It sounds a bit like a Ronan Keating song, but being the parent of a baby is a rollercoaster and you’ve just got to ride it. One minute you can be basking in an oxytocin-filled glowy moment, holding them in your arms, their warm chubby cheek pressed against yours, and your heart swells. The next minute, you can have a screaming, red-faced baby who sends your stress levels soaring, and makes you Google “Can a baby actually die of crying?” (Don’t ever Google that – it’s not helpful in any way, but essentially NO your baby won’t die from crying).
There are days and weeks when it feels like those lovely glowy moments are few and far between, and your baby is just REALLY ANGRY ALL THE TIME. Times when your eyes sting from tiredness, your upper arms hurt from rocking your baby, your back aches in places you didn’t know could ache from all the bending over and your ears are ringing from the high-pitched screaming that is so often directed straight into them.
But stop. You’re not allowed to hate these moments. It’s not OK for you to wish they weren’t happening. Because you’ve got to Cherish Every Moment. You’ve got to ENJOY HAVING A BABY. Why? Because they’re cute, because they provide heart-melting moments, because you’re lucky to have been blessed with a child but mostly because the people telling you to cherish every moment have probably been there but forgotten exactly how hard it can be.
So I’m ‘calling BS’ (as they say) on feeling like we have to cherish every moment.
It’s OK to dislike parts of parenthood. I’ve never met, or heard of, anyone who hasn’t struggled in some small way. It’s possible to love being a parent, but to hate those moments. It doesn’t make you a bad mum or a bad dad. As the mum of an eight-year-old and newborn twins (when do babies stop being ‘newborn’ by the way? My twins are 13 weeks old… are they still newborns?), I have more ups and downs than an umbrella in April. I regularly flip flop between feeling totally on top of things, and crumbling into an emotional heap. Because it’s hard! How could it not be hard to care for a small baby (or two!) whose only way of communicating is by crying?
My twins are going through a phase right now where they scream between 8pm and 11pm every night. Is it a developmental leap? Are they suffering from colic? Or perhaps it’s the start of teething – after all, they’ve been drooling lots this week. Mr P and I find ourselves going round and round in circles, trying to work out what’s the cause (and it usually ends up with me concluding: “Babies just cry.”). It’s enough to drive you potty.
And knowing what’s wrong with them really isn’t much consolation – we still have to spend hours every night trying to soothe two very angry, screamy little things. Which is exhausting and horrible.
So I don’t cherish those moments, I’m afraid. Even though we spent years trying to have these babies, and experienced heartache thanks to secondary infertility and a failed IVF attempt. I still don’t cherish those moments. And more than that – I find myself wishing time away. If I can just get to when the weather is warmer, it will feel easier. If I can just get to the babies being six months old, it’ll feel easier. If I can just get to when they can walk and talk, it’ll feel easier (ha!). I’m not ashamed to admit this. I think a lot of people secretly wish time away, mentally aiming for days where the hard moments feel outweighed by the lovely glowy moments.
So when a well-meaning person passes me in the street, smiles and reminds me to cherish every moment, I feel like saying CHERISH THIS while making a rude gesture. Because it so often comes from people who have older kids and who are looking on at you through rose-tinted glasses. All they see is a chubby-cheeked baby and it fills them with nostalgia for snuggly cuddles with a delicious smelling, fuzzy haired, cooing cutie. They’ve forgotten about the hard bits. Which isn’t exactly their fault – time does this to us all – but here’s the thing… it can make you feel like crap. It can make you feel like you’re ungrateful. It can make you feel guilty for hating those hard moments.
But it’s really (REALLY) OK to be feeling that way. The good news is, it won’t feel this hard forever, it does get easier. Like Ronan says, you’ve just got to ride it.