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July 30, 2013 / Mettā Reiki Center

What I Will Miss

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A few days ago, I had a conversation with someone about their kids, and she said, “I miss when they were little babies, when you could just hold them and snuggle them, and there weren’t the messes and the tantrums…don’t you miss that?”

I was at a complete loss for words. What a bonehead question.

Or was it?

Should I miss it?

Because quite honestly, the answer was a resounding NO, I did not miss it, I DO not miss it, and I don’t see myself getting to any point in my life where I will miss it.

I knew her experience was different from mine. I knew that when her child was little and snuggly, she didn’t have to wrestle with wires, lines, breathing tubes and monitors. When she gave her baby a bath it wasn’t a mad rush under a warming device to make sure her baby did not get hypothermic. Nights were spent rocking her content, chubby little one to sleep where ours were long, nightly ordeals with a baby struggling with reflux and just figuring out how to suck on a bottle, swallow, and breathe without strangling herself. Not to mention the frightening transition to pureed foods and solids, that is usually an exciting and fun time in a mom’s life.

I could go through a slew of comparisons of differences in our experiences, but the long and short of it was that I walked away from that conversation reeling with guilt. A good mother should cherish every moment, right? A good mother would never look back on any period of their child’s life and not miss it…would they? Surely there was enough good in those months where I could find a way to miss it, right?

It took a long conversation with my husband and being able to spend some time with a dear friend today to bring me back into the reality that is being a (real and true) mom. Maybe in some mommy circles I should miss every moment – and those mommies probably think I’m the crappiest parent to walk the face of the earth to feel otherwise. But after a period of time, one gets tired of smiling and nodding even when everything inside is saying “no”. After a period of time, you have to be honest, if for no other reason than being true to yourself.

I don’t miss it. And I’m okay with that.

The first year after Ali was born was a long year. I remember being terrified – a lot. And uncertain. Waking up every morning to rush to her crib and make sure she is breathing. Feeling my heart stop everytime the apnea monitor alarmed – and worrying when too much time went by and it didn’t alarm. Worrying when she slept too much or too little. Worrying over every doctor’s appointment and the dreaded three words, “Failure To Thrive”.

And feeling overall like God was completely out of His gourd for thinking I was fit to be a parent.

But then things changed…about 6 months ago, Ali changed, and I changed. I can’t put my finger on a specific date or time. But Ali gained an incredible amount of strength, and along with that, her eyes brightened, became clearer and began to drink in the world around her. Her legs strengthened and brought her body up to standing – first to stumble, then to walk, then to run. Her hands went from clumsy mittens to grasping fingers that can hold a crayon, sign the word “silly”, and pick flowers.

And as she gained strength, I was able to let go of at least some of the fear, some of the worry. Finally, rather than fearing the worst happening every day, days have become full of exciting, new, messy and beautiful opportunities for us. As she started breathing better…

…so did I.

Where the first year felt like an eternity, something has happened to time now. It has sped to a whirlwind pace and the days are flying. One day she is able to take a bite of a banana. The next day she can feed herself with a fork. One day she can take a small sip from a cup being held for her; the next day she is drinking from a straw. I think that these are the days I will painfully miss. These are the days where I am doing everything I possibly can to take advantage of every opportunity to show her the world – the sights, the sounds, the smells, everything that you get to see again for the first time through the eyes of a child.

So what about those tantrums and messes?

The tantrums…ahhh, the tantrums. The fits of emotion when Ali gets overwhelmed by the world around her…and the messes, oh, the messes! Smeared fingerpaints, spilled cereal, thrown food, the occasional spitup, the perpetual drool…

In a roundabout way, those tantrums say to me that Ali is starting to understand things around her – understand enough to become overwhelmed at times. She is beginning to feel emotion. Her whole perception of the world around her is deepening – she is growing, she is learning.

The messes say to me that she is experiencing life – she is jumping in to everything around her to see what it’s like. That is awesome to me.

Honestly? No, I won’t miss that first year. And I guess I’m writing this just in case another mom (preemie mom or not – you don’t have to have a premature baby to have a difficult first year) faces the same questions. I think it’s fine to be true to yourself – and if someone doesn’t feel like your truth is “the way a good mommy should feel”, then that’s not a person you need in your support system.

To the mommies who struggled those first months…you’re not alone. But there are amazing things around the bend…things like tantrums. And messes. And all of the other wonders that come along with them.

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