The excitement level you achieve when your baby says their first words is on par with their first steps, first crawl, and their first fist bump. Perhaps it's because, like attempts to walk or crawl, we can see their efforts for months before they actually say a word, when syllables start to make their way into a baby’s repertoire. It's definitely because we all hold out hope that the word will be some variation of “mama.” Either way, there's no denying that the thoughts every new mom has when her baby says their first word, if she’s anything like me, are likely to be some variation of giddy excitement and foggy disbelief and, in the end, even a little sadness.
I, personally, required a repeat performance or confirmation by other witnesses who could confirm that, yes, what I thought happened had just happened. Kind of like when a UFO or a celebrity is spotted, and the more people who can corroborate the original statement, the better. When literally watch a human being grow and evolve and develop right before your exhausted eyes, it can be difficult to believe what you're seeing (or hearing).
So, if we were to take a close look at what a new mom experiences in those actual moments when she hears her baby talk, we’d essentially be embarking on a ten-second emotional roller coaster ride that’s full of twisty turns, high highs and even the slight (but understandable) low. Like you would on a roller coaster, you'll want to scream and cry and shout your excitement at the top of your lungs (unless the spoken word is, like, something terrible that you’ll never want to tell anyone, like "moist" or "girth" or "murder"). For everyone else, I suspect the emotional journey look something like this:
"Wait. Did I Just Hear What I Think I Heard?"
In between the gurgles and coos, were there actual syllables in there? I swear I heard something.
That was it! That was a word. Please call an ambulance or some kind of trained medical professional, immediately. I am barely holding on. My heart is going to burst. This is an emergency, people.
"My Baby Is A Genius"
I now must prepare myself for a lifetime of over-achievement and constant praise from well-meaning strangers. It's going to be tough, but I'm up for the challenge. I wonder if I'll be able to get an off-campus house at MIT when my kid inevitably attends.
"Where’s The Camera?"
How did parents do it before recent technological advancements? The 3,000 digital videos I have on my phone are among my most prized possessions.
"It Was 'Mama,' Right? We're Going With 'Mama.' My Baby Said 'Mama!' I Have Triumphed!"
Look, the kid better have said "mama." I'm the one that grew him and birthed him and breastfed him. Don't tell me he said "dada," because that's just unfair and ridiculous. You know what? He said "mama." That's what we're going for.
And really, it's no matter. I'm just glad the first word isn't "murder." That would make for an awkward conversation in my moms' group.
"Where’s The Plane? I Need To Skywrite This."
Skywriting is a completely normal reaction to a completely normal milestone reached at a completely normal age, right? Right, guys? Hello?
"OK, And Where’s The Fire Escape In This Building? I Want To Shout From The RoofTops."
You know, in case there's anyone out there in the neighborhood who doesn't see the skywriting. It's for them, not me.
"Do It Again, Please, Baby. One More Time."
Is that too much to ask? For you to just repeat one of your greatest achievements to date, on command? Seems fair.
"No, Seriously. Talk More."
I don’t ask for much, little man. Aside from endless snuggles, but still. That’s as much for you as it is for me. *cough*
"Where’s The Baby Book?"
I haven’t written in it like four months, but this I’m going to record. If nothing else, we can both be inspired by the fact that we’re using language on the same day.
"The Next Thing I Know, I’ll Be Dropping You Off At College..."
When that day comes (which will probably be in like a week, the way you're growing) I’ll probably still be talking about this beautiful moment as our self-driving car of the future takes us all to campus and tells us was President Michelle Obama has been up to.
"...So, Please, Baby. Slow Down. This Is Too Much, Too Fast. I Take It Back, Don't Talk Anymore."
Of course, these milestone moments always feel bitter sweet. Once the excitement wears off, you're acutely aware that your baby is growing up, which means they're going to need you less, which means you're going to be able to protect them less and less. Panic sets in, you don't want them to grow up at all and, well, there might be something of an existential crisis on the horizon.
"I Need More Space On My Phone To Record Everything You Ever Say, Forever And Ever"
This complicates things a little bit though, because it’s not like I can give up any of the other 3,000 videos I have of you.