It Won't Last Long
Every Beautiful Beginning is a Tragic End
I believe that there are a few ways that women enter into motherhood: gracefully, struggling, or somewhere in between. Some women seem to have an ease about them, as if they were just destined to care for others, dancing beautifully into motherhood and truly relishing every step of the journey. Then there are women like me, who seem to be stumbling, tripping, falling, and trying to catch their breath and maintain their sanity as they navigate their new role of constantly caring for another human being every second for the rest of their foreseeable life.
I spent a good part of the first three months of my daughter’s life trying to make sense of what was hands down the most difficult job I’d ever taken on. As soon as I would begin to feel more confident and find a rhythm that seemed to work for us, she would toss me a curveball and send me stumbling right back to square one. (Babies have a funny way of changing and leaving you guessing just as soon as you think you have it figured out.)
I found myself constantly wishing for things to get easier. When she can sleep through the night, it will be so much easier… When she can put herself to sleep without needing me, it will be so much easier… When she is eating solid foods and nursing less, it will be so much easier… When she can hold her own toys and entertain herself, it will be so much easier… When she can sit up on her own, it will be so much easier… I was unknowingly wishing away her tiny innocence and looking forward to her blossoming independence from me.
Two weeks before my daughter turned six months old, I found myself with tears streaming down my face as I gazed at the baby video monitor and watched as she slept soundly in her crib. I had spent a better part of the day patiently comforting her as her first tooth began cutting through her gums, and wondering where the last six months went. Suddenly, I realized what everyone was talking about when they were telling me to “enjoy this time, because it won’t last long.” Looking back, the first six months of her life seemed like the slow, uphill climb of a rollercoaster, and I suddenly felt the unease in the pit of my stomach as I mentally peered down at the 90 degree drop that was about to accelerate our lives at unimaginable speeds.
I started to think about what the next six months of our lives would entail. All of the crawling, walking, talking, and (gulp) weaning that is inevitably part of her growing up and becoming more independent was once exactly what I thought I was hoping for, and now seems like the hardest part of it all. Every milestone is beautiful and tragic in the sense that she is developing and growing just as she should, but needing me less and less each day. Now, the cruel and heart-wrenching “The Last Time” poem is very consciously printed in the back of my mind and screaming at me to enjoy every second of this as I beg for time to just slow down.
Fathers can’t possibly understand this feeling deep in the pit of their stomachs, can they? Don’t get me wrong, my husband is amazing. He is everything I could possibly ask for in a father for my child. My daughter beams every time he comes into a room and their love for one another is so beautifully evident. He sees the brilliance in every milestone and loves watching our daughter change and grow, while I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness and heartbreak in every “first” that she experiences, because I know that every beginning is ultimately the end to something else.
I carried and grew her inside of me for nine months and even felt a bit of sadness when her birth was nearing, because I knew that was just the start of our gradual separation from each other. I have kept her alive solely from nourishment provided from my own body over the last six months. I can’t possibly begin to fathom how I am going to handle all of the “lasts” that are in our not-so-distant future.
What I have learned over the last six months is that it does get better (yes, that annoying cliché again), but not to mistake “better” for “easier.” I’m starting to learn to accept the fact that it may never get easier. There are new challenges that come with every phase of parenting, and the love that you feel for your child seems to multiply exponentially every day.
When you love someone more than you could have ever imagined, it can send your emotions spiraling out of control and make you feel crazy even on a good day. Time can play tricks on our minds, and sometimes the thing that we once wished so hard for may become the exact opposite of what we truly wanted. So, instead of yearning for moments that I can’t get back, I will force myself to become more patient and to live in every moment. I will cherish every cuddle, every giggle, and every opportunity to comfort my daughter by simply rocking, holding a tiny hand, or kissing a little forehead. I will remind myself during the difficult and less-than-enjoyable moments to be present and to love as fiercely as I can, because one day, I will be one of those parents warning new moms to “enjoy this time, because it won’t last long.”