When I became a mom to my first baby seven years ago, I felt frantic and anxious almost all of the time. Not only was I worried that I would inadvertently kill or damage him due to my inexperienced mothering, I was viscerally aware of the days slipping through my hands like quick sand. After all, every single older mother we encountered felt the need to tell me to “savor the moment," or a myriad of versions of the same adage.
“You’re going to miss this stage.”
“It goes by in a blink. Mine is 40 now. I haven’t seen him in a year. It feels like yesterday he was that small.”
“The days are long but the years are short…”
“My house is so quiet now... I even miss the sound of crying.”
“Oh gosh, he’s adorable! Mine are teenagers now, and they don’t even like me anymore. Enjoy him as a baby!!”
I was drowning in diapers, struggling to return from maternity leave, rarely cooking and showering even less, rushing from commitment to commitment, and failing miserably on all fronts in my mind. I enjoyed the baby cuddles and staring down at his gorgeous face as he slept, but there were so many moments I did not need to savor. I anxiously rushed time forward mentally. If he would just sleep. If he could just learn to sit up so he could play with some toys. If he could just eat food so I didn’t have to wash so may bottles. If it could be just a few more months in the future, I might fare a bit better.
This led to a guilt complex, as I wondered why I apparently did not savor things as much as other moms thought I should.
I hardly remember my twins as infants, and while that occasionally makes me sad, I am mostly relieved to be out of that season of life.
Less than two years later when our twins joined our family, I began to actually laugh in the face of the sage moms who told me to savor these moments. I had three kids in cloth diapers (because we also needed to pay our mortgage). I was covered in Exorcist-worthy cascades of reflux vomit, building my muscles by throwing a triple stroller into the back of my minivan, and had five early intervention therapists in my home weekly. I did not have time to savor. I was barely surviving, and I came to terms with the fact that it is okay to not savor every day. I hardly remember my twins as infants, and while that occasionally makes me sad, I am mostly relieved to be out of that season of life.
Why do we do this to young moms? Do our brains readily chuck aside the hard moments and leave us only with the warm-and-fuzzies so that the human race will continue to reproduce (lest we scare away the younger generation with our mothering horror stories)? Do we think that somehow by telling them to savor it we will lift them up above the quagmire that we ourselves got stuck in as young moms? Maybe if we would have “savored” it a little bit more we wouldn’t have needed all the wine and antidepressants?
Now, seven years after motherhood first knocked me off my feet, I have a newborn again. My three big kids are in elementary school all day, and I spend my hours bopping around our city with my tiniest little love. Due to my youthful good looks (hah!) most folks assume that she is my first baby, and the same admonishment begins. Savor these moments! She’s growing before your very eyes! Her cells are literally dividing and multiplying as we stand here...
Some days I smile and say, “Yes, yes I will.” Some days I actually tear up a bit because she is our last baby, and all of these firsts for her are our “last firsts.” Last first Christmas, last first bites of food, last first tooth.
But also, hallelujah!! A lot of these last firsts we don’t ever have to do again. Last gross belly button stump to fall off, last all-night-scream session to cut that tooth. The amount of hours scrubbing Dr. Brown’s bottles is slowing decreasing, though I have calculated that by the time she is weaned I will have scrubbed those stupid straws and valves for approximately one thousand years of my life.
So sometimes, if I am in the mood, when someone tells me to savor this moment, I smile and tell them that this baby is number four, that my heart is so full of baby smiles and cuddles that it could burst, and that while I will miss many parts of babyhood, there are a ton that I won’t miss. We don’t need to savor every damn thing.
Hey mama. I’ve been there... my big kids are 5, 5, and 7. You are in the thick of it right now. I barely survived, but I made it — and you will too.
This week as I cruised through the mall with my youngest, I encountered a mom pushing twin babies and a toddler. She was me, five years ago. I saw the tired eyes, the drag in her step, the venti coffee on the handlebars of her behemoth stroller. I caught her eye and smiled, and saw her visibly brace herself. I was either going to tell her that the days are long and the years are short, or I was going to make some ridiculous comment about the fact that she had grown two babies at once. I might even say “Wow, you have your hands full!” and then away without offering her an actual hand.
Instead I said, “Hey mama. I’ve been there... my big kids are 5, 5, and 7. You are in the thick of it right now. I barely survived, but I made it — and you will too.”
I told her how they are all in school now, how they feed themselves and clothe themselves and how I really enjoy them so much more now. I told her that while it isn’t necessarily easier now, it’s a different kind of hard that is more mentally manageable. I made sure not to tell her to savor these moments. It is okay if she wants to wish these days away, just a little. It is okay if she can’t wait to get her life to a spot where it is more manageable for her, too. It is okay if there is about 30 seconds of today that she savors and the rest she is glad to never have to live through again.
I don’t know why we as a society feel such a need to tell mothers to savor every moment, but I can tell you that when I took a few moments to tell a fellow mother that she didn’t need to savor anything, I saw relief wash over her face. She thanked me and continued on with her stroll, savoring nothing.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.