It was the middle of a Canadian winter when my son was born, so many a cold day had to be spent shuffling around the mall if I wanted to get out of the house.
I liked it because I could take off my coat, maybe get a coffee, and the mall floors were smooth so the stroller ran easily across it instead of a Sherpa trek across the hard chunks of ice and snow in my neighbourhood.
Inevitably, my son would get hot, hungry, tired of the outing, and start fussing. Shit. Outing over. This is when a movie moment would happen. As if on cue, an elderly woman would pop up and say “Cherish these moments because they’ll be gone before you know it and then you’ll miss them.”
Okay, I see the logic. She sees a struggling new mother and thinks, “she’s getting frustrated and I need to give her some perspective.” I get that. I really do.
Except for me, she has now layered guilt onto my shit moment – I shouldn’t hate this. I should love this. There are women that would kill for this moment and here am all hot and sweating from the newborn hormones and breastfeeding not savouring my baby freaking out in an echoing mall.
When I was back at home I would feel guilty if my son would be playing quietly and I would look at my phone. There would be a moment of, “you should be on the floor playing with him. You should be savouring this moment.”
There was a perpetual sense of panic that it was flying by and that I wasn’t sad about it.
But here’s the thing, babies are like cake.
Cake is amazing, beautiful, delicious and wonderful.
But when you have cake every day, every meal, for a period of time you’re not going to enjoy cake. It’s too much cake.
You’ll think, “Look how perfect this cake is. I love cake. I wanted this cake. There are people that would kill for cake. Yet, I can’t handle one more bite. What’s wrong with me?”
If you find yourself in a great moment, absolutely, savour it. Let laundry, dinner, toilet cleaning, whatever wait. Take time to enjoy the fun.
If you find yourself in a crap moment, just hunker down and get through it and remember that you only have to do today once.
The further away people get from a stage, the larger the brush they use to paint it. You’ll have people telling you to enjoy the bike rides and the long walks when you’re holding a newborn that can’t sit up. But keep in mind that it comes from a beautiful place and in most cases they are just trying to make your day easier from showing you the big picture (a small percentage are projecting their life regrets on you and they can fuck right off but let’s not worry about them.) However, it’s almost impossible to do this with no context – "How the hell can I love this moment when I truly feel like it is never going to end?"
As for the rest of us, baby amnesia is a lovely thing. It’s the reason the human race carries on but it’s also a little problematic. It easy to look at a baby and say how wonderful it is when you’ve had a full night sleep, eaten with two hands, and a full shower, but that new mother has probably been living those moments non-stop since that kid was born.
Even if that baby is three-weeks old she has had 504 hours of continuous, intense ‘moments’ that we are now telling her to cherish.
When you haven’t had cake in a while you only remember how awesome cake is, how perfect, delicious and sweet it is, but when you walk up to someone eating their 504th piece and tell them they need to savour every bite, it’s a little hard to swallow.
I love the idea that as I age my brain will wash away the rough edges and hard memories and cement the beautiful stuff forever. I'm already amazed that I can’t remember what a 9-week old does compared to a 14-week old because let me tell you, I knew every sleep, feeding, pooping, burping difference at the time. But it’s like my brain just rummaged through the memory drawer and dumped 80% in the garbage and filed the 20% in the magic memory folder.
So I know I’m going to be that old lady in the mall. The one that looks at childhood through a treasured, beautiful lens that wishes that I could impart that context, the big picture, the perspective on that women with a baby. But I need to hold onto that accurate memory and that very real struggle – that babies are cute and beautiful for a reason – because they can be damn hard and intense. And that wonderful new mom isn’t throwing away golden moments as much as she’s trying to string them together through the hard ones.
I want to remember that sometimes the poor girl just has too much cake.