How Formula Feeding Made Me a Better Mom

This post is dedicated to all of the other fearless formula feeders, and the ones who aren’t fearless yet, and to every mom who has been humbled by the experience of becoming a parent.

 

I was a smug breast-feeding mom. Of course, that was before I had kids.

To be clear, I don’t think that most breast-feeding moms are smug. Most of my friends who breast-feed are super cool and don’t seem to have an opinion one way or another about how other people should feed their babies (or at least they don’t broadcast it). I was not one of those moms.

When I was pregnant, I was 100% sure that my baby would be breast-fed. I read all the pro-breast-feeding articles and bought into the statistics that there were only a miniscule number of women who truly couldn’t breast-feed. I nodded along in pre-natal class as the instructor drilled into our heads that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. I heard the stories about how much breast-feeding could hurt, and quickly dismissed them. Thrush, mastitis, sore nipples? There was a treatment for all of that. Moms who quit breast-feeding because of the pain just didn’t try hard enough. Moms who chose not to even try breast-feeing were simply uneducated. I looked down my nose at moms in the store buying formula, and felt proud of the relationship that I was about to have with my baby.

Then he was born. I’ve written before about difficulties I had while breast-feeding: the dread I would feel as I saw his open mouth come towards me, the moments that I almost passed out or vomited when he latched due to the excruciating pain. I pushed through those moments for weeks and then months until finally, my body made the choice for me. I had to switch to formula.

I felt totally defeated. I was a quitter. I had one task as a new mom: feeding my baby, and I had failed at it. I was a bad mom. All of a sudden, every decision that I made seemed to feed into my self-condemnation. My baby sleeping in his own room at 3 months old? Should be co-sleeping. Bad mom. Pushing my baby in a stroller? Should be baby-wearing. Bad mom. Not feeling bonded with my three-month-old? Should be overwhelmed with all-consuming love. Bad mom. The refrain echoed though my head all day, and into the night as I gave my baby his bottle, and then looked disgustedly at my body which had failed me and my baby.

Around that time I started looking online for support. The dizzying world of online parenting groups can be tricky to navigate for moms who are in a good place, but for a new mom in the throws of post-partum depression, it was the final straw. I was met with a flood of judgment. Some of it was outright: I was told that I was poisoning my baby by giving him formula, that I didn’t love my baby enough to do what was best for him, and that I was stupid for letting the formula companies manipulate me into buying something that my baby didn’t need. Some of the judgment was more subtle: the oh-so-often repeated chorus of “breast is best”; the sly digs “formula-feeding moms can’t bond with their babies the way breast-feeding moms can”; the inaccurately quoted statistics about formula-fed babies being obese or less intelligent or sickly.

I was mired in that community for a long time, with other people’s judgments feeding into my own self-doubt. Then I read the book “Bottled Up” by Suzanne Barston and found some supportive online communities, and things started to turn around. I realized that there were other women out there who, like me, wanted to breast-feed but couldn’t. There were some who didn’t want to breast feed at all for various reasons. There were all kinds of different moms making different decisions, and I saw the hurt and vulnerability that they were experiencing from being judged. Learning that I was not alone was more than liberating. It was cathartic. It was like a slow dawn out of my depression. I started to look at my son differently. He was doing okay, wasn’t he? He was happy and healthy, and most importantly, he was fed. Maybe I wasn’t such a bad mom after all.

Not being successful at breast-feeding knocked me down a peg or two. Or a hundred. It was the single most humbling experience of my life. It was the first time I had really tried and failed at something. And it taught me my first important lesson of motherhood: my expectations aren’t always going to match with reality.

I have come out the other side of that darkness with a much more flexible approach to parenting. I have an idea in my head about the type of mom that I want to be, but it’s far less rigid than it used to be. I know that who my son is will dictate a lot of my decisions. I’ve given myself permission to change my mind about how I raise him. I’ve let go of most of my pre-conceived ideas and take each decision one at a time. And if something doesn’t work, I don’t beat myself up about it. I just try something else. I’ve relaxed. A lot.

