This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.
When Mihee asked me to contribute to her motherhood mantras series I had to give the topic a lot of thought. Do I have a mantra? Are there things that I say to myself that help me to get through the day? Do I need help getting through the day? Not really. My days are pretty spectacular. There is a warm baby velcroed to my side who thinks I’m the funniest person he’s ever met. And he’s all mine. And he smells delicious. And even if we don’t make it out of our pajamas and I forget to brush my teeth until noon my days are still pretty amazing.
Mantras, mantras, mantras. My mind has the word on repeat so long that eventually mantra becomes my mantra. Which makes absolutely no sense at all. Naptime is over and I hear my baby cry out for me. I smile. Eight months later and I am still reveling in those cries. I can still close my eyes and remember the terror when the cry didn’t come. The sound of the ticking clock (which was entirely in my head because there was likely no ticking clock in that room and if there was I would have never heard it over the doctors and nurses and NICU team and beeping machines), the cold grip of my wife’s hand on mine, the gray coloured baby. And then finally, finally, the cry of a newborn with a working heart and working lungs. The soulful melody from Adele’s lips would sound like nails on chalkboard in comparison to the sound of his shrieks. And as a result, I am always grateful for the sound.
But always grateful for the sound isn’t exactly a mantra either. It’s a feeling. Can a feeling be a mantra? Can I write some poetic piece about the inability of words to paint the picture of a mother’s heart? And suddenly I am remembering my friend’s ex-girlfriend. The one who liked to talk to the moon and practice interpretive dance by star-light. The girl who once said, with her eyes half closed as her body swayed back and forth, that she didn’t think in words because words couldn’t express the emotion of a musical note. So, I like, think in music, man, because it’s the only true expression. I thought that girl was so weird. But now I’m so high on the scent of my baby that she’s starting to make sense. And that worries me. So I scratch the idea of writing about a mantra being a feeling (except that I just did write about it didn’t I?).
And then I’m driving the long stretch of road as highway 17 meanders from Eastern Ontario, heading West but turning to the North. The only radio station my car can find is a country station and I don’t really mind because country songs have stories and I’m bored of my own thoughts. A song by Trace Adkins begins. A mother tells her teenage daughter to slow down and enjoy her youth. The father of a bride reminds his daughter to cherish the honeymoon period before the business of babies and mortgage payments. And then a busy mom with screaming children starts to apologize to a plumber fixing her sink. And he brushes off her apologies by telling her of his own grown babies and how one day she will miss this.
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this.
The tears start to flow and I know that this country singer (or whoever writes his music) has just put words to my mantra. This is exactly how I have lived motherhood from the first day of my son’s life. Making him was no easy feat. It required online ads and plane rides and sperm in artichoke jars. And once he arrived I was determined to enjoy him. Which doesn’t mean that I enjoy every moment (I don’t) or that I am zen and living in the moment at all times (I’m not). But I am conscious of the fact that this time is relatively short and that there will come a day when I miss this.
For the first several months of my son’s life he only napped on my chest (in a carrier or while we rocked). People seemed shocked by this. You HAVE to get him into the crib! He’ll never learn to sleep on his own! How do you get anything done!? But what they didn’t understand was that I was getting something done. Head to chest, and heart to heart, my baby and I were communicating. He was telling me that he loved me, that he needed me. I was telling him that I loved him, that I needed him. And I was breathing in the scent from the top of his head which fed my soul in ways I could never articulate (even if I was explaining it in music instead of English!).
But all the while I knew that it would come to an end. I knew that one day he would struggle to develop his own independence, that he would eventually prefer a soft bed to his Mama’s hard collarbone. So I walked and I rocked and I fell more and more in love.
Of course, I didn’t enjoy every single moment. Sometimes I forgot to eat before getting stuck under him and listened to my belly growl as he snored away. Other times I wished for just a few minutes alone so I could take a quiet bath. But for at least five minutes of every nap I snuggled him close, his warm body warming the deepest parts of my heart, and I remembered that soon I would miss this.
And I do. My baby now naps on his own, and while I can enjoy the freedom of bathing alone and drinking hot coffee, I sometimes find myself rocking him in the hopes that he’ll rest his head on my shoulder and visit dreamland with me just one more time.
The “you’re gonna miss this” mantra isn’t about the unrealistic expectation that you should enjoy every.single.moment of parenthood because it’s going to fly by too quickly. It isn’t about remaining grateful for every precious moment, for every cry or every dirty diaper. It’s about remembering that this time is fleeting and letting yourself enjoy the moments that make you happy while they are here. Sometimes we have to rush. Sometimes the house needs to be cleaned and bills need to be paid and we can’t just stop and smell the baby skin. And then sometimes there are moments that can be savored. Moments that can form memories that become etched onto our hearts with the clarity of a high resolution photograph.
Today I traded in a tub filled with perfumed bubbles and scalding hot water for a soak in a moderately cool, baby-eye-friendly bubble bath with my son. And I enjoyed every moment of it. Because I know I’m gonna miss this.
Kristin Ireland is an incredible person (Mihee’s words). She writes: “My story is just your typical Canadian girl meets girl, girl marries girl, girls want baby, girls meet gay man from NYC on internet to have baby with, love at first email, gay fairytale for the digital age, kinda story. You know – that old tale.” You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.