Rush, rush… How to slow down and enjoy your baby’s first year
Remember when you were a kid, and the school term lasted an eternity, but the six weeks holiday flew by in the blink of an eye? Pregnancy and baby’s first year are like that.
Pregnancy lasts a million years, the last month goes on for several aeons and all you can think about is meeting your baby and bringing them home. Then when they do, life suddenly shifts into seventh gear.
Early days with your baby are a whirlwind. While you’re recovering from the shock of childbirth, you’re also dealing with floods of hormones and previously unencountered emotions. You’re sleep deprived, constantly on high alert. You literally don’t know what time of the day it is, let alone what day of the week.
Then before you know it, the first few weeks have passed and you realise with a shock that your newborn isn’t a newborn any more.
I’d like to say that this shocks you into slowing down and cherishing every moment, but it doesn’t. We all do the same thing. We spend the first year waiting for each milestone. Waiting for the first smile, the first chuckle. The first tooth. Weaning, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, babbling, standing. Each milestone is anxiously awaited because it reassures us that everything is ok, that our baby is healthy and “normal” and developing right on schedule.
It’s completely understandable. But at some point, probably once your baby is a couple of years old and you start thinking about maybe having a second, you begin to realise how much of your baby’s first year you have wished away, or forgotten, while you were busy keeping records and looking forward to the next stage. And you never get that time back.
So how do you prevent it? How do you force yourself to stop wishing time away? Here’s my top tips.
Have (or take) newborn photographs.
I’m sorry, bear with me. I promise this isn’t a sales pitch. But the reason I do what I do, is because newborn photos are so very important. However hard you try, you’ll forget the tine details of their first couple of weeks. Their impossibly tiny fingernails, the silky softness of their hair, the milk blister on their lips. Their skinny little legs and the hair on their arms and back. It all goes, and it goes so fast. Get it recorded. Even if you can’t spring for a professional shoot (it’s a luxury, I know) take as many photos as you can, of all of those little details.
Take a moment every day to capture a memory in your head.
It might be feeding, or just holding them. It needs to be a still moment, one of calm. Just you and your baby. Put down your phone, turn off the TV. Listen to them sucking, or breathing. Notice the weight of them in your arms, the way they smell. It’s a bit like a mindfulness mediation, this one: it involves focussing entirely on what you can feel and sense in that moment. Tell yourself you will remember it. This forces you to slow down, notice a moment, soak it in.
Take photographs of the moments.
This one isn’t about professional photographs. It’s about capturing the details of their changing table, their clothes, their buggy, their toys. Snapshots of bathtime, cuddles, feeding. It doesn’t matter what you look like in them, these ones aren’t for the walls. They’re for prompting memories. So many of the daily routines get forgotten simply because they’re so mundane. But a photograph serves to prompt memories – remember that rattle that they used to chew on? The top you loved them in? The smell of their bubble bath? The simple act of snapping a picture reminds you that even the smallest of details are important, that at some point you won’t need that changing table or that teething rattle. It reminds you to enjoy where you are now, knowing that things will soon have moved on.
Get in the photographs.
Again, it doesn’t really matter what you look like. Chances are, you’ll have on baggy sweatpants and a stained t-shirt and probably spit up milk in your hair. But it reminds you that you are there, through all of this feeding and changing and playing. It’s so easy to take photographs of everyone else with the baby, but hand the phone or camera to someone else and ask them to take some pictures of you too. This tells your brain that these moments are being recorded because they are fleeting – even when it feels like you will be changing nappies forever.
Don’t obsess about the milestones.
Company with other mums going through the same things as you, is invaluable. They become your support network. But they can also make you obsessed with looking forward to the next milestone. Baby groups become a silent race amongst mums towards sitting up, crawling, first words, first steps – as if ANY of those things are an indication of future genius. So your 11 month old isn’t standing yet? It doesn’t matter. Enjoy what they are doing. Enjoy them exploring the world at their own pace. Walking, talking, potty training – it’ll come when your baby is ready for it. How many 5 year old do you know who can’t walk, talk, or use a toilet? There’s no rush. (Of course, if you have medical concerns, speak to your GP or health visitor). But don’t fall into the competitive milestone trap. It only leads to you wishing time away.
Your baby’s first year is an incredible time of discovery and growth – there’s nothing else like it. And listen to the grannies who tell you to cherish every moment. It’s hard when you are knee deep in nappies and existing on three hours sleep a night – it really is. But remember to breathe. Everything passes, and much of it more quickly than you’d like. Take a moment every day, let it fill you up. Enjoy the journey!