I remember Maddox’s reaction when we told the kids we had some very excited news to share with them (we were pregnant with their sister). “You’re taking us to Disney World!” she blurted out and before we could correct her to say it wasn’t that kind of news, there were whoops and hollers from the others. “WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!” This baby announcement wasn’t happening the way we planned.
Interesting how life rarely goes according to design. I did not intend to put a decade in between my bookend babes, but here we are: In a few weeks, Winnie will celebrate her first birthday and Maddox will turn eleven. We still haven’t made it to Disney World. I don’t think anybody is too sad about it. We’ve enjoyed this year with our sweet baby so much. Winnie brings out Harper’s teacher voice, Henry’s inner comedian, and Maddox’s maternal instincts. Their roles in her life will no doubt be as important as my own as she gets older.
When I think about motherhood on the cusp of the toddler and the teenage years, I can smile at all the ways I’ve evolved in the last decade. I was 26 years old when Maddox was born. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I’ve spent the last year of Winnie’s life with my feet firmly planted in my mid-30’s. I’ve become softer in these ten years, a smidge wiser, a lot less trepidatious.
As I reflect on specific ways motherhood has changed for me, please don’t hear me say the tenured mom mindset is best. You new mamas are figuring it out and giving such thought and care to your babes, and I applaud you for that. I am your biggest cheerleader. These are my reflections on my experience, and that doesn’t have to be yours. Ever. You do you, girlfriend.
First-time moms, you watch the milestone chart as closely as you did the size of your baby in pregnancy (“She’s as big as an avocado!”). You read all the books and fill out the Baby’s First Year journal on the regular. Did she sit up at exactly 20 weeks? Could she wave bye-bye at 10 months? No? Note: work with baby every day until she can wave. Maybe one day this skill will translate to pageant queen. Or foreign diplomat. After all, you are planning her next 20–30 years.
Ten years later, you do not remember the milestones. She’ll learn to crawl if she wants to escape from her brother and sisters. You forget to make the 9-month check-up at the doctor to discuss said milestones. What’s with the 9-month check anyway? You read none of the books and are sure the time stamps on your phone will give you a general framework of the milestones you used to record in a baby book for your first born.
First-time mamas, your nightstand is full of sleep schedule books. The authors of Baby Wise, Happiest Baby on the Block, and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child have become your friends. Your constant companions. So what if their advice is competing? You’ll try each one on different nights and see what takes. You’ll talk about the methods of Drs. Bucknam, Karp, and Weissbluth on the first date you’ve had with your husband in four months. It’s very important that you figure this out together. You’ll remind him to read all the books. He promises he will. (He won’t.) Your baby is still waking up twice a night on her first birthday. You admit defeat.
Ten years later, you give each sibling a noise machine for their room as a Christmas present and assure them they’ll thank you for it. On the first night of baby’s six-hour stretch, you proclaim she is ready for sleep training, turn on those noise machines, and close your bedroom door. She is sleeping through the night by Day 4, and seems to have forgiven you for letting her cry it out.
As a first-time mom, you have all the nursery decor handmade by a family friend. After all, there just aren’t enough fabric options to choose from at BuyBuy BABY and Pottery Barn Kids. You put everything the store suggests on your registry. You read all the reviews to ensure proper selection of bottle brand, highchair, and stroller.
Ten years later, you’ve given away every piece of baby equipment you own because you thought you were done having babies. You borrow everything, grateful for generous friends. Your nursery decor is whatever matches your current wall color.
New mamacitas, you follow all the guidelines. You introduce solids exactly when told. All organic, of course. You keep baby on the new solid for five days to see if she tolerates it. Everything is pureed beautifully in the VitaMix and given by spoonful.
Ten years later, as soon as the baby has proven her gag reflex to be strong, you put real solids in front of her. Mandarin orange slices, black beans, scrambled eggs. Doesn’t the latest research talk about texture being important in a baby’s diet? Aw, you’re probably making that up. You don’t pay much attention to the research. You’re just trying to get dinner on the table.
As a first-time mom, you freak out when your baby spikes a fever and do all the things one does to help bring it down. You wish you could take the pain away.
Ten years later, you freak out when baby spikes a fever and do all the things one does to help bring it down. You wish you could take the pain away. Some things don’t change over time.
As a first-timer, you schedule “playdates” for your infants and talk about your babies ad nauseam with fellow moms while they “play” sitting five feet away from each other in exersaucers. You ask your mom friend for real-time advice: “If he falls asleep in the car, should I transfer him to his crib when we get home or keep him in his carseat?” You are the blind leading the blind here. None of you has done this motherhood thing before. You take solace in each other.
Ten years later, you leave the babes with your hubs after work and go out for a drink with your fellow rockstar mom. You don’t even discuss the children. You swap lipstick colors, marriage stories, and vacation plans, and then fist-bump before you leave because y’all are KILLING motherhood.
Sweet newbies, you set the stage for quality time with your baby. Do you have the essential oils for her feet? Is the lighting low? Do we have enough books to read? Let’s learn a new song!
Ten years later, you get on the floor with your babe and watch with wonder as she explores her world. You remember doing this with all the babes who came before her. You have a seriously nostalgic moment and cry a little. You know this all goes too fast.
Mamas entering a new chapter with your spouses, you try to make your husband parent exactly like you. He doesn’t agree that you should add water before the scoops of formula. You explain all the reasons why you are right. You are frustrated that you didn’t marry your clone.
Ten years later, you find his methods endearing. No one can make her laugh like him. She prefers her daddy, and you are totally on board with that. You’ve evolved in this journey together and you love that he gets to be a “new dad” one last time.
As a new mom, you pull out all the stops for the first birthday. You create a Pinterest board and add photos to it for six months leading up to the big event. You theme out your party food, put labels on your water bottles, and give away board books for party favors. You invite all the people who have loved your baby through her first year.
Ten years later, your baby is celebrated around a table with her immediate family. They laugh when she shoves a chocolate cupcake in her mouth and gets frosting up her nose. She gives a toothy grin, surrounded and adored by the little people she loves. You and your husband drink wine and toast your survival of the first year with your last baby. And then you vow “Never Again.”