I look at other parents differently too. I used to think that I had an idea of the ideal parent. Now I know that each family defines their own ideal. It’s not my place to decide for them how they should raise their kids. I could look at another mom who raises her child differently than me and think, “She’s wrong”. Or I could have empathy for a fellow mom and appreciate that I don’t know her, her baby, or why she made that decision. I can realize that it’s ridiculous to judge a parent based on a handful of their choices or a few moments of observation.

It’s hard. Sometimes I see a mom making a choice that I wouldn’t, and I catch myself thinking, “I would never…” Then I remember that there was a time when I thought the same thing while looking at a can of formula. I remember myself as a pregnant mom, so adamantly opposed to formula that I refused to even have any in the house when my baby was born, and I remember the hot-faced shame that I felt having to make a midnight run for formula and bottles because my baby was hungry and I couldn’t feed him. I never say never. Things that I’m not doing today might be the answer for tomorrow’s problems.

Several months ago I discovered that my son has a severe lip tie. It makes breast-feeding incredibly difficult and painful. It doesn’t matter how hard I tried, it never would have gotten better. It may have been able to be fixed, if all of the experts that I consulted hadn’t missed it. But you know what? It’s okay. It’s taken me a long time to get to the place where I can say that it is truly okay. I’m sorry that my transition to motherhood wasn’t smoother, but I’m thankful for the experience. It’s helped me look at my value and worth as a mother as more than an equation. I’m more than the difference between what I’m doing “right” and what I’m doing “wrong”. My son is a beautiful and complex human being who is more than a function of what he was fed. I like to have faith that even if breast-feeding had worked for me, that I would have lost my smugness and judgment towards other moms, but I can say for sure that the experience I had made me more compassionate and forgiving towards myself, to others, and to my son. And that has made me a better mom.

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A Letter to My Pre-Mom Self

Dear Meagan,

Right now you are six months pregnant. I’m writing to you from a year in the future because there are some things that I wish my future self would have told me when I was in your shoes (or whatever you’re able to squeeze your feet into these days).

First of all, I want to let you know that your baby is healthy. I know that you’re worried when he doesn’t move around very much and you obsess over everything that could be wrong. Relax. He’s fine.

Please, try to enjoy these last few months of your pregnancy. Now that the morning sickness has eased up and you’re in the home stretch, you’re going to start feeling better and better until he’s born (oh yes, it is a “he” by the way). Enjoy all of the attention that you’re getting and how special everyone is making you feel. It won’t last forever. Right now you think you’ll go crazy if another person asks when you are due or how you’re feeling. In a year you’ll be so desperate for any kind of adult interaction that you’ll be striking up conversations with strangers in the grocery store.

It’s okay to marvel in feeling your little baby squirm around inside your tummy. I know that everyone is telling you that by the time he’s born you’ll be tired of it, but you won’t. And trust me, once he’s here you are going to miss that feeling so much. Being pregnant is amazing, and you’ll regret it if you don’t appreciate it because you’re afraid to stop worrying. So stop feeling guilty when you’re not obsessing, and start having fun!

Labour sucks. I know that you think that women might be exaggerating how much it hurts, but they’re not. It’s the worst pain you’ll ever know. That being said, it will be over before you know it and a few days later you will have almost completely forgotten the pain. It might be a good idea to prepare some techniques for dealing with it, though. I know that you’re self-sufficient and think you can just muddle through, but learning some breathing exercises or relaxation techniques will really help.

Once the baby is here, you will be in for the shock of your life. There is no way that I can prepare you, so I won’t even try. You’ve already been told a million times about the lack of sleep and crying and all of that. So I’ll just give you a few words of advice.

DO NOT worry about what anyone else says or thinks or how they believe you should raise your baby. Honestly, you care way too much about how other people perceive you and it will make for a difficult first few months with your son. There is no way that you will ever make everyone happy, so don’t even try. Just do your best. I know, I know, you’re thinking that they probably know more because they have experience and you don’t. Nope. Not true. You know your baby and they don’t, so just ignore them.

Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan. Right now, you think that women who decide not to breastfeed just aren’t trying hard enough. Well, I hate to tell you, but by six months your son is going to be exclusively formula fed. But you know what? He’s healthy and awesome! This single thing is going to cause you more stress during your son’s first year than anything else. Just don’t sweat it.

I would like to tell you to get your rest while you can, but how many times have you already been told that? Besides, it’s not like you can save up rest for when you’ll really need it. I think that pre-parent free time is something that can only be appreciated after your kids are here. So just do your own thing, take two naps a day, fool around on the computer, and enjoy being solo.

I’m really quite jealous of you because soon you will get to experience becoming a mom for the first time. You’ll hate feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing, but by the time your son is one you’ll look back on those first few weeks with such unbelievable nostalgia: moments like when you and C are huddled over the baby in the hospital, both trying to figure out how to put a diaper on your grey, scrawny, alien-looking baby; or having the nurse help you get him into the car seat; or how nervous you’ll be to give him his first bath. Enjoy your inexperience and the newness of everything. In a few months, you’ll have it all down to a science. God, I miss those early days. Enjoy them.

Being a mom will change your life, but in ways that you won’t know until it happens. You’ll have so much more patience and perspective and you will sweat the small stuff WAY less. These are all good things. But I know that you’ve already been told this many, many times before, and right now the last thing you want is yet another person giving you advice or telling you how it’s going to be.

I imagine that as you read this, you’re sitting in your office with your feet up on a chair and the fan on. Give your belly a little rub from me. The little boy who is growing in there is AMAZING. He’s unbelievably cute (even more than you can imagine), and smart, and sweet, and funny, and he’s going to make your life so much more complete than you think possible. I know that you’re probably rolling your eyes at the clichés, but it’s true, so cut me some slack. It’s me! (Or you).

Well, I guess I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing (stop Googling statistics on fetal viability. HE’S FINE). On your lunch break, run waddle across the street to Old Navy and pick up some pyjama pants. That’s going to be your mat leave wardrobe. Nice, right?

Before I go, I’ll leave you with my top three final pieces of advice:

  1. Relax
  2. Relax
  3. Relax

Everything is going to be okay. It will be amazing. You’ll see.

Love,

Meagan

PS-Oh, I almost forgot. Would you mind please getting an imprint or impression of his hands and feet when he’s born? I forgot to do it, and when he’s eight months old and you’re looking at newborn babies, it will be hard to believe he was ever that small.

The Big Question

P question

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you nursing?”

I’ve been asked that question more times and by more people than I can count. It usually comes right after, “How old is he?” and right before, “How does he sleep?” It’s not just people I’m acquainted with who want to know if I’m breastfeeding. Many random strangers also seem quite curious about how I’m feeding my baby. Here is a shortlist of people who have asked me if I nurse my son:

  • Most of my friends
  • Some of my coworkers
  • My son’s doctor
  • The cashier at the thrift store across the street from my house
  • Cashiers (plural) at the grocery store
  • The hairdresser that I went to one time
  • A staff member at my gym when I went in to cancel my membership
  • Strangers that we encounter on our walks

And this list is by no means exhaustive.

Some people have a legitimate reason to ask. For example, during my son’s two month checkup, the doctor noticed that his weight was a bit low. Naturally, she’d follow up by asking what he was eating. I get that. But when someone comes up to us on the street to comment on how cute he is, why do they need to know if he eats from a breast or a bottle?

When my son was very young and I was still struggling with the fact that I had to formula-feed him, I used to hate it when people asked. It came at me like an accusation and I felt like a little kid about to be punished as I stammered out a reply, “Uh, no..I mean, yeah, we did in the beginning. I guess he did for about three months, but it just didn’t work, so, uh, now I don’t…but he’s okay…” I tried so hard to justify how I fed him. Now, when people ask, I just offer a simple, “No.” I guess a more appropriate reply might be, “Why do you ask?” but I don’t want to make a big deal about it. I give them a quick answer and move on.

