I did it again the other day. Looked back at pictures of only weeks old Gia and took an indulgent trip down memory lane. But this time it was different. This time I started questioning myself. I started sounding a lot like the collective voice of mothers past warning you to enjoy the moment because you were going to look back and miss it. Why, I wondered, did I not just lay in the luxury of a sleeping baby, relaxing and taking in her beauty, her smell, the incredible miracle of her existence? Today I spend my days with a child that NEVER. STOPS. How is it possible that I had ALL THAT TIME to enjoy an immobile, sleeping newborn?
Then I remembered something else. I remembered how today I had a shower and was well rested and fed and in a comfortable routine. I remembered how I have made it out of the SIDS window, how I am finally done breastfeeding, and how my daughter can now tell me with words what she wants. I remembered how my hormones are balanced now, and my body was no longer healing from a pretty traumatic experience. I remembered how today, it would be pretty easy to “enjoy” my firstborn child’s early weeks and months. Because I am no longer in those early weeks and months.
Those moments I am remembering with rose colored glasses? The ones everyone warned me to savor? I think we often forget that those women you are telling to enjoy this are sleep deprived, hormonally imbalanced, and largely terrified. I recognize not all mothers feel this way, but I also think we tend to have “selective memory” about those early months. My daughter is 16 months old, and even though I swore I would “never forget” how it felt to be a new mom, my memory is slowly being replaced with new memories that make the old ones a distant, softly-focused snapshot.
It’s easy to look back, once we are over the hard stuff and in a much more comfortable stage of our lives, and wonder why we didn’t appreciate moments more. Its easy to look back, now that I know everything turns out great. But in the moment? The moment of the single biggest transition of my life? The moments where you don’t know how you are even going to make it through the hour without falling asleep from exhaustion because you haven’t slept more than two hours in a row for weeks, or if you are going to pass out from hunger because you can’t figure out when exactly you are supposed to find time to eat between breastfeeding and diaper changing and having a sleeping baby on your chest? Yeah, those moments are not the ones I am begging to go back to.
It’s so easy to look back and romanticize those times. I am convinced that it is when I cannot actually remember what it was like to have a newborn that I will feel like I’m ready for another baby. I will forget from time to time and just think about how fun Gia is now and how with the next baby I will APPRECIATE more. How with the next one I will ENJOY more. I want people to tell me it is easier with baby #2, just like I wanted everyone to tell me being a mom gets easier with time. And of course nobody will do that for me. They say things like “it’s a different kind of hard” and warn me that there is no way my next baby will be as good as Gia. Which is a huge confidence booster when having a “perfect” baby was so hard on you that you were convinced you would be a “one and done” mom.
But as time marches on and Gia grows and gets even more fun by the minute, those far away tough days start to feel like sweet reminders of how far I have come as a mom.
So, to new moms who are being bombarded with “enjoy this!”, and who are feeling guilty that they AREN’T “enjoying” this moment as much as they are told they should, I have a message for you. Someday, in what now feels like a million years away, but what will in retrospect feel like the blink of an eye, you will be able to stop and take a leisurely stroll down memory lane. And you will remember this time of exhaustion and fear and stress, but those things will have faded a little bit. You will look at pictures and barely remember what it was like to hold that tiny, perfect human being in your arms. There will come a time you will look back at those days when your baby would only sleep if attached to you and you will realize your baby hasn’t fallen asleep in your arms in months. New mom, there will come a day when you look back at yourself and want desperately to run back in time and hug yourself and tell yourself it really will all be alright. Because it really probably will.
And when you reach the stage in your life where you simply cannot remember what it was really like to have a newborn, when you reach the stage where you see sweet pictures of sleeping infants on Facebook and forget that you posted ones just like that where you pretended everything was perfect, but really you were on the verge of crying, or falling asleep while walking, or in pain from stitches or mastitis or wondering if you would get a shower at all this week, when you get to that stage I want to ask you to be gentle to the other new mamas. I want you to remember how sometimes hearing that you will miss this stage that is testing you in a million tough, tricky ways is not what you need to hear.
So new mama, I want to remind you today that you are allowed to be a first time mom. It is not anyone’s job to use the term “first-time-mom” as an insult. If you need to be over-protective, it is nobody’s job to roll their eyes at how much they “know better” than you. It is not anybody’s job to tell you you need to be thankful and enjoy these hard times. It is not another’s job to tell you what to do with your very own child and it is not another’s job to tell you how you should be feeling. You get to have your own experience and your own story and your own memories.
We will not remind you how you will miss these moments, because really, you already know.
Its not a sin to be a first-time mom. To want the best for your child, to think he or she is the most amazing child ever born. And its also not a sin to not enjoy every moment of being a new mom.
New mama, you are going to make it. And you are going to stand in awe of that little human you and your partner created. And whether it is in the moment or after the moment has passed, whether you are enjoying the very moment you are in or enjoying that certain moments are long gone, one way or another you WILL enjoy.