From that moment on, things have felt like they are both, at one-and-the-same-time, in slow motion, and speeding by.
The first six months sometimes included what felt like the longest days I have ever known. I remember watching the clock, breaking up the hours in my mind into half hour segments until my partner and co-Mama would get home, and only allowing myself to think about getting through the next half hour. The baby would fall asleep in my lap and would wake up if I moved, so I didn’t move, sometimes for 2 hours or more. I remember being hungry, famished actually, and just being still and waiting. I remember having to go to the bathroom but not strategically being able to figure out a way to do that that would be safe for the baby. Our Little Bean was colicky and probably also reacting to our cross-country move when she was six weeks old—who can blame her for being fussy-pants? And, still, there were days that felt absolutely interminable, nights when she was crying at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m., or both, when I literally thought “how are we going to keep doing this?” At times I felt incredibly angry that no one had sat me down and really spelled out how incredibly hard those first six months can be, how absolutely soul-draining.
And I understand, as a wise grandmother said to me recently, that when someone shares the news that they’re expecting a child, “it’s hard to know what to say.” So we say “Congratulations,” and we send gifts and make meals, and we hope they’ll be okay. That they’ll make it through those first rough weeks and months.
And then, at some point between five and six months, things eased. Some combination of the following had occurred: we’d adjusted to our new reality, Little Bean was becoming more and more delightful, and we started having a babysitter come help for a few hours a few times a week. Now, finally a year later, there are a whole host of things I have a new appreciation for. One is just the combined set of feelings a parent can have about a child’s birthday that, before becoming a parent, I had no awareness of. I feel this sense of relief, gratitude, accomplishment and celebration, all mixed up together. We got her through the first year, the year of not yet eating “regular” food, the year of moving across country, this first year with its particular first-year-worries like SIDS and initial reactions to vaccines and solid foods and basic growth-and-development stuff and all of that.
I also feel truly amazed at what occurs in a human child in one year. In 365 days, she goes from being a “plop” to being a little person with a feisty spark and touching gentleness about whom another mom at the National Building Museum today observed: “she has such a sweet personality.” She most definitely knows who her Mamas are, she knows that as much as she’d like to, there are a great many things she should not put in her mouth so she looks at us first to check, she knows that she loves drumming and she knows how to press “play” on the CD player (over-and-over again; she’s still learning to press “play” once and then step back and enjoy the music). She knows that she loves bananas and avocados and she is eager to try whatever it is we are eating. She knows how to fall asleep on her own and most of the time she knows how to scootch on-and-off the bed safely. She knows the baby signs for “more,” “all done,” and “swimming” and she loves to wave “bye-bye” and “hello” to just about anyone and everyone especially if we don’t tell or ask her to, first. She knows when she’s at home. She knows her name.
There are so many things that have happened in this first year that I understand now why people say “it flies by.” It’s truly astonishing how much changes just from week-to-week and month-to-month. I’ve taken probably thousands of pictures and I probably haven’t taken enough, because there is so much that is uncapturable. She is growing up so quickly. In fifteen years now, she can get a learner’s permit — or, wait, fourteen years? That can’t be right.
But perhaps it is. Right. Right that our children would grow up just fast enough to take our breath away and make us want to pay close attention to them, every day. And right that those first six months don’t go on forever. As my partner and co-Mama says now: “what’s five months of hell?” I understand now why people say “it’s worth it.” I understand why people say that when you have a baby “everything changes.” Yep, and yep, and…wow.