by Ilene Prusher
“Enjoy every moment! It goes so fast.” I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard that in the past year and-a-half or so. (Ok, 20 months this week, but who’s counting? Who else but new parents count in months?)
People who say that it goes fast are people who are long past dirty diapers, sleep deprivation and dinner ending with half of the food on the floor. And people who insist you should enjoy every moment have forgotten what it’s like to have an inconsolable baby, or a toddler who thinks the point of the xylophone mallet or a kiddy flute is to whap said baby in the head.
I am blessed to have both baby and toddler, and I am humbled by the challenge of raising them. When I go walking with the two of them in our double stroller, people point and peek, I assume because they’re expecting twins – or maybe because the generous ‘rents brought over a state-of-the-art stroller that is perfect for a baby-and-toddler combo. Indeed, I’ve recently come to realize that having babies who are less than a year and-a-half apart is something akin to having twins, except one has the ability to throw blocks at the other’s head, or pounce on the bouncy chair with a bit too much gusto.
My son, to clarify, is a charming, sweet boy who was and remains what the parenting gurus would call an easy baby – sleeps well, eats well, and entertains the masses. But he doesn’t know his own strength and still hasn’t mastered the causal relationship between throwing that block and the baby crying when the toy nicks her cheek. He is all smiles and kisses every time he sees his sister, and coos “baby, baby” with delight. Baby Z looks at turns bemused and terrified as he approaches to give her sloppy kisses and a not-so-gentle head massage, or to tug enthusiastically on her footie pajamas. Yes, these are precious moments – but also trying ones. More specifically, these are moments where, unless big brother is trapped in his high chair, I can’t leave him alone with his little sister for a minute, not even to so much as take a wee. Last time I did that, stepping into the kitchen to turn down the heat on some eggs, a flying board book narrowly missed her eye. Now, if we want to put her down and take a few minutes’ break from attachment parenting – which would have baby strapped to our person during most of her waking hours – we put her in a wooden playpen. It has the look of putting the baby in an open air prison cell, a la Hosni Mubarak on trial.
So I must be honest, because that’s what I think a no-holds-barred blog on motherhood should do – it’s what I feel inspired to do after reading the funny-but-fakakt realities outlined in books like “Bad Mother” and “Afterbirth“. I am not enjoying every moment. And there are days when it does not seem to be going fast at all.
Sure, kids grow quickly, which seemed all the more obvious when baby weighed in today 12.7 pounds (5.8 kilos) – well on her way to doubling her birth weight and putting her in the 75th percentile of weight for babies her age. All of this on good old-fashioned breastfeeding, which suddenly everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion on thanks to the recent Time cover story. Suddenly she’s in the 3-6 months clothes, and not necessarily swimming in all of them. Flashing a smile here and there. Making me proud.
But also screaming with seeming hysteria a few times a day. See, the people who say it goes too quickly probably are also not people who have or have recently had a baby with colic and reflux, which cause terrible abdominal pain and burning in the esophagus. This is a reality which I’ve avoiding facing for quite some time, not fulfilling the doctor’s prescription for Zantac until last week because it sounded like too serious a drug; I wanted to stick to over-the-counter or natural remedies instead. Since the baby’s been on Zantac, she seems to be feeling better, but still has episodes in which it seems she’s being tortured by a demon. (Yes, yes, I’ve tried cutting various things out of my diet and am even putting goat’s milk into my coffee to avoid the purportedly evil influence of cow dairy. Oh please, please, leave me to my one cup of coffee a day.)
Yes, it goes fast, but would I be a bad mother if I said there are moments where I find myself wishing it would go faster? Babies with reflux usually get better by four months, or six months, but sometimes it goes for longer. Is it terrible for me to want to fast-forward to that day – or to the time when I can leave my two children in the same room for two minutes without the threat of one doing bodily harm to the other?
In the meantime, I’ve become one of those women I once glared at menacingly, all but hissing, lady, pick up your baby. She obviously wants to be held. I hadn’t considered that maybe that baby’s been held for two hours straight, through almost non-stop crying, and maybe what that baby needs now (and her mother needs) is to move in the fresh air, even if the baby doesn’t know it yet. At the start of one city block today, I felt like an ugly child abuser who people were looking at; by the end of the block I felt like supermom, a posterchild of post-partum glamour gliding by with angel baby. I guess she just felt like a good scream – and then she fell blissfully to sleep.
Someone wise put it this way: The years go fast, but the days go by slowly.
I love these two children with all my being. And yet, there are evenings – especially ones like tonight, when hubby has to work late and I’m flying solo – when my happiest moment is when I’ve succeeded in getting both of them down to sleep. Or, when I peek in half an hour later, and listen to the glorious sound of them breathing peacefully.