basically what that would look like in the first couple of months was he’d be waking up every couple hours or so. Jenna would feed and I would burp. And I think I would probably change his diaper.
Jenna: Anything that involved standing you had to do.
John: Yeah you fed and I did everything else. But we tried to pretty much take care of the boy 50/50 in those first little stages as much as possible. I just recognized how much Jenna went through the nine months of pregnancy and then the insane labor, I mean just like giving birth to a baby, how amazing that is. And so for me, my mindset was like, she went through all of that. The least I can do is like help out as much as I can now that the baby’s actually here. So that was my approach was to try to just help out as much as possible now that the dude was here.
How did you manage sleep deprivation?
Jenna: So I feel like for me just because of all of the hormones involved in becoming a mom, the postpartum depression and anxiety…obviously with sleep deprivation, you’re more irritable, you’re more frustrated, you get angry more easily, whatever. And so in terms of managing, I don’t think it was like a system or method or five-step approach to managing sleep deprivation. I think honestly, if I were to look at any soon-to-be-new parent, I would be like don’t buy the Snoo, don’t buy that amazing swaddle. Invest all of your money or all of your pride in asking for help and getting a village to surround you and support you, especially in those first few months because you, as the parent, need it more than the baby. You need to sleep when they’re sleeping. You need to recover, you need to eat, you need to not worry about the dishes piling up or the laundry piling up and adding that stress and anxiety. You’re already just trying to keep an another human being alive and figuring out this whole new parenthood situation. And so managing sleep deprivation, I think it’s just all about having people around you that are supportive and help take on some of the duties.
John: I remember before we had him, I knew in my brain that that I was going to be not sleeping through the night for awhile. I knew that that was going to be my life when the baby arrived. But when it actually happens, it’s like, Oh, this is insane. This is absolutely nuts. But one thing that I think was helpful for you I think was in the early days, I would take him for a two-hour walk every morning. I knew the extreme just toll the new baby was taking on Jenna and just like her body and just the feeding thing and just everything was so completely exhausting that I took him on a really long walk for you to get a two-hour nap or something.
Walk us through a typical workday.
Jenna: I’ll start because that’s how our day starts. John is not a morning person. The baby wakes up at like 6:15 but I let him kind of like babble and chat to himself for like 30-45 minutes and he’s totally just fine. And then I go get him around seven and make him, dude, our baby eats like a growing 18 year old boy. I make him two eggs in the morning with a pile of oatmeal, like a baby oatmeal thing with iron and all the things and a puree of some sort of veggie fruit situation and a scoop or two of coconut yogurt all in one sitting. And then he eats again before his nap. So I feed him. Then I do yoga while he’s playing with his toys on his own.
John: That’s when I usually wake up. I come down, make myself a latte, take the dude on a walk, which I absolutely love. We go on a walk every single morning and I’ll listen to podcasts or whatever. That gives Jenna time to shower or work or whatever she has to do. Then I hang out with him and feed him a second time before putting him down for a nap. Then once he’s sleeping for that 1.5 hour, I join Jenna in our office and we’re both working. It kind of depends on the day a little bit, but we might film for YouTube or I might be editing the podcast or editing video or whatever.
So on the days that Grammy (Jenna’s mom) comes up—HUGE help—she’ll watch the baby for the next 3.5 hour wake period while we continue working. If it’s a day that she doesn’t come up, then I take the baby duties for the next wake time. When I left the church and started working with Jenna, I basically came on as video guy and now podcast editor, but also as stay-at-home dad mode on the days that we don’t have the extra help. So our daily schedule is just purely based around the dude’s nap time and wake time.
Jenna: That’s Monday-Friday. I do not work on weekends anymore. My weekends are precious to me and they’re kind of like my non-negotiables and it’s what helps keep my sanity and my ability to thrive during the work week and actually get good work done.
John: Well, Saturday mornings are usually when we post YouTube videos. So Saturday mornings can be, I definitely would not say hectic, but Saturday mornings are usually like posting and engagement basically. Sunday… no one’s working. And we’ll take the opportunity to go on walks or go get coffee or go get food or go hang with family.
Any tips to not distract myself while working and having the baby in the same room?
Jenna: Help. Ask for help. Either hire a nanny or have family or a friend come.
John: Especially if you’re working from home and you’re by yourself with baby. The only way I could picture that working is just like getting as much work done during nap time as possible.
Jenna: And if you can’t have help for some reason, then you just have to get your baby on a schedule as soon as possible. Otherwise you’re just like, I don’t know when I’m going to be able to schedule meetings or actually get work done.
You have to assess financially what is worth, or not worth, your time. Spending $20 to $25 an hour or however much a babysitter or nanny costs in your area for three hours a day, maybe three to four times a week. How much money could you be making in that time if you were focusing on your business for three to four hours to make that back plus some? And so you just have to assess that and really see what you can do financially.
How to be an awesome parent and creative at the same time—how do you task and focus?
Jenna: I feel like with any type of creative field or endeavor, there’s a lot of overthinking. And so when you have a time crunch or you have a specific deadline to get things done, like two- or three-hour windows, which is his wake times, you don’t have this time to “waste” on, is this gonna turn out okay? Should I even do this? Should I send this email? I don’t know. You just, bam, I don’t have time to think about it. I’m going to send the email.
John: That’s a great point. When he’s napping and you have a small window of time to work, you are laser focused on what needs to be done. You make decisions quick, you work as hard as you possibly can.
When it comes to the parenting time, the key is that you’re all in parent time. We certainly make it a high priority to not be on our screens when Myles is awake. So when it’s work time, it’s work as hard as possible and produce as high quality content as possible. But when it’s time for parenting, it’s a hundred percent parenting time. It’s not foot in both worlds. It’s not, Oh the boy’s awake, but I’m over here on my computer. No way.
Jenna: A few days ago I deleted the email app off my phone. I feel like that was the one thing that really drew me away from being present with Myles. I think you just try to strive for like harmonizing as much as you possibly can. And I feel like that harmony happens when like those notes are hit equally. So you’re going really hard and focusing a lot of your attention in work when it’s a nap time or Grammy’s here or your help is there or whatever. But then when it’s time to turn off, it’s time to turn off and you’re completely focused and it’s kind of exhausting going back and forth.
How has your relationship changed?
Jenna: I feel like watching your spouse of nearly a decade become a dad and you think you know everything about this person or you know a lot about this person. And then seeing him interact with a small human, it’s really precious. And it definitely like brings a whole new perspective to viewing your partner.
John: That’s such a good call. Seeing Jenna become a mother and seeing her interact with Myles… I don’t think there’s anyone that can make this baby laugh quite like Jenna can. Seeing the way that she has become like a mother is actually, is another thing that has been a bit surprising to me because you know, she’s an 8 if you know the Enneagram. It’s been a really cool thing to see her tap into the soft side and tap into the sentimental side. It’s been really cool I think for both of us to see each other as a parent. And it’s kind of like been a new perspective on just seeing each other as spouses, too.
Jenna: I obviously knew this whole time before having a baby that John would be a very good dad. It’s just really cool to see it actually playing out. It’s just so important to have, if it’s not your spouse, just somebody who’s able to support you and whether that’s emotionally, physically, mentally, whatever it is, just somebody who is able to support you and be there to listen, be empathetic.
John: We definitely don’t have it all together. We’re just figuring it out one step at a time.
We clearly had a lot of fun kickin’ back with this episode and thanks for making it to the end! Be sure to give @john.b.rainey a follow to see more baby and cat content.