Parenting

Dear First-Time Mama

Dear first-time mama,

I see you. And I want to tell you it's ok. It's okay to be nervous as a first-time mom about the life you're growing. I see you contemplating the maternity pants with your barely-there bump and pants that won't button, and I see you. Buy the pants. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable enough without feeling like you're out of space in your own skin with two more trimesters ahead of you. It's okay to be comfortable.

First-time mama, I see you in the baby aisles looking at the walls of options. So many options. They're overwhelming, I know. Why are there wipes for everything? Do you need them? I know you're hearing from so many people that you don't, but you aren't sure. And that's okay. We were all first-time moms once. Or first-time dads. If you think you'll use more than just diaper wipes, buy (or register for) them. Hand and face wipes smell like baby shampoo. Boogie wipes are wonderful alternatives to tissues in your purse. If you aren't sure, wait. Or see what shows up in a gift basket.

We got lots of wipes and soap.

Mama, I see you when you go out for the first time with your new little one. The grocery store is huge, isn't it? I see you at a restaurant with family, checking on your little one and being told over and over that they're fine. They're asleep. I want you to know it's okay to check on them. It's okay to not want to put them down and to keep them close to you if you want. This little life that you spent months nurturing or waiting for. The person you are getting to know. It's okay to want to sit and just be still with them.

I see you, first-time mama, when you try to take on several errands in one day and then cry after you're told you are trying to do too much. I see the wheels turning in your head as you wonder how, when you return to work, you'll be able to get anything done. You'll figure it out. It won't always feel like a production to get out the door. It's okay if it's hard now, and it's okay to ask for help.

I know, as a first-time mom you're getting a lot of advice. Buy this, don't buy that, do this, don't do that. So much of it is conflicting, and it feels like everyone has advice. It's okay to not want advice. It's also okay to want it. I know you're hearing a lot of things and I know it's not all what you want to hear, so mama, what I want to tell you is simple:

You are doing a great job. You may not get a shower every day, and you may run out of something you need right this very moment (and I always suggest a hidden travel pack of wipes for this very moment), but you are doing a great job. You are nurturing and loving your sweet baby, and you are learning how to be a parent. And? You're learning how YOU parent. Your "never will I's" may change, and you may do some of them. But mama, you're doing great, and in a year when you look back on this time, you'll want to wrap your arms around yourself with a reminder: nap sometimes when the baby naps. Newborns nap a lot, and it's okay to use one of those naps for you.

Don't worry about living in the comfy stretchy pants for a little while longer. Buy all of the wipes, or only buy the diaper wipes - whatever you need for you. You will find your groove in time, I promise. One day you’ll walk out the door with nothing more than the diaper clutch. Okay, and an extra shirt or three, but it will happen.

This time may feel hard, and overwhelming, and full of more love than you ever thought possible, but mama, you're doing a great job. When your little one is eighteen months old (or younger, or older), you'll look back on this time often.

And self? Yes, me: you were doing a great job. And you still are.

With love, Me

Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same

When you were born, the nurses laid you on my chest as you squawked, confused by your sudden entry into our cold and bright world. Your hair was dark and slick; your skin mottled and soft as flower petals.

"Hello! Hello!" I said, unsure of what else to say.  "I'm here, mama's here, you're okay, hello!"

My voice broke as I looked at your father; "look, look at what we made! He's perfect!"

We spent the next hour together, at some times alone, at others, attended by many nurses, all cooing over you. In that hour I learned that your eyes were dark gray, and your hair was long, and dark (or so I thought). Your fingers were long and slender with dimples at the knuckles, and your cheeks already chubby, though you arrived four weeks early. When you looked at me, you looked wise and content. And I was content to just be that way, you and me. 

Once we left labor and delivery, you were whisked away to the nursery for some monitoring and a bath; the doctors wanted to ensure your 36-week gestation self could regulate your own body temperature. In that time I got to announce your arrival into the world and shower and meet my nurses. 

"Your son is adorable," they said, "he has such light hair!"

This confused me. Your hair was dark, wasn't it? 

When they brought you back to me I saw what they meant: once washed, your hair was light. Reddish. Long and fuzzy and downy soft. You looked like a tiny elf and as I held you I cried because you also looked like a little boy already. My hours-old baby. I could see you in one year, five years, maybe even ten. 

