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You have a baby and you are immediately overwhelmed. You are overwhelmed by the indecipherable crying, by the lack of sleep, by the extreme neediness. You are overwhelmed by your love for this new tiny human and by the responsibility of keeping said adorable baby alive and well. You feel exhausted, useless and anxious. Everything you do is so hard. It won’t always be like this, others tell you. It will get better.

But everything is so different now. The baby can’t do anything without your help. The cries when they are hungry, when they are wet, when they are gassy, when they are tired and for reasons known only to them. You sing, rock and smile and the baby stares at you. You wonder if they even like you. You miss the days of reliable showers and peeing with the door closed. You wonder if you are any good at this parenting thing. You wonder why you signed up for this. You wonder when you get to have a nap. You are a mess, but you know it won’t always be like this.

And then one day, it isn’t. Suddenly your baby lights up when they see you. They smile and laugh and it is the most beautiful sound you have ever heard. They reach out with their little arms for you and snuggle their little body against yours with complete trust. You know all of their favourite songs, stories and rhymes. You know what their cries mean and when they need a nap, because you know each other now. And you know what? They do like you after all! You are their whole world. And they are your whole world. You wonder how you made something so beautiful. Now, instead of feeling overwhelmed you are starting to cherish this needy and all-consuming love, because you know it won’t always be like this either.

The baby learns to crawl, to roll, to sit and to stand and the world changes again. They fall down, launch themselves off the couch, curious and striving for independence. You put up the baby gates, and baby-proof the house. You are constantly chasing them, as they get into one thing after another. You are constantly on alert. You miss the days where they sat happily in one place. It won’t always be like this, you think as you pull your phone out of the baby’s mouth or scoop them up before they crawl towards the dog’s food dish.

You start to develop a routine. The days blend together, both never-ending and too short to get everything done. You gain confidence. You gain momentum. You gain some wisdom. You start to make long term plans because you are starting to get this parenting thing under control. For just a minute, you feel that you can do this, but this is usually fleeting. You know, like all the stages so far, that it won’t always be like this, because you know what’s coming next.

Talking, tantrums, siblings and bad dreams are on the horizon. School, new friends, sleepovers and soccer games are coming too. Bullies, last minute projects, broken bones, recitals and report cards will be here before you know it. Teenage angst, first loves, first heartbreaks and first jobs will be next. They will want you to drop them off two blocks away. They will challenge your rules, your trust and your sanity. But it won’t always be like this either. They will grow, mature and become someone amazing. Some day they will begin to talk of a future where you are no longer needed on a daily basis, and you will have to step back and let them.

Yes, you know what’s coming. The future will be both exquisitely beautiful and heart wrenchingly difficult. The future is out there but today it seems so far away. Today is here now and it is fleeting. So you hold your baby close, you sing and play and tickle. You drink in this beautiful, messy, sweet, baby love because it won’t always be like this. No, it won’t always be like this, but it is today.

Liz Parker-Cook

Liz is a mother of three children under four and has the dark circles under her eyes to prove it. She is also a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has much fewer dirty diapers. When she gets any time to herself she writes on her blog: She lives in Toronto with her husband, children, and dog. 

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