The other day I was driving home after picking Nellie up from daycare and she was sitting quietly in her car seat looking at the toy on the handlebar and I thought to myself, “Holy shit we’ve come a long way.” Only a handful of weeks earlier every single time Nellie was in her car seat she screamed like it was on fire. Suddenly I was thinking about all the a few weeks agos…
A few weeks ago bedtime was a battle. A few weeks ago I would flinch when she woke from her nap because I knew that her hour of awake time before her next nap she was going to be mad at me every 15 minutes for not giving her something more interesting to look at. A few weeks ago… everything was different. And a few weeks from now… everything will be even more different than it is today.
The 4th trimester is over, and it wasn’t all that fun for us. Let’s be honest.
The first month of Nellie’s life she just screamed at us if she wasn’t sleeping or eating. The second month she screamed less, but she definitely still hated most things (being put to sleep, Adam, baby contraptions, her car seat, her stroller, basically anything that wasn’t my arms). The third month she hated some of these things a little less, but basically still was generally a fuss-face and made us work for our non screaming moments. Now that she’s 4 months old I keep having these moments where I do something and have this flashback to when that same experience/process/task was really hard with her and think, I blinked and this isn’t an issue anymore.
This isn’t much of a realization, I know. Babies get easier as they get older! IMAGINE THAT! And yet it keeps hitting me over and over and over.
There was a while there where bedtime was terrible. I’d rock and rock and rock and rock and think she was asleep finally. I’d place her in her crib as gently as I possibly could and BAM. Her eyes were open looking at me with disdain. HOW DARE YOU TRY TO PUT ME DOWN! I’d pick her up and start again. Sometimes the tries over and over, alone in her dark nursery would begin to get to me and I’d find myself angry with her. Tense and frustrated just wishing this kid would let me put her down already. I’d text my friends while I rocked in the dark about how upset I was with myself for not having more patience with her. I’d cry to Adam about how I wasn’t fit to be a mom if I couldn’t even power through a difficult bedtime.
And then, I’d have to do it all over the next night.
But then the other night I fed Nellie in her nursery as I always do, moved her sleeping body into her bed and simply walked out of the room. No more 40 tries. No more having to set a timer for 5 minutes after putting her down to be there when she woke herself up and required another round of rocking and shushing. No more dread.
Everything had changed and I hadn’t even noticed.
So much of parenthood lately has been hitting me like this. The realization of how much she’s grown, how much things have changed and how much easier life has become overnight.
I remember texting every mom I knew when she was about three months old asking them when dear god could I give this kid a 7:00 pm bedtime? And then one day, I looked up and realized she had a 7:00 pm bedtime. Suddenly we’re those parent’s who’s kid is asleep by 7:30 and we’re sitting on the couch watching tv with a drink in hand, catching up on our day. It happened. It actually happened just like they said it would. It’s so small, and yet, so very big.
It’s so basic but they just keep coming. We got in the car to run errands last weekend and I realized Nellie no longer needed her car seat vibration/white noise machine to keep her from screaming. MIND BLOWN.
After a nap Nellie played on her play mat and talked with herself joyfully for 30 some odd minutes. She didn’t get bored after 5 minutes. She didn’t require someone to be in her face 24/7 as she lay there, and I watched as she made contact with her different toys deliberately. SAY WHAT????
I drove to Chicago and instead of turning the radio up to full blast while Nellie screamed bloody murder till she passed out she just sat in her seat and played with her toys quietly until she decided she was tired and quietly fell asleep. EXCUSE ME, WHO IS THIS KID?
She can follow us with her eyes and head now as you walk across the room. She sees Oly and smiles. DOG! Will allow Adam to put her down for a nap (you do not understand how huge this one is). Reaches out to touch Adam’s tattoo. Laughs when you blow on her belly or kiss on her neck. Focuses as we read a book. Reaching out to touch the pages. Can touch her feet to the bottom of her activity center and scans the items in front of her, reaching out to touch the different items. Experiments with her voice, constantly. She smiles and laughs and holds her head up like a champ and is generally a delight to be around.
Overnight she became this kick ass little person who’s overflowing with personality that I generally enjoy being around. Sure being a parent is still exhausting and there are things I worry about (is she napping enough at daycare, eating enough, will the 4 month sleep regression turn our lives upside down), but overall we’re living this completely different world than the one we were in even just a handful of weeks ago.
In my darkest moments I tried to hold onto the little things and hope for the future. I envisioned the summer when she was older, when things were easier, when the weather was warmer and parenthood would look less like survival and more like the visions I’d had in my head.
And overnight it happened. Summer is almost here and this kid of mine is a delight and wonderful and I can’t wait for baby bathing suits and sitting in the shade under a tree and warm night walks and sitting up and our first trip to the zoo and more baby babbles and all the awesomeness that is still ahead.
Bye-bye fourth trimester. You will not be missed.