It’s a well-known fact that babies don’t come out of the womb clutching onto a handy instruction manual. You don’t have to do a course, or pass a test to become a parent. There are no qualifications required to enter parenthood. They let you waddle out of the hospital with your newborn bundle, a glowing sense of pride, and not the slightest idea of what you are doing. Hands up, how many of you stopped the car on the way home from the hospital to check that the baby was still breathing? Me? Twice.
When you get home you begin to realize amidst the cycle of dirty diapers and feeding that your life is never going to be the same again. From now on, you will always put someone else’s needs before your own. And right now, that someone needs everything from you. That feeling is as awesome as it is overwhelming. It’s terrifying and empowering. It’s everything you thought it would be, yet nothing like you expected—it’s parenthood.
Eventually, the outside world infiltrates your newborn bubble, and they come bearing advice, warnings and criticisms. There are a million different ways to do things and someone will always think that the way you chose is wrong. Your beautiful little human is suddenly on a timeline to reach a list of milestones—first smile, first tooth, the ever-elusive sleeping through the night, crawling, walking, talking, peeing in the potty, and standing on their heads reciting Shakespeare.
Heads up new parents: All of these things will happen.
Okay, maybe not the last one, but it’s not really an essential life skill.
But you don’t see many grown-ups wandering around with pacifiers in their mouths (I would like to say you don’t see any, but I happen to know a few details of my husband’s bachelor party that would make that statement a lie.) Five a.m. wake-up calls and 2 a.m. crib parties may be very present in your social calendar right now, but know that this too shall pass. Parents of teenagers will tell you that they spend their mornings yelling at their kids to get out of bed. Plus, I’ve never met anyone whose partner still required their mom to come and tuck them in at night. I mean, it’s a bit of a deal breaker.
Let me tell you another thing: You will spend nights worrying that everyone else’s baby is toddling around except yours, who seems quite content shuffling around on her bottom and being carried everywhere. And yes, you will be so proud when they take their first steps and you will want the whole world to know.
But you will also shed a tear for the time before that is now gone, the time you could leave the room and they would stay where you put them, the gummy smile that didn’t try to take a chunk out of your finger when you least expected it. And yes, you will even miss those 1 a.m. cuddles. Maybe not straight away, but eventually you will miss them. Because every milestone that you encourage and praise and celebrate is a step farther away from the helpless little bundle that you left the hospital with.
So when you are in the thick of sleepless nights and constant feedings and wonder if it will ever end, know that it will. In what seems like the blink of an eye, you will be buying school uniforms and wondering when they got so big. You will be in awe of this walking-talking-little-big person that you made, who suddenly has their own opinions about things and is often quite vocal about them.
Some of you baby’s milestones will come quickly and easily; others will take longer and they will be worked hard for. At times, you will wonder if you have a child genius on your hands. At other times, you will worry that they are falling behind their peers. But through the successes, the challenges, and the struggles for every milestone along the way, that tiny person whom you created will always be perfect to you.
For the little one, who may not be reciting Shakespeare right now, but could give Usain Bolt a run for his money. And he rocks a hat.