I find it kind of weird. It’s like when I was pregnant and people used to come up to me and touch my belly uninvited. Once you conceive a child, is your body now part of the common collective, free to touch and everyone’s business? Or maybe I’m just thinking about this too much.

Do people ask you how you feed your baby? Is it weird?

It’s Time to Get Used to It

There is a video making its way around social media. It’s entitled Embarrassed and it’s a spoken word poem by a woman named Hollie McNish. In it, she expresses her frustration with the stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public and how she’s tired of having to feed her infant daughter in dirty bathrooms just so that she doesn’t offend anyone.

I know that I can get up on my soapbox about how formula-feeding moms can be treated, but I’m not blind to the fact that breastfeeding moms have their own challenges. I’ve never been asked to leave a restaurant for feeding my baby. I’ve never chosen to feed him in a stinky bathroom because I didn’t want anyone to see him eating. When people see him drinking from a bottle at 8 months old, they aren’t compelled to ask me if he’s too old for it. If he’s still drinking from a bottle at two years old, I won’t have to worry that people will call me a pedophile.

It’s really time that we end the double standard of being bombarded by advertising images of half-naked women, yet getting puritanical over the tiny bit of flesh exposed when a woman feeds her baby.

If this is okay:

Bra model

Image courtesy of victoriassecret.com

Then this is okay:

Breastfeeding mom

Image courtesy of acutezmedia.com

Check out the video and share it with your mom friends. Because no one should feel compelled to give their baby a meal in a stinky public bathroom sitting on a cold toilet seat lid.

 

The Countdown is On…

Four months to go. Four months of my maternity leave is left. 118 days until I’m sitting in my office and my sweet baby boy is in the care of someone else.

I know that seems like a long time away, and I know that I’m incredibly lucky to live in a country where I’m able to spend a full year with my son. But to me, it’s not nearly long enough and my time at home with him is slipping away, day by day.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. And by thinking about it, I mean completely obsessing over it. I go through endless options in my head, trying to think of a way that I can put off going back to work for at least another year or two. With daycare coming in at a whopping $1100 per month, there is more than just emotional incentive for me to stay at home. It seems ridiculous that I will be spending my days aching to see my little boy, and paying someone half of my monthly pay cheque for the benefit of it.

With seemingly no other option, I try to think of the benefits of daycare. He’ll get to socialize with other children his own age, something that he rarely does hanging out at home with me all day. He’ll take part in a variety of enriching activities (I’m actually quite happy with where he’ll be going; they have a full calendar of pretty cool daily activities including dance, arts, different languages, and gardening). Our time together, although limited, will be so much more special.

But (no matter what, I always come up with a “but”) he won’t be with me all day. Someone else will be there for milestones like his first words and possibly his first steps. They’ll get to know him day in  day out. I’ll get him up in the morning and put him to bed at night, and the rest of the day he’ll be with someone else. The thought of it is heart wrenching.

I have so many questions that no one can answer. Will he hate it? Will he cry when I drop him off and when I pick him up? Will he start to forget about me? Will he no longer consider me his primary caretaker? Will we still know each other as well as we do now, and have the same bond? Will the daycare providers treat him with the same love and respect that I do?

I hate it. I hate that I have to hand him over to someone else and trust that they’ll care for him the way that I would (which no one ever will or could). I hate that I’m going to be sitting in my office for eight hours a day answering mindless questions and doing work that is completely inconsequential when I should be caring for my baby. I would do anything to not have to go back to work. But (!) even with the exorbitant cost of child care, we still can’t afford to exist on one income.

So, for now, I’ll count down the days and try not to think too much about what’s coming up at the end of October. Being sad all day now will just ruin the last months that I have at home with him. I know that lots of people place their kids in full-time daycare and it works out. I’m sure it will get easier as time goes on, and I’m sure it won’t be nearly as awful as I’m imagining. I just wish that there were some other way.

