If you’re waiting on your babe to arrive, I know you might be a little anxious about what’s to come. Newborns are hard, right? They’re tiny and totally dependent on you, and if this is your first, you likely have no clue what you’re doing. It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure. But I have some good news: You’re embarking on the very best phase of parenthood. Seriously. Yes, you’ll be tired, but you’ll be so enamored with your wee one that it really won’t matter. These next few months will be ones you’ll probably look back on fondly. They’ll be filled with snuggles and kisses and whispered one- sided conversations at midnight.
However, there’s a flip side to every situation. As joyous as this beginning stage is, I’m reminded every time I bring a newborn home from the hospital to live in my house and suckle from my breast that they can be … challenging. Although it’s a sweet time, let’s look at it objectively: Emotions are high, everyone is learning new skills and getting to know each other, and only one of you is really making an effort. (Or two of you, if you count your partner. Chances are your baby isn’t working up a sweat helping you out.) That sweet, precious little infant you gave life to is basically screaming while you dance like a monkey in a shoddy circus act, trying one trick after another until something sticks. Predictably, there is little applause.
Is it possible for a stage to be both the best and the worst? I think so. And here’s why …
Babies are the best because …
They can’t talk
Take it from someone who has parented through infancy, toddlerhood, the tween years and beyond: This is a good thing. A baby can’t say “no” or ask “why” 800 times a day. She can’t whine or tell you all the things you’re doing wrong. When she cries, it’s because she needs something—not because she’s trying to manipulate you. (Speaking of crying: The wails are much less annoying and ear-shattering at 3 weeks than they are at 3 years.) Enjoy this quiet time. It won’t last forever. You’ll be dodging smart comments and endless questions in no time.
Don’t undervalue this incredibly wonderful part of early parenthood: Prior to your baby learning to move on her own, you can put her in her crib, walk away momentarily and come back to find her in the same spot. It’s magical. She can’t run, or hide, or write on the wall with your favorite lipstick while you think she’s sleeping. When you come back from completing a chore or taking a shower, she will be right where you left her. Treasure this, moms. I can’t overstate its value.
They’re easy to please
At this point, your infant is happy when you meet her needs. She’s not asking for much: a clean diaper, a full belly, a snug swaddle, and she’s content. (Moms of colicky babies, I hear you, and I’m sorry. I know this isn’t the case for you.) To put it simply, babies don’t really have opinions yet. They can’t whine for another viewing of Frozen or beg you to pretend to be a cat. If you’re meeting their basic needs, they’re happy. And that makes you happy, so we’re winning all around.
They aren’t that messy
I’m not talking about the diaper situation —I know that’s a mess. But in bigger terms, your home is still your home, just with a few pieces of baby gear in the mix. It isn’t yet flooded with the echoes of clanging and banging, tinny music or animal sounds. You aren’t constantly tripping on toys. You get to watch what you want on TV without worrying about your kid catching some unseemly content (she has no clue what’s going on, thank goodness), or you can just opt for total peace and quiet if you’d prefer. Having a baby changes your life, but in the beginning you still recognize your life as your own. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but in hindsight, I should’ve enjoyed that marvelous period a little more.
Everything they do is amazing
Every stretch is awe-inspiring. Dreamy grins bring you to tears. Heck, the simple rise and fall of her chest will captivate you for minutes on end. (We have to be realistic here; there’s a lot of laundry to be done, so “hours on end” isn’t likely.) Truthfully, that amazement will never change. You’ll gaze at your adult children with the same wonder, I’m sure. But it’s a whole lot easier to soak them in when they’re newborns, when they’re quiet and still and don’t much care that you’re staring at them with tears in your eyes. No judgment from the small set. Gaze now, while you can.
Their “firsts” are so exciting
Rolling over, clapping her hands together, tasting avocado … it’s wonderful to witness so many inaugural acts. Watch- ing your baby take that first step is so emotional. Watching the same kid skid across the pavement moments after peddling away from you on her bicycle for the first time? Less enjoyable. We won’t even get into future firsts that will likely make your skin crawl. (Also of note: The first time your baby yells for fun, you’ll probably laugh. It’s so cute! How did she learn to do that? Yeah, it gets old. Sorry to burst your bubble.)
They want to be happy
Babies haven’t yet figured out that unhappiness might work in their favor. A toddler will sob until she gets her way; a preschooler will whine when you say “no;” an adolescent will ignore you, glare at you and make you want to cry in a corner. But babies? You can just smile at them, and they’ll smile back. Their joy cannot be contained. It’s the best.
Babies are the worst because …
They can’t talk
Yes, you saw this on the best list, too, but there’s a reason: It’s a double-edged sword, this nonverbal thing. Not being able to talk means that your infant can’t communicate her needs—at all. You get no suggestions or feedback. It’s so much easier when your child can just tell you that she wants a snack, or that her sock doesn’t feel right on her foot, or that her brother is breathing too loudly for her liking. (OK, maybe you’d rather not hear that.) But when your wee one can let you know how she’s feeling and what she needs, it can bring great relief. It’s a toss-up: You might not like what she has to say, but at least she can say it. Right?
This factor also made both lists because while it’s great that babies stay in the same place when you put them down, it has a drawback: Babies literally can’t do anything for themselves. You are on duty around the clock. As kids get older, they get a lot handier to have around. If you remember on the way out the door that you forgot to stock the diaper bag with fresh wipes, your 4-year-old will be more than happy to run upstairs and grab a handful for you. Your 2-year-old might drive you crazy following you around the house and talking your head off all day, but at least she’s bringing her problems to you instead of the other way around. When it’s just you and baby, all the foot- work is on you. You’ll be getting in those Fitbit steps the first few months for sure.
They get boring
You know how babies don’t need much other than milk, mama and a clean diaper? That can get kind of old. After you’ve marveled at the wonder of her existence for a few days, you start to think, Now what? Sure, you can read to baby and begin teaching her the names of people and items—and you should—but it’ll be a while before you get any reaction. You’ve delved into a very one-sided relationship here. If you get tired of the sound of your own voice, don’t sweat it. Baby will add hers to the mix soon enough.
They can be finicky
Sometimes babies are downright hard to get along with. What worked for the first one won’t necessarily work for the next addition to your family, so we moms are always on our toes. The best parenting advice I ever received: Don’t get too confident because that tot will put you in your place. Even if your kiddo miraculously sleeps through the night in month two, consider what might be just around the bend. Is it possible that you’re some kind of baby sleep master? Sure. But it could also be that you were blessed with a good sleeper. You’ll find out when baby’s siblings arrive. Best wishes.
They grow so fast
Seriously, why can’t they stay little forever? The tiny toes, the gentle coos, the milky smiles … it’s heaven on earth. And it flies by way too quickly. In the blink of an eye, your tiny little gal will transform from a defiant toddler to a cheerful youngster to a defiant teenager. (Full circle there.) It’s so amazing to see your kids grow—but kissing the baby stage goodbye is hard. So, eat it up, mamas. As they say, the best is yet to come.