Here’s how new motherhood breaks down: you yield a small human from your body. This creature is completely dependent on you for comfort, nourishment, and the prevention of diaper rash. The wee thing gives you nothing in return, other than fierce crying fits and dirty diapers. You continue this way for weeks, and just when you think you can’t live another day caring for a person who doesn’t even make eye contact, that baby’s mouth cracks into a gigantic grin. If you don’t feel fireworks that first time your baby smiles, it's time to check your pulse.
I mean, that's what it was all for, right? That damn, magnificent, amazing, beautiful, other-worldly smile. All those exhausting weeks of adjusting to this new little roommate who was only wreaking havoc on your sleep schedules, your laundry volume, and your looks were leading up to this moment. When my firstborn gave me that first smile, I immediately forgot how any of these new motherhood responsibilities could possibly be eating away at my sanity. Her smile was the love I needed returned to me, finally. If I had been having second thoughts about my ability to be this little girl’s mom, they vanished the very second I saw her precious smile.
So other than relief, and a renewed sense of purpose as a mother, here are some other things I felt when my baby smiled for the first time:
That She Loves Me
In those first few weeks home with an infant, I never knew if I was doing anything right. When my daughter was sleeping, or just tucked contently in my arms, I was relieved but it wasn’t enough proof that I was doing a good job as a mom. That first smile changed all that. With that one toothless grin, my heart exploded and I instantly felt her love for me.
That She Understands Me
Though I had visitors, and my parents stopped by frequently during my maternity leave, I spent long stretches alone with the baby. So we’d “talk,” which meant that I would just narrate my thoughts and took her random grunts and coos as her contributions to our conversations. Once she started smiling, though, I felt like she was genuinely responding to me. I was as if she agreed with everything I was saying. What mom wouldn’t cherish that?
That She Never Wants Me To Stop Talking To Her…
Home alone for those 12 weeks of maternity leave, I wasn’t talking to myself, I was talking to my newborn, right? And her smiles, in response to my words, brought me a level of happiness I never knew I could want. So yeah, talking to my 6-week-old newborn daughter was my new favorite thing.
Once my baby started responding to my chatter, I couldn’t quit. Her smiles were like the drug I needed to ride the waves of exhaustion and insecurity that came with being a brand new mom. I wanted to see that smile all the time, so I talked to her all the time.
That I’m Hilarious
Is there a better judge of sense of humor than a 1 month old? I think not. She laughed at all my jokes. True, my delivery involved ridiculous voices that probably wouldn’t fly with the over 5 crowd, but she made me feel really good about myself when she cracked up at random phrases I’d blurt out.
That She’s My Best Friend
Though I wasn’t sure how she felt about me being her mom in those first few weeks home with my daughter, when she was 6 weeks old she gifted me with that initial smile and I instantly knew that we had a bond that would never break. I could almost feel the ever-lasting relationship between us take root. She was my new BFF.
That It Truly Does Get Better
One of the truest pieces of parenting advice a mom friend gave me was: something along the lines of, “It doesn’t get easier, but it does get better.” I am finding this to be so true after nine years (and counting) of motherhood. Finally, after weeks of taking care of a baby, who seemed indifferent to me as a caregiver, I got some positive feedback in the form of that first smile.
That She Maybe Has Gas
Just when I was feeling great about having a truly happy baby (“Look, she’s smiling!”), I realized maybe that grin was really a grimace as she was working through some gastrointestinal issues. However, I’m going to go on record that every smile of my baby’s that I witnessed was intentional, and in response to the joy my child felt at the sight of me.
That I’ll Have To Go Back To Work Soon
My firstborn smiled at six weeks, and at the exact midpoint of my maternity leave. When she hit that milestone, it was like the countdown clock suddenly started. Now that this newborn was finally engaging with me, I barely had any time left to enjoy her before returning to work. That first smile was bittersweet and, in the end, a symbol of how she was growing and taking shape as a person I had a huge hand (and uterus) in making, and the fact that I would be missing so much of it when I was at the office.