By Christina Marie Sterling
If you paused to really ponder about it, would you be able to pinpoint the moment you really felt like a parent? Maybe, it was the plus sign on a pregnancy test that did it for you, or, the first breathes of your newborn after nine long months of anticipation. For me, it was the day I brought my first daughter home from the hospital. It will not matter how much time passes – I will always remember how that day changed me from being a single person to forever a mother.
It was about 11:30pm, January 21st 2009. Her father had managed to crash early that evening from having stayed up with us in the hospital for two days straight. This left me on solo baby-duty; I was so in love with her it felt anything but burdensome, even though I was exhausted. I was adoringly studying her features, rocking her to sleep in the glider in her nursery. The house was quiet and my heart knew a peace I had never felt before. That was, until Layla decided she had other plans for the rest of the night!
It felt as for no apparent reason whatsoever that she began to wail with such ferocity that her bellows woke her father from his deep sleep. What had been my affectionate gaze at her delicate face shifted in an instant to shocked panic; how could my tiny little sweet pea make so much noise? Do babies do this all the time? I held my breath as the thoughts of doubt if I could really do this flooded my mind, and waited for the storm to pass while continuing to rock her in my arms. When tired daddy rounded the corner dashing into the nursery, I must have given him the most rightening look a wife can give her husband – one that said, “Honey, here! You take her!”
We both stared at one another, and then back at her, then to each other again. Every new parent knows that sense of anxiety when an infant seems inconsolable and you have absolutely no idea what to do to make it better! Thankfully, his first suggestion seemed promising: Feed her! (Duh, why didn’t I think of that?) Well, that did not work. Rock her? Nope. She just kept right on crying. Should we sing, or, do a monkey dance… “Look baby Layla, see daddy Juggle??”
Nothing seemed to cure her newborn-blues. Until daddy decided enough was enough, “We’re just going to have to let her cry!” I must have given him the most frightening look a wife can give her husband – one that said, “Honey, no way! You must be out of your mind (Here! You take her!)”
This seemingly endless night eventually dawned on a more peaceful albeit exhausted day. After an entire six hours of struggle, worry, and doubt, Layla wore herself out and fell asleep in my arms while she was nursing. We never did quite figure out what it was that happened, but I like to think it was an initiation into The Parenthood: An exclusive club whose members can change a diaper with one hand while directing sibling traffic with the other. The term “all-nighter” now correlates with having earned expert status at taking cat-naps while sitting upright by a crib, and a good day ends without a toddler’s tantrum.
When my second daughter was born, the feelings associated with parenthood intensified pleasantly. Her and I have had our share of sleepless nights together as well, but nothing quite so dramatic as what Layla dished out that first night home.
Nowadays, feeling like a parent is a lot less foreign to me. Layla is growing closer to the age of 4 and Jemma will be one whole year in August. In the rearview are days of infancy where uncontrollable, inconsolable cries cause me to skyrocket into an inferno of worry.
The best part of parenting these days is getting to know both of my girls as they grow and start to showcase who they are. Layla is intelligent, funny, and warm. Jemma is charming and curious. Both of them bring me tremendous joy, and I believe being their mother is the purest purpose of my life.
It takes no effort to speed through each day, taking for granted the time as it passes, but I urge everyone I meet to take it slow, and stop just a moment, if even just every once in a while, because before we all know it, our babies will become parents themselves. Some call it trite to put this much emphasis on appreciating the moment; they claim to hold onto the “big things” as what matters most. If you allowed yourself to stop and think, “When did I feel like a parent for the first time?” You may very well realize how much time has already passed and use that as motivation to live each moment with more gratitude.
Each of us in The Parenthood club has our own tales, woes, and wonders of parenting; the challenge and beauty of raising children does not appear the same for all of us. Yet, I am sure we can all remember that moment – and several after the first – when reality set in that life would never be the same because of that little bundle of joy. If nothing else, it is worth a good laugh or two if your story is anything like mine. Think about it, then, if you can, go tell your children; what a wonderful new memory to make together! If they are old enough to understand, their faces may just light up hearing mommy and daddy (or one or the other) tell them a story like this.
We all need a little bit of magic in our lives and within these defining memories is a treasure trove – the smiles on your children’s faces when you share this will be magical. From me to you: Enjoy it, parents!