I distinctly remember a moment three years ago, shortly after we brought David home as a newborn. It was late morning or early afternoon, and I was crying in the shower—crying probably partly from relief that I had finally managed to steal a moment to shower on that hot summer day, and crying in overwhelm, saying aloud, “Why did no one tell me it would be this hard?”
I didn’t have many mommy friends before David’s birth—the majority of my friends at that time either had no children, or we were all expecting our first together, and I for one did not really know what to expect. For the previous several years, as a college student and then a school teacher, my life had been characterized by predictable routine.
Particularly when I was a school teacher, if you had asked me, “What will you be doing at 7:38 a.m.? How about 12:34 p.m.?”, I could have told you. From the moment my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., to when I got home from work at 5:00 p.m., my life was structured nearly to the minute. Such a life might send more spontaneous people packing, but I thrived on it. I felt in control.
Enter David, and control vanished. My predictable routine melted into, “I wonder if and when I will get a shower today?” I wondered in my selfishness if I would ever have time to myself again—or shower at a specific time each morning? Have a quiet time before the start of the day? Fit into my old clothes again? Have a work day that wasn’t primarily characterized by breastfeeding?
I wish someone had talked to me then, not joining in my self-pity of how hard life was, but telling me how good my life was and how fast time passes. How short the newborn stage really is. I needed to hear a little speech that would basically combine the messages of the country songs “Don’t Blink” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
Because I nursed David for only one year. Just twelve short months. He was a newborn for only a few short weeks. It was only for a moment that I could put him on the bed and know he would just lie there, looking up at me adoringly. I blinked … and he was crawling away, no, not just crawling, now scampering, talking, questioning, not a baby anymore or ever again …
Why didn’t someone tell me how fast they grow? Oh, but they did … it’s all cliché … “they grow up so fast” … “time flies.” And with little children, it really, really does. That 2 AM feeding that so annoyingly interrupts what might otherwise be a good night’s sleep … blink and that moment of snuggling and meeting an infant need in the dark, it’s gone.
So here I am with Elanor, three weeks and three days old already, quickly leaving her birth weight and newborn look behind, and this time I know how quickly the time will go by. Changing those diapers, washing a seemingly endless stream of onesies and nursing pads and burp cloths, spending it seems half my waking time nursing, yes it can be a little annoying sometimes. I really wanted that afternoon nap that was interrupted by a hungry cry as soon as I’d fallen asleep.
But this time I want to be more grateful. And even though my writing may stop any moment since she’s growing a little agitated in the baby swing, I want to remember how her newborn face tilts upward, how her tiny hand swings, how her eyes (now dark blue) look up in wonder. The day will come when I’ll be getting uninterrupted afternoon naps and writing for hours, and on that day I know I’ll be missing these baby days, and her darling little yawn … even though it means she needs my help to fall asleep.