We’ve Come So Far…

It’s been seven years. My, how far we’ve come!

 

This was the much-wanted child I feared I’d never have. This was the embryo that changed my whole body and my life. This was the fetus that sent my body into gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. This was the tiny new human who almost didn’t survive her entrance and had to be resuscitated twice within hours of being born.

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This was the newborn they questioned would be able to walk or talk or process information with ease, but whom they called a “two pacifier” NICU resident because she was their most vocal guest. This was the infant with latch issues and a proclivity for choking day and night. This was the baby with a ferocious wail and a voracious appetite who woke up six times each night until she was 2-years old.

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This was the pudgy ringlet-haired 1-year old who refused to walk — in favor of pilgrimage-style knee-walking — until she was 19-months old. This was the sparkle-loving, highly verbal 2-year old who was fiercely independent and vocally wilful but absolutely precious. This was the bright, tutu-wearing 3-year-old who loved being a big sister to her toddler brother almost as much as she enjoyed testing her mother’s patience.

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This was the out-going 4-year old who strived to please others and be kind to friends but threw head-spinning, pea-soup-spewing, shrieking tantrums at home yet adored her newest baby brother. This was the 5-year-old who loved kindergarten but struggled to master reading and painfully adjusted to the full-day school schedule.

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This was the 6-year-old who shrugged off dolls in favor of doctor kits and rockstar dress-ups, who dove into Tae Kwon Do and yoga, who finally figured out reading and excelled at math, who uncovered ways to harness her powerful emotions, who expressed kindness to those around her, who had more good moments than rough moments. This was the child who turned the corner from emotional whirlwind to strong, expressive, kind-hearted individual.

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This is the 7-year-old of whom I am endlessly proud, for whom I prayed when I didn’t know to whom or what I was praying. This is the child who changed every shred of me, who tore me (literally and figuratively) apart but inspired in me the strength to piece myself back together.

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I am who I am now because of her. I love her more than she will ever know until/if she has children of her own. For all of the struggles, our worries, our pains (of all kinds and intensities), our sleepless nights, our brutal days, our cherished hugs, our belly laughs, our tears, our proud moments, our cherished memories, I am profoundly grateful. She made me a better me; I can only hope I help her become her best her.

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Seven years behind us, there are no more nap times, no more pumping schedules, no more night terrors, no more sleeping baby on my chest, no more toddler arm rolls, no more kindergarten plays, no more fingerpaints, no more waiting room meltdowns. We’ve come so far.

We have so far to go.

 

Packing Away the Pack-and-Play

Slow down, time!! Yesterday I packed away the pack-and-play for perhaps the last time. I washed all of the car seat / stroller toys and burp cloths for perhaps the last time. I stowed away the big highchair for perhaps the last time.

Not cool.

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15-month-old #3

I’m thrilled to greet this fun new stage of brimming independence in our 15-month-old. He’s walking and communicating, climbing and playing, asserting himself and overflowing with personality, mimicking and learning. It is a truly precious stage.

I wouldn’t wish it away. I certainly wouldn’t wish ourselves back to newborn days, but packing away the baby items is a reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood… of parenthood.

These are the golden days of my maternal career. The days crawl by in a haze of snacks, drop-offs, pick-ups, tantrums, story times, cuddles, potty trips, giggles, and timeouts. The years whizz by in a flurry of memories, mental snapshots, growth spurts, new skills, developmental bursts, and increasing independence.

I don’t want to reverse time. I just want to slow it down. Where’s my pause button?

Live to Learn

Three kids and numerous gray hairs ago, I was a new mom. I was emotionally and physically pained from a traumatic delivery, terrified of falling asleep with my tiny infant, emotionally incapable of putting her down for more than a moment without feeling tidal waves of mom guilt, I was petrified of returning to work, but — mostly — I was exhausted. I was the kind of tired that makes jetlag seem like a yawn. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep.

I remember the pediatrician telling my husband and I that within a month, our tiny daughter should begin sleeping better. That timeframe sounded like a death sentence. How could someone live on so little sleep?

Little did I realize that I was my own worst enemy. I had read articles and watched news clips warning against cosleeping. I was convinced that keeping myself awake during my every-90-minute nighttime nursing sessions would keep my daughter safe. I didn’t process, amidst the mom guilt and first-time-mom anxiety, that there were alternatives. My mother, my friends… they all gave me advice but I silenced it all with my self-inflicted guilt and fear.

Then, I began sleepwalking, having “baby in peril” dreams so vivid that one night I awoke to find myself tearing a hole in my foam pillow because I “had to rescue my baby from inside the pillow.” Was this really safer than cosleeping? Was this really healthy?

It wasn’t until my second child — 20.5 months later — that I realized how harmful I’d been to myself. I learned to cosleep just to feed then pop baby back into his own sidecar bed. I learned that I could put baby down to prepare meals, I learned germs aren’t the scariest things, and that a healthy baby can handle a stuffy nose and a sticky todder hug. I learned to calm down, to lower my impossible standards. I learned that baby needs me to be healthy and happy so I could be a good caretaker. However, I had to learn this on my own. I had to learn it through living it.

As much as I’d love to save every new parent from the pains and mistakes I experienced, I know my advice would be shunned. Parenting is a learning curve. It’s messy and beautiful and flawed and humbling. We’re all learning our way through it, navigating the ever-changing terrain.

All I can do is be a listening ear, a source of support, and an honest cohort to my fellow parents. No glazing over the unglamorous with false perfection. No pretending, no romanticizing… just candor. We’re in this together!