Since my first child was born over nine years ago, I feel like I haven’t been able to catch my breath. As a parent I hit the ground running, and have never truly been able to relish some of the times that, in hindsight, were probably pretty important. I wrote down my kids' first words, but I don’t have a clear memory of when they actually said them. So there are definitely more than a few first baby moments I wish I could relive, because that annoying cliché is true: kids really do grow up so fast. If us parents don’t try to live in the moment, at least sometimes, we might miss all the joy we’re entitled to as hard-working caregivers.
Because there are moments I want to experience again — if only to feel all the warm and fuzzy emotions that come with kids reaching their milestones or doing something hilarious — I try to recognize when I need to savor what’s happening with my kids. I am not a huge fan of board games, for example, but my kids love them and, even more so, love when I play with them, so I really need to sink into those times when we’re gathered around the Trouble board (until the fighting breaks out, because that’s what siblings do). I have learned that the truly joyous moments are not necessarily embedded in the epic events we plan, like birthday parties or trips to amusements parks. It’s in the spaces of time in between the activities; it’s feeling their sweet breath on me when I read to them at night, or them saying how much they like the dinner I made. These are the tiny boosts I need in my everyday life, when it seems like there will be no end to the whining or the tantrum or the laundry.
When I think back on all those "first baby" memories that flew by, almost unnoticed, I wish I could relive some of them over and over again. Not all of them, to be sure, but I wish I could have the following moments back:
Introducing My Baby To The Family...
Second to meeting my baby girl myself, the feeling of having my closest family members meet my new baby was one of my proudest moments I have ever experienced. There was nothing I had made or done up until that point that would have brought them more joy than holding their newest, and most adorable, relative.
… Especially The Older Members...
Having my daughter meet her great-grandfather was really special. Not many kids have living family members that stretch that far back, so even though she wouldn’t remember this moment I knew I would. I can still picture his beaming face as I held her up for him to gaze upon.
… And The Younger Members
When we brought our son home from the hospital, my daughter was so excited to meet him. Under the guidance of her grandparents, she had drawn him a card and was so proud to present it to him. She hugged him and kissed him and even though jealousy frequently reared its ugly head in the hours that followed this introduction, their first meeting filled me up completely with the purity of its love. If I hadn’t known before, I knew it in that instant: this was why I wanted more than one child.
My Baby's First Meaningful Smile
In those first six weeks of my daughter's life, when all I was focused on was keeping her alive, I never thought about actually enjoying my child. Of course I loved her and cherished her and she was the most important person in my life, but it was kind of a one-way street: I did everything for her, and she cried no matter what.
Then, halfway through her second month on this planet, she smiled. It wasn’t a facial tic, or her contorting her face in response to digestive issues; it was one of those “I see you, Mom, and I’m happy you’re here” grins. She locked into me and showed me why it was worth the lack of sleep, the mood swings, and the leaky boobs. That smile.
My Baby's First Genuine Laugh
And if I thought the smiling was everything, I had no idea how next level it was going to be hearing my baby giggle for the first time. Honestly, I was relieved, because she was never going to make it in this world without a sense of humor.
The First Time My Baby Stayed Asleep In Her Crib
My daughter had that Moro reflex, where her arms would instantly flail out whenever she was placed down after being cradled in my arms. I learned to let go of her so slowly, pressing my body into hers as I’d meticulously separate my arms from her. It took at least 10 minutes just to put her down to sleep after nursing her if I wanted to avoid her waking up suddenly. So that first time her eyes stayed closed and her body stayed still when I placed her in her crib at bedtime was true bliss, knowing I wouldn’t have to repeat the whole procedure of putting her to bed.
My Baby's First Steps
Not only is it so exciting, but it is so fleeting. I went from being overjoyed at her independence to immediately being horrified that she was suddenly ambulatory. I want to relive this moment so I can sink into it a bit more. No sooner was I encouraging her to walk than I was discouraging her from running. I want to go back and repeat this milestone so I can milk it more for the joy it should have brought my partner and I, before we began fearing for her life every time she waddled away from us.
My Baby's First Swim "Lesson"
Both my kids loved their baths, which was a relief to me as a former lifeguard. I loved the water and I wanted them to love it, too. Bringing my 8-month-old daughter into the pool with me for the first time was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the water; she adored splashing and kicking and, nine years later, I have to drag her out of the pool when it’s time for her to dry off.
My Baby Falling Asleep On Me
This still happens with my kids, but they are 9 and 7 and it’s not very comfortable (at least, not for me). But when they were just weeks or months old, there was nothing more satisfying than having them fall asleep in my arms, usually at the end of a breastfeeding session. They were so at peace, feeling completely safe tucked into my squishy postpartum body, and I felt so calm, knowing how secure they were feeling. Though I spent many hours pinned under my kids in positions that made my arms fall asleep, I would love to return to those times when it seemed there was nothing I was meant to do more than hold them and feed them my love.
The First Time We Left The House As A Family
I never considered us a family until my husband and I had a child. Before the moment we became parents we were just “married.” But on the day of our first child’s first pediatrician appointment — when the three of us left the house, our newborn bundled in her stroller, the diaper bag secured to the handle, and our attention keenly trained on our baby as she experienced the streets of Queens for the first time — I was struck by an enormous wave of awe. I was a parent, and this was our child, and everything we thought we were before this point has changed. That feeling was scary, but it was also exhilarating. I could use a hit of that again, and again and again and again.