 

A Serious Case of the Grumps

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately, but I just feel so…blah. Kind of moody, kind of grumpy. Just constantly irked.

Things with Baby P. are getting a bit better, but it was still a rough week. There were a few days where he basically just cried from the moment he got up until the moment he went to bed. And then he woke himself up and cried some more. Sometimes when I hold him he seems happier, but then when I have to put him down he starts crying again. It’s really exhausting. I know now that he’s teething for sure. Poor little dude. I feel for him and I do everything I can to make him more comfortable, but the crying still grates on my nerves by the end of the week.

Blah! Party logo

Blah! Party logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My house is an absolute mess. There is baby stuff everywhere. I only managed to make dinner twice this week. I bought a bunch of cookbooks and was excited to get to try them out, but they’re just sitting unopened on my coffee table. I desperately, desperately want to start exercising but have no idea when to do it. By the time my partner comes home in the evening I am completely exhausted and ready for bed. My baby doesn’t really nap, so during the day doesn’t work, unless we go out for a walk or something (and the weather has been so crummy that hasn’t been possible for a while).

I look in the mirror and I just look…ugh. My eyes are puffy and red and my hair is in the same messy ponytail it was in two days ago. I’m wearing yoga pants and an Old Navy t-shirt, both covered in baby food and spit up. I’m weary and I don’t have the energy or motivation to do anything except for maybe go to bed and sleep for a week.

And then I hang out with my friends, other moms, and they just all seem like they have their shit together. They’re laughing and smiling and their babies are laughing and smiling and they seem to be having so much fun being a mom. It makes me feel like the worst mother in the world because my baby isn’t laughing and smiling, and I don’t know if it’s because of him or me. I look at people that I know who are pregnant, and they’re posting pictures of their sonogram and their cute little baby bumps and talking about how excited they are and how much they love their husbands and I just think, “Ugh. Go away.”

What is wrong with me? No one else seems to be struggling as much as I am, or at least they don’t show it as much as I do. I love my baby boy more than anything in the world but good God Almighty am I tired and grumpy. I just want to shut myself in my room and not talk to anyone until it passes. But I can’t, so I get up every day and try not to grump all over everyone I know. Am I the only one who feels this way?

5 Cheap Baby Dates (0-6 Months)

When you’re a new parent, especially when you’re staying at home to care for your infant, it can be pretty isolating. Before my maternity leave, I imagined a luxurious year of relaxing in my apartment, finally getting time to clean up and repaint, and enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with getting to stay at home. Ha ha ha…I know, right? I was so looking forward to not having to leave the house and deal with traffic, rude people, or the various annoyances that come along with taking public transit every day. What I discovered is that it didn’t take long for me to develop a serious case of cabin fever.

When I was working, my home was a comforting solace at the end of a hectic and stressful day. Once I stopped working, I quickly got pretty bored of staring at the same four walls day in and day out. All of a sudden, the most banal activities were exciting. A trip to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate? Woo hoo! Something different to do! Grocery shopping? Bring it on! Just get me out of this messy, cluttered, way-too-tiny apartment!

Of course, there are only so many times that you can think of an excuse to go to the grocery store. I’ve found some other places that I can go with my baby that get us both out of the house and keep him interested and occupied. Each of these things is either free or costs less than $10. So if you’re stuck at home, going out of your mind, and looking for something to do, why not try one of these out? You’ve got nothing to lose, except for a couple of hours confined inside the same walls that you were staring at yesterday.

English: Logo of Ikea.

