A long time ago, long before I was pregnant or we were even thinking about it, I remember having a conversation with a group of girls at a party thrown by a friend, and one of them had just had a baby. And when we pestered her for advice, she passed on the following words of wisdom:
“It’s a lot at the beginning, taking care of a newborn. The best advice I have is that when things feel completely overwhelming, just wait a week and everything will be different.”
In the past six weeks, I’ve thought a lot about that advice, and I’ve come to the conclusion that she is the single smartest person in the universe.
I remember those first few days when we got home from the hospital, when I was terrified to leave Bear in another room for five seconds at a time. It didn’t matter if he was in the crib, the Boppy, awake or asleep, crying or not (and most of the time, obviously, he was crying) — spending five seconds without my eyes squarely focused on him was way too long. Anything can happen to a baby in five seconds.
And I vividly remember, during that period, walking downstairs to get a cup of coffee and seeing that our kitchen counter was piled high with dishes. There were mugs and plates and water glasses and the pan that we use for cinnamon rolls and forks and spoons all filling up our sink.
I remember seeing that and thinking to myself, “Oh my god. We have this baby, and now we are never going to have time to do dishes ever again.”
I just couldn’t fathom that this tiny creature’s demands would ever let up, that there might ever be a time that he would sit quietly for a minute or two, allowing me to, say, load and unload the dishwasher.
Nope. In my mind, as the mom of a three-day-old, it would never happen. We were literally never going to have five seconds free again, at least until Bear went off to college.
But, you know what? Wait a week. Or maybe six weeks, but you get the idea.
Last night, after Bear was asleep, but before Chad and I at dinner, I walked around the house cleaning up the little messes that had accumulated in the last month. I moved papers that had gathered in the wrong spots, I collected water glasses and receipts and baby products that were scattered around our living room and kitchen. I moved the car seat away from the center of living room. I opened the Amazon boxes. I did all those tiny little chores that we’ve so rarely had time to do for the last few weeks, and then I looked around our mostly clean house and felt the most incredible sense of relief.
Because no matter how overwhelming taking care of Bear was in those first few days: It got better. It got a lot easier, and it didn’t last forever. It was impossible to conceptualize it in those first few days, but my friend’s advice was spot on.
Sure, he still has bad nights and days where he cries so much that I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted. But a few weeks have passed, and I can do the dishes. I can shower and put on makeup (sometimes). I can check my email and write a blog post here and there.
And I can look at our baby and think about how much he’s changed in the course of a month, how much more easily he can adjust to new things in the world, and how much bigger and stronger and healthier he seems now than in those terrifying newborn days.
This picture already feels like a lifetime ago.
Of course, the flip side to everything getting easier is that it seems like every day brings some tiny change, some small measure of independence from me and some tiny step towards becoming his own person.
I find myself getting a little bit sad with every milestone — the first time he fell back asleep on his own without me rocking him, I was relieved but also felt incredibly bittersweet. Someday, hopefully a long time from now, a day will come when I’ll rock him back to sleep for the last time, and after that he’ll do it on his own, without me — and as much as I’m grateful for all the ways he gets a little easier as he grows up, I’m also not rushing them, because I know someday I’ll miss these moments where he needs me for comfort, for all of the little things that I’m happy to provide him.
Because in a week, for better or worse, it might all be different.