Being a first time mom is an amazing experience and every single day has had something new for me to discover about myself. Things like: how much I can accomplish on 2 hours sleep, how excited I can be to see poop (my baby finally feels better!), or how much capacity for love I possess. I’m enjoying taking it one day at a time, and even though I share in my daughter’s frustration in not quite figuring out how to crawl forward yet, and I look forward to being able to hear her talk, I’m in no hurry to see her get big. I want to experience every stage for as long as that stage lasts.
Spending each and every day learning and growing alongside a little one is so fun that, naturally, I want to share big and little milestones with the people around me - my parents, my sisters, my friends, and other moms I hang around with. With so many different people, and an equal number of different experiences, I expect to get varying reactions based on the topic. For example, my younger sister – the unmarried student – isn’t really interested in poop colours. Fair enough. I know that everyone I share with love and support my little family, so there isn’t really one specific way for them to respond to things…but if you’re talking to me about my baby, there is one thing that is ALWAYS the wrong thing to say.
“Eloise is rolling over! It’s so cute how she’s mobile but now I can never let her out of my sight.”
“Just wait until she’s crawling like ____, then you’ll really be tired.”
“Eloise is eating cereal now! She loves trying new textures!”
“Eloise is cutting a tooth so she’s a bit fussier than usual.”
“Just wait until the molars come in. Those are the really sore ones.”
There are a few reasons why “just wait” is a horrible thing to say to me as a mom. For one, it reduces my feelings. Saying “just wait…” is telling me that the stress, sadness, frustration, or even joy I’m feeling right now is lesser than. Lesser than the stress you’re currently feeling or have felt. Lesser than the future stress I’ll feel and as such not really worthy of noting. No matter what age or stage a mother is currently in, all the emotions are important and real. I have every right to feel worry for my baby even if there is more to worry about on the horizon.
“Just wait” can also feel like a competition, since it most often comes from other mothers who are further into the experience than I am or whose babies are more advanced in certain areas. It can sound like: “You think you’ve got it bad? Your experience is nothing compared to mine!” or “You think that’s impressive? Look what my baby can do!” When I am sharing an exciting milestone with you, or asking if something is normal, or confiding a frustration…I’m looking to share with someone I trust and respect. I’m not throwing down the gauntlet. I am always willing to listen, commiserate, or celebrate with other mothers, but motherhood is not a competition. Every parent is an expert on their own child, but not on every child. My child might not even go through the stage yours did. I might be waiting forever to experience teething fevers or a dancing phase. My baby is an individual.
If nothing else, “just wait” imposes a timeline on my baby that I don’t like. I am happy to dawdle if need be, to watch my baby develop at the slow and steady pace that suits her. I don’t want to constantly look towards the next thing when I can be experiencing her in real time. Walking usually comes after crawling and slices of fruit come after purées…but the most important stage is the one my baby is currently in. I am positive that there are joys and defeats we cannot even imagine in store for us, but I'm in no hurry. I'm willing to wait.