It is very easy for time to pass by unnoticed. One Christmas and new year easily rolls into another, one hairstyle is succeeded by the next, a piece of clothing you still think of as a fairly recent addition to the wardrobe suddenly seems to appear in a photograph for the fifth year in a row! And then parenting gives time a whole new quality of fast and a thousand ways to notice that time is flying by.
I was never really ‘into’ new born babies in the way I saw other people around me being. I noticed that people would literally stop in their tracks to gaze upon one and coo and close their eyes and stroke and sniff the baby if they were given a chance to hold one. I found newborns difficult to hold, a bit scary in their tininess and always felt that I was the wrong shape to hold them as I couldn’t make them lie comfortably as I saw others do.
But now, I have become one of the new-born-baby-gazer brigade. I can hold a newborn with ease and grace and I can make them comfortable and settled easily. I do close my eyes and place my cheek by their soft little head and stroke them and coo inwardly at how soft they are and at the newborn baby smell. I marvel at the perfection of their tiny little scaled-down features.
When my first daughter was a baby time slowed down. She was a newborn baby for what felt like decades. I was stuck in a time-vortex with a constantly feeding, nocturnal, squally, skinny, fragile little creature whose eyes were always closed and mouth was always open. I thought that this was what parenting was and I thought I wanted out. The demands upon me were intense and impossible to satisfy. I thought that this was going to go on forever. I was horrified and desperate at times.
A wise mum I met socially recently, put into words something that I have learnt since those early days though. She said that in parenting everything passes. She was explaining to a soon-to-be-mum that we often use the phrase ‘This too will pass’ to coach ourselves through tricky times and tough moments:
Is your baby still nocturnal in their sleep and eating routines? This too will pass.
Does colic or reflux keep your baby awake, screamimg and in pain for hours in the late evening? This too will pass.
Does your child have a terrible cold with a cough that disturbs their sleep and a tiny blocked nose that makes them snuffle like a piglet whilst they feed? This too will pass.
Does your child have night terrors that wake them and the household with blood-curdling screams, incoherence and panic? This too will pass.
Tantrums, teething, weaning, separation-anxiety, food and clothing fads. These too will pass.
But this wise mum said that she has come to realise that in parenting, everything passes, whether it’s a good phase or a bad one. Your child will grow out of every favourite outfit they own. Your child will not love the characters from their favourite TV programme forever. The book they want you to read every night (and dear God please don’t ever let me have to read Charlie and Lola ever again!) will suddenly be replaced. The funny smile they do when a camera points at them will stop appearing. How they hold your thumb and gaze at you whilst you feed them will pass. The spectacularly delighted smile that your baby saves only for seeing you, your partner and their siblings will change.
And each thing that passes is replaced. Sometimes it will be replaced by a challenge and sometimes it will be replaced by something delightful and sublime. But it is this fact that I think has made me adore newborn babies along with their throngs of other admirers. Because this too will pass and will pass so fast. The decades for which my firstborn seemed to be a newborn were replaced by mere moments for which my third daughter seemed to be one. And it is experience that changed my perception of time in this way. With baby one I was afraid that this would last forever and I couldn’t cope. I did not know that this too would pass. With baby two I knew that it would and just put my head down and got on with managing a newborn and a toddler. At the times when I felt that I couldn’t cope I just kept going because I knew that this too would pass. With baby three I knew that this was the most fleeting of my children’s phases and that it would be gone all too soon. I knew I could cope and maybe that has made all the difference because I savoured it and enjoyed it and loved it.
So savour the good and manage the bad. Around the next parenting corner is a new experience for you to love or loathe. And around the next corner there is a new challenge or delight. And around the next corner there are things that are stable and balanced and things that are changing and in flux. We as learning-parents will use what we know and try and learn what we don’t know yet. Read books and Google it, but always balance this by talking to your friends and health professionals and other parents who are slightly ahead of you on the parenting road. They will help you keep perspective and share their experiences as you will do for the parents coming up behind you.