We celebrated Sprout’s half-year birthday on Monday. If one minute with your hand on a hot stove feels an hour and an hour with an attractive person feels like a minute, then six months with an infant breaks the space-time continuum. The time before he was born feels like a different person’s life. These past six months really have been a whole life – his life so far – packed into a small slice of time.
Some people say that a child’s babyhood flies for the parent. Perhaps I’ll feel that way in the future, but now every day is so densely packed with experiences and emotions that it seems longer than it is.
I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. I had zero experience with newborns and little with babies before Sprout was born. Worrying about exams in graduate school is nothing compared to the potential for screwing up a tiny life. Also, learning-by-doing isn’t my forte. While I read stacks of parenting tomes beforehand, nothing teaches you the rhythms of your child like hands-on experience. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong, so I had to listen, experiment, and sometimes struggle. Chris and I shared stories, tips, and observations, building a better partnership than even before. But until recently, I didn’t realize how much confidence I’d gained. The other day, I picked How To Rock Your Baby off of our bookshelf, just to see if there was anything in their list of simple tips I had forgotten. Except for a couple of craft ideas, I kept thinking, “Nope, I know how to do that,” in response to every chapter.
In these past months, I’ve also cycled through so many intense emotions. Pain and joy and fear during the birth. After bringing him home, there was uncertainty if he was eating enough, fear of bumping his head, terror at the thought of health problems, exhaustion in the middle of the night, desperation at his constant crying, adoration when I watched him sleep, and amazement when I considered his very existence. I’ve never felt so many conflicting feelings, piling up like so many stacks of baby clothes threatening to topple over. Before, I could go through entire days with little change in my emotional state. Now, I may cycle through several before I even step out the door.
My schedule has gone through a complete upheaval too. I stayed home for the first three months of Sprout’s life. Full-time child care and housework is the opposite of my “regular” job, which involves a lot of meetings and writing on a computer. Then, when I went back to work, Chris quit his fine dining job. When you’ve hardly seen your husband on weekday nights for the past few years, it’s a welcome change to have him home. While most people spend less time with their spouse when a baby comes, I fortunately ended up with much more.
And of course, Sprout himself has gone through huge changes in his first six months. He started as a fragile, squirming little being who either cried or watched passively. Now, he’s a sturdy, even squirmier little person who has his own personality and preferences. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching him develop facial expressions and abilities in the past three months. As newborns don’t smile, it was so fulfilling to watch him learn to smile hesitantly at first and then whole-heartedly. It was even wonderful watching him learn to frown. When he’s displeased, he turns down his entire mouth in a cartoon half-O. Around the same time, he started babbling, making a variety of grunts, coos, whines, and gibberish. He also started laughing, a high-pitched, burbly giggle. In contrast to our initial interaction that was limited to “crying” or “not crying,” we started being able to truly engage with him.
Over the highs and lows of the last months, my favorite part has been getting to know him as a little person. I can’t wait to learn even more.