Earlier this morning, I was re-reading some posts about Emilia at 4 and 5 months, and as my heart twinged a bit that her (and Caroline’s) infancy is long over, it was a nice reminder of how time alters perspective. As I read about her developments, I almost forgot the impatience I felt back then for the next thing she’d do. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to charge through her childhood, or rush her learning to walk and talk, but I remember feeling so incredibly excited for it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that in the moment, a lot of the baby milestones can seem so inconsequential almost — observing a baby studying a pattern for example. Or learning just one sign, like “milk” in ASL (American Sign Language.) It’s only later when you realize you have a toddler who can recreate a pattern with blocks and utilizes sign language to emphasize her point as she speaks that you become more aware of how foundational and BIG those seemingly small achievements were when that girl was only months old.
Something else I’ve realized on reflection of those early newborn months is that it can feel difficult, frustrating even, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Days and nights blur together, particularly if you’re breastfeeding, and those first 12 weeks especially, can feel like a monotonous eternity regardless of whether you’re napping when the baby naps. What I want to say to myself back then, with my first, is to savor each and every second and to be assured that it won’t always be like this. For good and for bad. Babies must be so cute and endearing because taking care of one takes such a great amount of effort that accomplishing any other daily tasks seems impossible. A reminder, (or for the first time moms, simply sharing this insight), that these long, difficult, all-consuming, exhausting baby days have a finish line, is something I wish more women verbalized in discussions of motherhood. We hear (and see) all about the parenting highs on Facebook and Instagram, but the low moments are less discussed. It’s one legacy I’ve taken upon myself to share loudly and often to absolutely anyone who will listen.
That said, if anyone except ME (a future self?) had advised me in this way, I’d have probably screamed — or cried— depending on how Emilia had slept that night. Even now, as a mom of two with almost four years of parenting in the rearview, it is nails on a chalkboard to me whenever I’m casually advised to “Enjoy it, it goes by so quickly!”
I’m finding myself creeping into that territory though; of all those well-intentioned, seasoned moms and grandmothers whose kids are in high school now, and college. Whose children are getting married and having their own babies. The ones who pause as I struggle through the grocery store juggling and entertaining two girls, but who only see two sweet little girls with their mother and lean in to say: What beautiful little girls, enjoy it! It goes by in a blink.
Just reading that post I referenced before, about Emilia at 4 months old, rocketed me back to those intense “new baby” months when Brian and I would just sit together on the couch, Emilia in my arms, just staring at her in utter wonder. She can track us with her eyes! Is that a smile? That’s her ‘milk drunk’ face. Wait, no, that’s her ‘poop’ face!, as we’d both peal with laughter. It’s amazing how time has tempered my memory of the intensity of this period of time.
For example, in my walk down memory lane, my absolutely brutal experience learning to breastfeed didn’t even factor. I certainly documented it with blog posts and it colored so much of my first weeks and months home with Emilia — yet, somehow, time has softened how difficult that experience seemed. I had a tongue-tied baby who couldn’t latch so each and every 45 minute nursing session every 2-3 hours found me sobbing hysterically, bleeding, and unsure I’d be able to withstand the pain of the next feeding. Nursing for as long as I did made me feel stronger, better. It reinforced what I’d known long before I’d even gotten pregnant: that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t endure for my children.
So here I am, with the 4th birthday of my eldest on the horizon and I’m reminiscing about when she was just months old. It’s made me pause in those trying, day-to-day, “grind” moments with young kids, and realize that these moments, right now, are what I’ll be fondly remembering before long. A year from now, I’ll miss the way Emilia mispronounces “dumpling” (ducklings) and “earmuffs” (earmops). And how Caroline puts her hands to her mouth to mock shout “Nya Nya” (Emilia) whenever we arrive at preschool pickup.
If nothing else, longing for the sweet newborn smell of my girls’ and how completely they’d relax into me while they chest-napped reminds me — today — to be present and to savor every single second with them, for better or worse. Because I know I’ll blink and they’ll be in highschool. And then college. And then getting married. And then, hopefully, if their own, (ideally) joy-filled childhoods have inspired them as I hope they will, having their own babies.