You were you. You were perfect. I was smitten and in love

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You're six months old and reaching for my plate, trying to grab my dinner roll. You're so ready for solid foods. You can sit unassisted for longer and longer stretches and you have rolls for days and a smile that can light up a room.

Your once-gray eyes are now blue. Rich blue, and so clear. Your downy reddish fuzz is all but gone, and the hair coming in now is platinum blonde. I watch you as you observe everything happening around you. The other, older children at daycare fascinate you. You're intrigued by me and Dada. I can tell you want to do everything the big kids do. 

Your cheeks are still chubby, like when you were born, and you love to babble at me. When I look at you I can see what you'll look like as a toddler and I'm excited to see how these observations you're making are going to translate into you as a big kid. 

You snatch up my dinner roll and try to take a big bite, eyes round. It's a new texture, a new flavor. We sit you in your high chair and put on a bib and you coo and giggle as we feed you carrots. We cannot give you spoonfuls fast enough and you squawk, reminding me of a baby bird peeping for its meal. For a while, carrot puree will be your absolute favorite food, followed very closely by applesauce and bananas. 

I'm amazed by your curiosity and how quickly you're growing. Can't time slow down, just for a little while?

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Nine months into this thing called motherhood and you start to crawl; slowly at first, then picking up speed. The cats don't know what to do with a newly mobile you. We recently moved cross-country and into a new house where you have more room to play and bigger skies than even I know what to do with.

You love to play with balls and trucks and toys with buttons. Your Dada makes you giggle nightly, and I hear you singing and humming as I cook dinner most evenings. 

At daycare, you're learning new routines and new teachers, as are we. It's a rough transition for all of us, but you're taking it like a champ, finding new toys to love, and new friends to spend time with. Your new mobility makes us laugh and we're glad we baby-proofed at move-in, instead of waiting. 

I can tell, though, you're crawling but you really want to be walking, speeding around on foot. I can see it when you're chasing a cat or ball: on foot you would be faster (though not at first). Blue eyes follow us across the room every time we walk, trying to figure out exactly how we do it. 

Though you're bigger, you still look like my tiny baby boy in the hospital that first night. And at the same time, you look like the little tot you're becoming. Caught in between and still precious.

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One year has passed since that day in the hospital. You're not yet walking, but seem to be on the cusp, every day. It's your birthday and you're grinning, giggling, and talking up a storm. Your first word was "yay!" followed closely by "hi," "mama," "dada," and "baby." I love watching your face light up when you speak and we understand you. 

You're eating a giant cupcake tentatively, not sure what to do with the icing. Once you've taken a bite you grin a big toothy smile and dig in exuberantly, coating yourself in cake and frosting. 

My boy. One year old. A year ago I couldn't and could picture this moment. I could see your cheeks grinning at me as I held you in that hospital bed and wondered what and who you would grow up to be. One year later, I see that you're happy. You love to eat and play with balls. You adore reading and have a few of your favorites memorized (they're our favorites, too). 

When I was pregnant and people asked what our hopes were for you, we had the same answer, every time: that you would be happy. Now that you are one, we see that you are happy and cheery. You're observant and quick to learn new things. You love cake, but are just as happy with bananas, chicken, or peaches.

At one, you're both different, and the same.

****************

Now, you're almost eighteen months old. Language explosion. You have words for nearly everything, and what you don't have, you're learning. 

You're still happy. You still love to cuddle, and you still prefer fruit or chicken to cake and cookies. Though when we drive thru Starbucks, your tiny voice piping up for "cooookee?" from the backseat never fails to make me smile. 

At fourteen months you found your land legs and have been off and running ever since. I know where you are based on the sound of you narrating your runs through our first floor - your favorite word right now is "whoah," and I hear it often. 

You love to read, and just this morning you took your farm animals for a ride through the breakfast nook, kitchen, and living room in their tractor, singing your version of "Twinkle, Twinkle" to them.

When I look at you, I remember the past year and a half. I remember meeting you the first time and seeing the toddler version of you as your six-pound self slept in my arms. 

Today when I see you, I see the little boy you've become. Tall, curious, and snuggly. I love how happy it makes you when I peek around a corner playing hide-and-seek, and your giggles when we play at the pool.

You're growing up, little one. And as you change, you're still the same happy, wise boy you were the day you were born.