Time is so weird. After my daughter was born, I honestly thought we would not make it through her first month. My husband and I felt like we were in a time warp that caused the days to never end. This could be because with round-the-clock feedings, the days did not really have an ending or beginning. Once we survived the first month as new parents, the days gradually stopped being a blur. Some days still felt like they dragged for an eternity as we functioned on little sleep. But then suddenly, it was her first birthday. The days and months that had seemed so difficult had passed, never to return.
This pattern of battling time has continued, and now my firstborn is turning 4.
It sounds so big — 4! No longer a toddler, but not yet a school-aged kid. She needs my help less and less as her independence blossoms. I tell her she will always be my baby, and she reminds me that she is a big girl now.
As I reflect on the last four years, I keep remembering our first picture taken together in her nursery. We had just arrived home from the hospital. My husband went out to the car to unload our belongings, and I sat down in the nursery rocking chair with my new baby. I had sat in this chair for hours already, staring at the nursery, dreaming of what it would look like when she was here. And now, here she was, sleeping peacefully in my arms.
We sat in the quiet, just the two of us. I could not take my eyes off my perfect gift. She felt so cuddly and warm as I memorized all of her sweet features. I remember feeling so much joy in that moment, but it was accompanied by the feeling of being so inadequate. My husband and I had taken multiple birth and parenting classes, researched the best baby items, and read many books in preparation for becoming parents.
So why did I feel so unprepared to be this baby girl’s mom?
The short answer is what all parents know: Nothing can fully prepare you to become a parent. Much of the work of parenting is learned in real-time, boots-on-the-ground, on-the-job training. I had some head knowledge of how the books and baby experts said things were supposed to go, but I had no experience being a parent. Anxious thoughts flooded my brain: Would I be a good mom? How would I know what she needed? Could I keep her safe in this world?
What I did not realize is that this feeling of apprehension would resurface each time I navigated a new chapter in my parenting journey. It is the same feeling I experienced the first time we left her with a babysitter. When it was time to introduce her to solid foods. When we moved her to a new state. When she became a big sister. And, most recently, when she started preschool.
I have a strong feeling this trepidation will continue to be my parenting companion each time we face new and unknown experiences. Her first day of kindergarten. Her first overnight summer camp. Her first date. Learning to drive. Prom. College. Marriage.
For now, we take each day as it comes. We learn together, and we overcome together. And yes, four years later, we still rock in our chair together.