I’m an academic, so I’m pretty experienced when it comes to research. My approach has always been to read widely, and to weigh contrasting arguments carefully before coming to my own conclusions (an approach I hope I’ve managed to pass on to students!). Unsurprisingly, I prepared myself for parenthood by throwing myself into research. The neurodevelopment of infants, the best types of cloth nappies, breastfeeding advice, when to start solids, which foods to start with, and (most importantly) how to get your baby sleeping really well right from the beginning.
I’m an academic, you see, so of course I would learn everything I could from the top scholars in the field. Applying this carefully curated knowledge (forewarned is forearmed!), I would set up optimal routines, write while my baby napped, and have him sleeping through the night as soon as possible so I could get sufficient rest as well.
I’m an academic, yet it never occurred to me that my baby might not have read the same books. He certainly doesn’t respect my research credentials (it’s humbling)! Rather than nap in nice two-hour blocks, I got a baby who cat naps on the go, who pretty much refused to be put down at all during the day for the first ten weeks of his life. And while he is at the top of the growth charts weight-wise, he is clearly unaware of the scholarship arguing that he no longer requires feeding overnight.
I’m an academic, but learning to read a baby is much harder than learning to read academic books – or write them! Just when you think you’ve figured something out, it changes. I’m getting there, though, and I suspect this particular reading experience will be the most rewarding yet.
I’m an academic, but I’m thrilled to call Trinity College Queensland home – a context that is not just academic, but pastoral as well. The staff and students have welcomed Ashley like their own, have taken him when my arms needed a break, have encouraged me when I stopped by for a visit with my eyes falling out of my head from tiredness (and the secret hope that someone would, indeed, take him for a while and give my arms a break!), have affirmed me as a mother, a Christian, a colleague and a scholar. The last four months have been the hardest of my life, but they would have been far more difficult without the support of this community.
I’m an academic, still, so I can’t help but reflect on the experience theologically after all. Last year, while pregnant, I participated in a symposium on Christian flourishing in a technological world. One of the other participants, older and wiser than me, spoke about the formative power of the mundane. Technology promises escape from many thankless, repetitive tasks, but often these tasks are bound up in caring for another, and they shape our character. We would be less without them. I have tried my best to remind myself every nappy change, every 3am feed, of this perspective. Parenthood is by no means the only way that God works in our hearts, but for me at least caring for a (not so) tiny dependent human has cast my shortcomings in stark relief and called me into greater patience and humility.