By Rebecca Godlove, Pediatric Alliance — Chartiers/McMurray
As my new little boy’s due date fast approaches, I’m pulling out my older son’s discarded baby clothes and toys, and my mind is full of questions. How will Ronen react to the baby? Will he want to play too rough with him — or avoid him altogether?! What about the cats? What will they think of yet ANOTHER interloper in the house? I had failed to breastfeed my first child; what are my odds of succeeding this time? And, most importantly: how will I maintain my sanity while shopping at Target with a toddler and a newborn?! Granted, even with these mysteries looming over my head, I’m a little more relaxed this time around because I’m not a “new mom” anymore…or am I?
Any new-ish parent who’s spent any time at all on social media knows what a FTM is — a First-Time Mom. Unnecessarily apologetic posts read along the lines of “How often should by 2-week old be pooping? FTM, sorry!” and “I’m a FTM so please don’t judge, but how do I get my baby to take a bottle?”, etc. I posted my fair share of panicky newborn questions online, too*. Then, as my son got older, I realized something: We NEVER STOP being First-Time Moms. The newborn questions might be put behind us, but we always have new “firsts”. There will be our first time potty-training a child. The first time we get that kid on a bike or a skateboard (with a helmet, naturally). The first time trying an exotic food, like sushi or Pad Thai. The first day of school, the first date, the first driving lesson. Even with a second or third child, the firsts don’t stop. The first bath together. The first holiday as a complete family. The first time meeting the cousins. The first (ugh) fight over a toy! The firsts never end!
Some firsts are especially nerve-wracking because new parents can be so worried about a child being “on-track” developmentally. I remember that Ronen was just a bit delayed in language and very delayed with walking (he waited until almost 19 months, whereas in my baby book, my mother recorded me walking at 9 months). I had become panicked about his development and, for a few months at the end of 2015, I forgot to enjoy spending time with him and allowed my hours to be eaten up worrying how I had failed him, or what I could do to get him to walk, or wondering if his PT was making any difference at all. To my horror, just weeks later he was worming out of my cautious grip at the grocery store and toddling off to pat total strangers on the backside! And now, at nearly three, he is happily running and dancing, identifying all his colors, numbers, and letters, reciting Christmas carols (yes, still), and sight-reading his favorite books to me (and anyone else who will listen). He’s okay. I’m okay.
We forget sometimes that every child’s “first” also belongs to his or her parents and caregivers. With cell phones today, it’s so easy to capture every single first, but it’s equally easy, with all the information online — both true and false — to be consumed with comparing our children’s firsts to those of their peers. I’ve decided that this time around I’ll enjoy my child a bit more. I will trust that he will develop at his own pace, and I will continue to trust my instincts. And when those instincts do tell me that something’s not quite right, I will trust my doctors to help get my little guy to where he needs to be.
We’re eagerly counting down to May 24th!
*Always check with your pediatrician’s office before fishing for child-care answers on social media! While Facebook can be a great source of support and encouragement for parents, diagnoses and advice should come first from your child’s doctor, who knows him or her best.
***Read more wonderful essays by Rebecca Godlove on The PediaBlog here.