Raising a child is such an ever-changing process. No matter the stage you’re in, you’re preparing for the next one.
Take pregnancy. You look at the app on your phone that tells you what you can expect this week, and it tells you next week your baby is the size of a mango. So you sneak ahead and see that the week after that your baby will be the size of an organic papaya. And the week after that they’ll be as big as a responsibly raised pineapple.
Come third trimester, you’re still thinking ahead, but more proactively. You’re buying nursery furniture. You’re dragging your spouse to a lactation class led by a hippie old woman who doesn’t wear a bra and you’re both learning to swaddle creepy baby dolls together.
In those last weeks of pregnancy, all you want is for that little human to get the hell out so those stretch marks will just. stop. growing.
Once you’ve pushed said human out, all you want is to get back home so you can get back to normal (which no longer exists, by the way).
Once you’re home and trying to get a screaming goblin to latch to your nipple 80 times a day, you wish for the future days when they will have a “routine” and sleep 7am – 7 pm… If such a thing exists.
After a while they start rolling over, so you start preparing for a more mobile little creature around the house. They start crawling and you’re putting up baby gates and outlet covers like your home is now a high-security baby prison. Next thing you know you’re reading everything you can about how to prepare for a walking baby and what kind of shoes best fit the feet of what is essentially a tiny, drunk little human.
There are so many stages. And they all fly by so fast.
I always find myself preparing for the next one, whatever that may be. My first year of motherhood was one large panic attack, anxiously anticipating whatever the next stage was and how I could prepare for it. I spent so much time looking ahead that I was never still. I never stopped and admired the scenery of the sweet road I was on with my baby. Instead, I was speed-walking my way to the next turn without experiencing all that was precious and lovely around me at the time.
That’s why I have made a conscious effort to be still. Just calm the hell down. Chill the eff out. Stop and smell the damn roses.
Because I was basically willing away my daughter’s infancy, living just to get to tomorrow and whatever that brought. And of course, it all flew by. Just like everyone said it would, that first year flew by, and I don’t remember cherishing it like I hoped I would. A part of me mourns that – that I robbed myself of such precious memories and moments because I was too overwhelmed with looking ahead.
Granted, I give myself a lot of grace. I am a first-time mom who didn’t know what the hell she was doing, so it was the biggest learning curve of my life.
But it has convinced me to be a better version of myself.
I don’t want to wish away today, no matter how hard it is. When I talked to my therapist about this, she gave me some impactful advice that has helped me breathe in the moments I’m apt to forget.
Stop, she told me. Stop and take note of every bit of your surroundings. Engage every sense, and commit it all to memory.
I was sitting in our living room one afternoon with my daughter, just waiting for that last long hour to pass before bedtime. Baby Einstein was on because Mommy was just about done, and I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.
Then I stopped. I felt the rug beneath me and the weight of her chubby little legs and bottom sitting on my lap. I nuzzled my nose into her curls and felt them tickle my face. I breathed in deeply and smelled the aroma of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. I sat so still and felt the pressure of her breath going in and out. I listened and heard her babbles and coos as the puppets danced on screen. I heard the chimes of music from the TV that she loves to bounce along to. I looked down and committed to memory the angle of her arm rolls and chubby cheeks snuggled up next to me.
It was an ordinary moment, but I lived it. And I loved it. And now, months later, she’s not the same little girl. But I have that memory deeply, deeply ingrained in my mind, and I can easily take myself back to that precious space with my baby. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite memories of being a mom thus far – and it’s because I was still.
It’s hard, and it’s not always possible. Some days will be a blur. Some days you will merely survive. But set aside time for some other days to pause. Pause and look at your babes and look at yourself. Give yourself permission to remember every little detail, and breathe it all in deeply.
Because before you know it, it’ll be gone. They’ll be on to the next stage, and you’ll be trying to catch up. But you can bring back the sensation of them being your baby and you being their momma in that moment. And if you ask me, that’s one of the best perks of this whole motherhood gig.