Still depleted from the delivery, sleep deprived, and feeling lost about “what to do” after bringing the baby home, I knew that I still needed to “enjoy the moments” because “they grow up so fast”. But really. When will this get better? This was the phrase that constantly ran through my head. It went on repeat through the struggle with breastfeeding, battling a screaming baby that resisted sleeping training, cleaning up projectile vomit… The list can go on. I never thought that a year later, I would see the day when my Little One could sleep through the night. I can finally claim my evenings back with a good read, a drink out with a girlfriend, or sit back with my husband for a Netflix movie.
Did anything actually “get better” or “any easier”? Some things simply go away because the Little One outgrows them. The days of watching the clock like a hawk for the next feeding, constantly sterilizing bottles, and sleeping for only stretches of 2-3 hours at a time may be over. But with the exit of the newborn stage, my little family has arrived to the new world of toddler tantrums, picky eating, and sessions of screaming bloody murder in the car seat. Right when I find myself thinking “When will this get better?”, my news feed on the mommy forums squash all hope by telling me that the upcoming “terrible twos” are nothing compared to the newly termed “terrible threes” (Here, here and here. Yipes, save me!).
Perhaps it’s Kim Simon’s The Secret Every New Mom Should Remember that says it most succinctly: “I wish I could tell you that it gets easier, but it doesn’t. The secret is that you get better at it.” When I came across this article the other day on Huffington Post Parents, her message really hit home. While we tend to put so much focus on the child and his/her growth- trying to get them healthily and happily from one stage to the next- the other half of parenting is recognizing that I, as a parent, need to grow and adapt healthily and happily too. The key isn’t in hoping that my child can quickly outgrow whatever “terrible phase” that she is going through. The reality is that once one phase is over, there will be another one. Those cries for milk turn into screams over a toy, and soon those “feed and change me” requests will give way to ones for the car. Rather, it is navigating an uncharted road together where my child, my family unit and I will come out stronger and closer as we go along.
If I could go back in time to those early days, I would remind myself that parenthood is not a passive journey of cringing and questioning if the difficult times will “get better” or not. It is a purposeful one of actively learning and being better. I know this is all easier said than done. This is especially true when you are covered in barf, rocking your feverish baby at some God-forsaken hour of the night, or wrestling a screaming child away from the candy section. But one day when my Little One is grown up and it’s time to send her off from under my roof, I hope that that I will be able to say, just like Kim Simon writes, “You thought you’d never make it, mama. And then you did.”