English: Logo of Ikea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • IKEA – even pre-baby, I loved IKEA. Now it’s one of my favourite places to go with him during the day. It is very baby-friendly, with family parking spaces and nice wide aisles that accommodate strollers. There are lots of colourful things for babies to look at. The store itself is big, so if you take a trip through the showroom and then the marketplace, you can easily kill an hour and get some walking in at the same time. If you’re hungry, you can visit their cafeteria and grab some lunch for around $5. Judging from the number of other moms that I see pushing their strollers through there during the day, I’m not the only one who enjoys going here as a free baby date.
  • Shopping mall

    Shopping mall (Photo credit: pix.plz)

    The mall – chances are, there is some kind of shopping centre somewhere near where you live. For killing time, nothing beats plopping your baby in a stroller or carrier and taking a stroll through the mall. Again, they are usually family friendly with family wash rooms and lots of space for strollers. The malls in my city all offer free stroller walking classes for new parents. One of them also offers a free mom and baby Zumba class once a week. Check out the shopping centre near you to see if they offer something similar, or just organize a group of parents to get together and walk the mall together. If you live somewhere like me where it rains for most of the year, this is an especially good option.

  • The library – I was pleased to recently discover that most libraries offer free story-time for infants and toddlers. The one near me offers a half-hour program, three times a week for free! We sing songs and the librarians read a story or two and play with hand puppets. Babies six months and under might not really appreciate it, but at least it gets you both out of the house. My baby just liked looking around at the other kids and hearing me sing to him. Anything that is free, gets me out of the house, and keeps my baby occupied and happy for half an hour is worth it.
  • Outside – One of the easiest ways to get out of the house is just to literally get out of the house. Even if I don’t particularly feel like going anywhere, putting my baby in his stroller and taking a walk around my neighbourhood is often enough to perk me up and make me feel less stir-crazy. There is something about fresh air that my baby likes as well, so if he’s especially whiny or bored, a walk around the block will usually distract him and make him happy. I have lots of hills near where I live, so as an added bonus I get some exercise in too!
  • Mom and baby drop-ins – I have to admit, I haven’t fully taken advantage of drop-in programs, but there are a ton of them. Most of them are geared towards new parents, and are offered a rate of $1-2 per session. Some of them are just social, some offer guest speakers on subjects like daycare and car seat safety, and some of them are more structured learning. I’ve been kind of nervous to go to one of these on my own, but I figure that if I go and hate it, I’ve only wasted an afternoon. Google “mom and baby drop-in” and see what’s available in your area. Like me, you might be surprised at how many there are!

These are the ways that I’ve been keeping busy during my baby’s first half year of life. New parents, what do you do to keep you and your baby occupied during the day?

5 Ways That I Feel Like Less of a Mom

I don’t know why, but eight months into this parenting adventure I still hesitate to call myself a mom. I clearly am one, but I feel like I haven’t earned the right to use that label yet. For some reason I have this idea in my head that our “momness” can be evaluated on a scale, and I just don’t measure up. It makes absolutely no sense, but here are some of the reasons why.

I feel like less of a mom…

London, England Caesearian Surgery, obstetrici...

London, England Caesearian Surgery, obstetricians at work. This is an edit of the original image, reducing colour and luminosity noise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…because I had a c-section. It was an emergency section and probably saved my baby’s life, but I still feel like I cheated. I feel like moms who give birth vaginally, and especially naturally, really earn their stripes. I can’t even count the number of women who tell me that they wish they would have had a c-section, as if it were the easy way out. Maybe that’s why I feel this way. I know that undergoing major surgery wasn’t easy, physically or emotionally, but it still makes me feel like less of a mom.

…because I only have one baby. I know that most moms only start out with one, but I feel like I have no right to complain about being tired or busy with only one baby. My mom had twins when I was 18 months old. Now she can probably tell you about being tired and busy. I feel like an amateur compared to moms with two or three or more kids.

…because my baby is so young. I barely know anything about being a mom. My baby’s needs right now are fairly basic. He’s not even mobile. I haven’t yet entered the arenas of tantrums and schoolwork and adolescence. Moms who have been through all that can really see the big picture and know what it truly means to be a parent.

…because I’m going back to work. Out of financial necessity, when my baby is one year old I will be returning to work and he will be in daycare. I’ve heard people ask why someone would have kids if they’re just going to have someone else raise them. I hate to say it, but I don’t totally disagree with that statement. My son’s daycare provider is going to be there for his first steps, his first words, and all sorts of other firsts. I’m going to miss out on so much. It makes me feel like a crappy mom.

