Just Get Through the First Year

You give birth to a perfect, squirmy little potato sack of sweetness. You smell their newborn scent and you pet their wispy newborn hair. For weeks you stare at their tiny, adorable features during the short time each day when you're not falling asleep with your eyes open because you've been up at all hours of the night. And then you're up all day feeding them, taking them to the doctor, changing their diaper, and changing their outfit after they spit up or pooped on the first one.

You're trying to find time to put on real clothes yourself, maybe have a meal that isn't from a box, and oh, by the way, the laundry basket is overflowing again. But halfway through putting the detergent in the washing machine the baby starts crying and you stop what you're doing only to realize six hours later that you never actually turned the washing machine on and you still have no idea what you're having for dinner because you haven't been to the grocery store in a week.

Your boobs are leaking and your neck hurts from nursing and then your partner comes home and they want to talk about their day or eat a meal that you don't have cooked and all you want to do is hand the baby over and be alone for one minute.

Just hang in there.

Maybe around four months in, your baby finally starts sleeping longer stretches — thankgodhallelujah — and you're starting to feel like you aren't a complete walking zombie even though four-hour increments do not a full night's sleep make. You're getting in a better feeding routine and your baby is becoming a bit more predictable, sort of. But nap time, which is apparently any time, is still a disaster.

So you spend most of your day either trying to get them to fall asleep or trying to get them to stay asleep when you aren't feeding them or changing their diaper. And they're starting to be awake a little more, so the time you used to spend with the TV on you now feel like you have to spend dangling toys in front of them (even though they really don't do anything at all and you wish they would just sleep on your chest).

Getting out of the house is getting easier and sometimes you even put makeup on first. But also the dishwasher needs to be emptied again and that dinner isn't going to make itself. Maybe you just went back to work and now you have to manage your baby's childcare schedule and also show up to work on time wearing something other than black stretch pants.

Even though you eat your whole lunch without interruption, you still spend half the day worrying about your baby.

Even though you eat your whole lunch without interruption, you still spend half the day worrying about your baby with their nanny/at their day care/with your mother-in-law and you rush out of the office to make it home just in time to soak up two precious hours with them before bedtime. And as you run past your partner to scoop your baby into your arms, you realize you've been putting them before your partner every minute since the minute they took their first breath and you kind of miss how you and your partner used to be together.

Just hang in there.

Things are getting smoother and your little one is getting more consistent, waking up only once or twice at night and finally getting those naps in during the day. Then their first tooth comes through and they are not happy about it and want you to know how much it pisses them off in the middle of the night (and also during the day). And they keep getting teeth that disrupt their sleep at about the same time that you start feeding them solids. So now you have to figure out what your baby is going to eat in addition to figuring out what you're going to eat and what everyone else in your house is going to eat. Every. Single. Day.

Now your baby is starting to move a little. Maybe sitting up, maybe rolling around. They require constant supervision because that one time you thought they were OK for those two minutes that you ran to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer you came back and they were face-down wedged between the coffee table and the couch. And you realize that now's the time you should probably baby-proof the house, so you put it on the to-do list under every single other thing that you need to get done but haven't had time for, including that much-needed date night and that maybe-even-more-needed girls' night.

Just hang in there.

Now your baby is finally getting fun. They're smiling and laughing and ohmygod so cute with their chubby cheeks and leg rolls. And dressing them in those cute outfits is totally worth it now because they don't blow out of every single diaper four times a day (even if they do get sweet potato stains on everything). They're starting to interact more and play with all those toys you've been waiting for them to be interested in for the last eight months. They're babbling and drooling because they're still getting teeth that keep them up at night even if it isn't as bad as it was a few months ago.

But now they're starting to crawl. They find the tiniest speck of dirt on the floor and your older child's rogue Lego under the couch and immediately shove them into their mouths when you're not looking and even when you are. They grab at everything, including the pile of laundry that you just folded and the power cord to your laptop that you left on the couch after you tried to send one last work email. They're eating more which means you are buying bananas every other day and ordering pouches in bulk off Amazon.

You're trying to figure out how to drop a feeding and replace it with a meal, but are you sure they're getting enough to eat or drinking enough liquid? You maybe dropped that afternoon bottle too quickly because they start waking up really early and it must be because they are hungry, right? Or maybe it's because they're only napping for 45 minutes at a time and you can't for the life of you get them to stay asleep longer. But at least that is the exact amount of time you need to watch one prerecorded episode of Real Housewives, even though you have so much you should be doing — including baby-proofing your house — during those precious minutes.

