BY LAURA SIMON, Blogger with Triad Moms on Main
Somewhere around 4 a.m. on my first night at home with my firstborn son, I scanned his room, glanced at the line of pillows that I was attempting to use as a mattress, stared into his not-tired-at-all eyes, and thought, “I have ruined my life.” I’m a girl who likes—no, needs—her sleep. And here I was, the hospital nursery a thing of the past, a husband who had to work in the morning, and a baby who refused to sleep a wink unless I walked and shushed him. All my mind could picture was an endless cycle of nights turned into days turned into weeks turned into years without a single good minute of sleep. Ever. “I cannot live like this for the rest of my life,” I whispered to myself, and started the cycle of shushing and shuffling again.
People gave me heaping portions of advice; some of it helpful, and most of it not so much. Ultimately, the one thing I sorely needed hear was too hard for my mind to comprehend in those seemingly eternal days of young motherhood: This too shall pass.
Five weeks in with my colicky baby, I wish I could have understood just how fleeting that stage would be. It didn’t feel fleeting, but in fact, that crabby newborn has just finished kindergarten, and he’s kind, sweet, and helpful. Those early, sleep deprived, sobbing months? They passed.
The pregnancy where I threw up every day, multiple times a day until I gave birth? “No one stays pregnant forever,” my doctor promised, but I couldn’t make myself believe her. At exactly forty weeks, my little guy made his entrance and the nausea vanished, just like that. The doctor was right; it did pass.
And you know what? The stage where my son liked to take off his diaper during “naps” and smear poop on the walls and floors? Mercifully, it passed too. (Although he does still like to take his clothes off. That will probably never pass, will it?)
Those months where he was barely walking and his baby brother still had to be worn in a carrier, and a trip to the grocery store seemed like a cross-fit workout? They passed, too.
Both my boys have ALL their baby teeth, but even though my daughter still has another set of molars to go, I can already see the light at the end of the teething tunnel. Almost. This will pass, too. (Actually, maybe it won’t. I took my kids to the dentist after I wrote this, and learned that there are six-year-old molars, too. I can’t even talk about it yet.)
Every childhood illness that kept me up all hours of the night, pacing the floor, cleaning up puke, and praying for the fever to break? Each one passed, eventually.
The fear that my oldest would never walk, the fear that his brother would never, ever use the word “sorry,” the fear that their sister would never sleep through the night? All those things passed, too.
I wish somehow that I could have gotten my new mom mind to understand the crazy impermanence of it all. The rough spots are so much easier when you know they won’t go on forever; baby number 3 was colicky, too, and I handled it with so much more grace the second time around. If only there were an easier way to learn that lesson without going through the wringer to get there. I’m quite certain that people told me how fleeting the newborn stage was when my firstborn wouldn’t sleep, but I didn’t yet have the perspective to know they were telling the truth.
Of course, the downside is that the good things pass, too. The slobbery kisses, the dimpled knees, and the chipmunk cheeks? They don’t last forever. But even then, it isn’t all bad. I’ve been a secondary teacher for fourteen years, and let me tell you about high schoolers. They sleep until absurdly late hours of the morning, they read actual books and listen to actual music (kind of), they carry on conversations in complete sentences if you take their phones away, most of them are kind, compassionate, and empathetic, and generally, they are a lot of fun. Of course, they get moody and smelly from time to time. So do toddlers. But toddlers don’t sleep.
I’m not an advocate of wishing the days away, but I also don’t buy that enjoy every moment guilt trip. Some parenting days are just hard, and I’m beginning to learn that the rough days are a lot better if I can take a deep breath and remember the fleeting nature of these things. Even colic doesn’t last forever. I promise.