In the throes of motherhood, it’s easy to think back on moments that were easier.
When I was home with my newborn, terrified she would get smothered by her sleep sack riding up, I would think of how much easier it was when I was pregnant, and she was safe inside me. When she started crawling, I pined for the days when I could set her down on the floor and she’d stay there while I ran to grab a diaper. Now that my daughter is three, feisty with the energy and destruction of a tornado, I can’t help but think back to how much easier it was when she was a baby. In fact, if I can be honest, I really miss the baby stage now that I have a toddler.
I did a ton of research while I was pregnant on anything and everything to do with pregnancy and newborn care. I scrolled through my phone while my husband watched TV at night, reading articles on breastfeeding, milk storage, reviews on infant sleep equipment, and what car seat was the safest. I read about bed-sharing, and how much tummy time to do, and all the different remedies for gas pain. There were a ton of ways to feed a baby and learning about baby-led weaning made my head spin.
As time drew closer to meet my baby, I was pretty set. I knew as soon as she came out, I would know nothing all over again, as most parents will agree, but just like my nursing boards, I had studied. I had prepared for the different scenarios and when it came time for the ultimate test — actually trying to raise this baby — I knew I was as ready as I was going to be.
I’d spend hours on the couch with her, skin to skin, the two of us dozing in and out. I ate dinners over her head because all she wanted to do in the evenings was be held. I binged on Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad and Grey’s Anatomy, all the while snugging a tiny baby against me, nursing her whenever she wanted.
Seriously. It’s not that those early days were easier by any means. But they sure as heck were a lot simpler.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Parenting a helpless, eight-pound milk hoarder is no joke. I learned what it truly means to be a hundred percent in charge of someone else and that, believe it or not, you can be up all night with a shrieking baby and still function the next day.
But toddlerhood hit sometime when I wasn’t paying attention and the struggle is real. Because all that preparing I did, all that research, well that was on infants.
No one told me this sweet little baby who slept sixteen hours a day would turn into a red-faced pudgy one year old who threw her first tantrum on the floor of her room because I wouldn’t let her put the screwdriver in her mouth.
As she got older, she started talking and moving around more and more. And there were a lot of perks to that because she could tell me where it hurt and could keep up with me in the store without dragging her huge stroller in with us. But I sort of forgot to read up on parenting tactics and disciplining because I was too busy making peanut butter sandwiches for the fifth day in a row because that’s all she would eat.
Her baby crib, where she was safely contained for over two years, gave way to the Big Girl Bed which meant instant freedom to my toddler. Now, as soon as her eyes popped open, it was time to get up for the day, whether that was 7:30 or 4:45 am. And the tantrums. Oh, the tantrums. The other day I had to duck as a teddy bear came whizzing by my head, thrown by a very angry and overly tired preschooler who was dissatisfied by her mother not wanting her to wear tennis shoes to bed.
Yes, there are times I really miss the baby stage.
I miss holding a sleeping infant for the better part of the day. I miss being able to set her down without losing her. I miss being able to pick up the living room and have it stay clean for a while because no one is physically able to toss toys like confetti around it.
Life with my three-year-old is wonderful. We go on all sorts of adventures and she’s always able to find joy in the smallest of things. And maybe it’s that she could end up being my one and only, but sometimes I wish I could go back to those early days.
They may have passed by in a sleep-deprived fog, but there was something so peaceful about being a mama to a tiny squeaking newborn and there’s a loss that comes knowing I’ll never get to have those days back.
I think that’s one of the hardest parts of being a mom: saying goodbye over and over to every stage that passes by.
Still, just like those adventures we have now and seeing her face when it’s snowing outside: it’s going to change all over again before I know it. I need to remember to embrace it, tantrums and all.