…because I’m not breast-feeding. I feel like I’ve beaten this subject to death, so I won’t get into great detail again, but I envy moms who can breast-feed their kids. I feel like they have a connection with their babies that I’ll never have. It makes me feel like less of a woman and definitely less of a mom.

I know that I’m new to motherhood and that obviously I don’t have the experience and perspective that seasoned moms have. I know that it’s not a competition and that I have no one that I need to measure up to, but sometimes it feels that way. I think that I just need to accept myself and my limitations, be thankful for what I do have, and not be afraid to call myself a mom.

Time

equation of time in minutes for sundials: - = ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I’ve become a mom, my relationship with time has changed. The world used to be so orderly. Minutes were minutes, months were months. I didn’t wish for time to go by more quickly or more slowly, I just existed and progressed through life in a linear fashion.

From the moment that I found out that I was pregnant, I have been so much more conscious of time. Having lost my first pregnancy, I was über-aware of how far along in my second pregnancy I was at any given moment. I was so worried about losing the baby that I prayed for time to speed up, to rush me to my due date so that I could meet my baby. Those nine months felt like years.

Once my baby arrived, my sense of order disappeared. There were no more days or nights. There were no week days or weekends. There was just a whole year of maternity leave stretched out ahead of me, where every day was exactly the same. Days started to seem like they lasted forever. I would wake up every morning, completely unsure about how I was going to keep my baby happy for a full day. I would muddle through the days, watching the clock, waiting for 5:00 pm when my partner would come home. I would anxiously wait for milestones to arrive: my baby’s first smile, his first laugh, sitting up for the first time. Day by day, it would seem like nothing ever changed. But then I would look at him and he would look so grown up, and I would wonder when that happened.

When he turned six months old, all of a sudden I stopped wishing the time away. I wasn’t in a hurry for him to reach the next stage. I was half way through my maternity leave and facing the reality that I would have to return to work and leave my baby with someone else during the day. Every minute was suddenly precious. Every new skill that he learned was evidence that I was closer to the end of my leave. With every giggle and cuddle I was reminded that pretty soon it would be someone else comforting him and making him laugh. I wanted him and time to slow down. I wanted more time with my baby.

He’s now almost eight months old and changing every day. He’s turning into such a little person. He makes jokes and has definite likes and dislikes. He loves me and his dad and is wary of strangers, and is starting to eat real food. Every day, he’s turning into more of a little boy and less of a baby. And I still have a complicated relationship with time.

There are things that I can’t wait for. It will be nice when he can talk so that he can communicate to us what he wants. It will be fun when he can walk so that we can play outside and he can help me dig in my garden. But I also know that once these baby days are gone, they’ll be gone forever. I’ll never have another year of dedicated time where it’s just me and him every day. I won’t always be able to protect him by keeping him close to me all the time. He’s going to have to go out into the world and he’ll get hurt and there’s nothing that I can do about it.

So I try to live in each moment. When he wakes up at night and needs me to cuddle him back to sleep, I try not to get annoyed. One day that will end, and I’ll remember the sweet moments as I rocked him in the corner of his room and he tried to put his pacifier in my mouth. I no longer wait anxiously for his dad to get home from work. I keep us busy during the day, trying to do as much as we can while I’m still at home.

It’s hard not to wish for time to speed up or slow down when you have kids. Each stage of their development comes with things that you wish would last forever, and things that you can’t wait to end. But I know now that even the things that I thought I hated, I look back on fondly. The sleepless nights, so unbearable when he was a newborn, now make me nostalgic for late night cuddle sessions where he would rest his head on my shoulder and it was just me and him in the dark, quiet world. Where I was once so anxious to get rid of his big, bulky baby equipment, now that I’m faced with having to part with it, it makes me sad. I know that once he starts talking, I’ll miss his babbling gibberish and the days when I could say “ba ba ba ba” and make him laugh.

When you’re a parent, time is distorted and perceptions change as the weeks and months fly by. What has your relationship been like with time?