Just hang in there.

Finally, your baby is rounding the corner to their first birthday. Your baby is the most fun ever now. They crawl at lightning speed and hang onto your pant legs when they want to be picked up. They're starting to pull up on everything, which reminds you that you never bolted that dresser to the wall after you watched that one video of the twin toddlers that pulled the dresser down on top of themselves because their parents didn't bolt it to the wall. You spend too many hours trying to decipher what they're trying to tell you with their constant grunting and whining and pointing so you give in and just let them have a pacifier dangling from their mouths all day long.

They're getting sick of eating sweet potatoes every day, but you're too scared to give them other real foods because what if they choke?! So you keep giving them purees to save yourself the anxiety and because you have too many other things to stress about, like why haven't they taken their first step yet?

It was probably at the top of your to-do list, but you threw it out the window.

Maybe something is wrong, because your neighbor's 11-month-old already started walking around the coffee table, which reminds you, you never put those corner edge protector things on. It was probably at the top of your to-do list, but you threw it out the window when your baby started waking up screaming at night, more than usual, and you let them cry it out, thinking, "I've got to get this sleeping situation under control."

But then a week later you take them to the doctor and find out they've had a terrible ear infection this whole time and you think it must have happened because of the cold they had that probably came from that one kid at day care who always has the runny nose. You knew you should have kept them out longer but you had no choice because you had to go back to work. But your baby loves hanging out with the other babies at day care. It's so good for them.

You rationalize this with your partner, who you call after you find out about the ear infection, but they have to call you back because they're in the middle of something and you mean to talk to them about it later but you forget and fall asleep on the couch trying to finish watching Real Housewives and folding that pile of laundry.

Just hang in there.

Now your baby is the best ever except for when you're trying to put them in their car seat — that is when they are the worst. They're navigating around the coffee table with ease and toddling from one object to another, and when they don't face plant, it is so cute you have to take a video of it every single time.

You finally got them down to two feedings and they are all about solid foods now that they have enough teeth and you're not freaking out about giving them tiny pieces of bread or maybe even some scraps off your own plate. They probably wake up way too early most mornings, but at least they finally sleep through the night — unless they're sick — which means you get to sleep through the night sometimes, too, and have started seeing yourself in the mirror again instead of that horrendous, exhausted person who's been staring back at you for the last year. You wonder if your partner notices the change even though you can't remember the last time you had sex or spoke of anything other than the baby or the kids or the groceries or the schedule.

Just hang in there.

You finally get around to uploading a few pictures from their first birthday party to the photo stream and now your baby is getting closer to the age where you can't answer how old they are in month increments anymore because it would take too long to do the math. You're sitting on the couch for a minute, the laundry is cycling in the dryer, and your partner is bringing home dinner.

You've just returned from a 24-hour weekend getaway and you're feeling recharged and well-rested. Your to-do list is the shortest it's ever been even though you still have so much to do, but it doesn't feel like you're carrying the list around all day like a 20-pound dumbbell anymore. You've packed up the bottles and put away the drying rack that looks like grass and took up half your counter top, and sweet potato is only on the menu for dinner like once a week.

What's that feeling? It's like you can kind of breathe again, like you feel a little more like yourself again.

What's that feeling? It's like you can kind of breathe again, like you feel a little more like yourself again — like you aren't so confused and questioning and unsure of all the things because your baby isn't constantly changing from week to week, minute to minute, anymore. And you don't know when it happened, but you realize that sometime after that epic first birthday party that was your Pinterest board brought to life that it got a little easier.

The Amazon diaper delivery comes a little less frequently and you remember the last conversation you had with your partner that was about something other than logistics. Maybe you've even seen a movie and drank too much wine at girls' night. You've arrived, at the other side, into the light.

You made it through the first year.

You start to envision the adventurous vacations you'll be able to take in just a few short years because the kids will be the perfect age. And you know it's only a matter of weeks until your toddler's attention span is longer than 20 minutes and you'll be able to plop them in front of a movie so you can eat takeout and drink a whole glass of wine while actually sitting at the table with your partner, who you've remembered is actually pretty great even though they still can't read your mind.

And then you realize that if you want your kids to be close in age, you should really start thinking about having another one, but the idea of starting over nearly makes you want to faint, or cry, or both. But things are better, so much better, and it's just been 19 months or so. You don't remember why or when they stopped waking up at night, but you know it happened, and you can't verify the details of those feeding schedules because you've long since blocked that from your memory. And you think: just get through the first year.

The first year is the hardest, right?