Having your first baby is like being transported to a parallel universe. It’s still you in the mirror, it’s still your thought stream running through your brain, everything is where you left it when you get back home – but everything is different. The feel of the world is different. Something has shifted, something really big and important, and it’s out there in the world as well as inside you.
Now there is a tiny innocent life solely reliant on your ability to love and care for them. Now there are nappies to change, bottles to sterilise, hours of breastfeeding and rocking to sleep to work around, now there is no sleep and no rest, no time to shower or eat a proper meal. No real routine (especially at the start) and no free will. You are a slave to this little being, and she needs you, all of you, and there’s nothing left for yourself or for anyone else. It’s different for everyone, but for most people it is an all consuming, life shaking experience that you can never be fully prepared for.
So a year and a half in, I feel I have woken up from a sort of dream…my tiny baby is no longer so tiny anymore – in fact she’s not a baby at all. Here on my lap watching Masha and the Bear is a little girl, where on Earth did she come from and how did this happen? She likes to draw, she points out every star she spots with frantic excitement, her favourite food is raspberries, she insists on wearing socks at all times, she is her own little person gaining more and more of her own identity every single day and I can’t quite believe it. The baby world I was so deeply lost in has now shifted and it’s happened without me realising.
So much has changed, April now has set meal times and nap times, she sleeps through the night and can walk and play and speak a little. She can tell me what she wants and what she doesn’t want with success most of the time. She can take instruction and understand when she is being told off. She tells me when her nappy needs changing and when she’d like a drink. She plays pranks and makes me laugh, she can be sneaky and tricky and has an array of sarcastic facial expressions. She is so much more than the little helpless bundle of the early months. She has transformed.
What felt at the time like a hundred years of bottles, bums, boob, burps and bed battles now seems to have passed in the blink of an eye, my baby is gone and there is a little girl in her place. I look back on photos of her from a year ago and I feel myself welling up, it really is the end of an era – already. The baby period is seemingly so long, and yet so so short. I see pictures of her as a tiny baby and my heart aches, I want to hold her like that again, I want to be able to kiss those cheeks again, hold that tiny hand again. And it’s gone forever. I can never hold that little baby again. In her place is something even better in many ways, the little girl I have now is infinitely more interesting and fun to spend time with, I love her more and more every day, she is my whole world as she always has been, but it’s a bittersweet thing to watch her grow and change, the tiny person you love today will be entirely different tomorrow, and again the next day. It’s hard to come to terms with. A constant sense of loss and a constant sense of gain.
I guess this is what parenthood is all about, being thrust from one life changing period to another, once you get used to the baby period you are suddenly thrown in to the toddler period, and then moved on again and again. Everything always changing, always something new to learn and discover, about your little human, about what you need to do for her, and also about yourself.
I guess I just want to say to my tiny baby April that I miss you already, the days were long but the years are short, and I love you more every minute of every day. You changed my life in every possible way and you are still doing it. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for me, what more there is to discover about you and how you will change day by day. But just forgive your sentimental mama if I’m not in too much of a rush, if I hold you in my arms a moment more than needed just to have you just as you are right now a little longer. Tomorrow this little girl will be a ghost in my memory and a whole new even more wonderful April will be in her place, but right now it’s you as you are that I want.