100 Lifetimes

When Peter turned one last month, people kept telling me how quickly it’s flown by. That they couldn’t believe it was his first birthday already.

I can certainly see it that way. It’s hard to believe that we’re parents of a one-year old. He’s learning so much every day. His personality shining through more and more. His desires and displeasures expressed with greater and greater clarity (and often fury!)

Lately the weeks seem to fly by, blurring into one another as the months change from one to the next.

But time is a funny, stretchy thing because on the other hand, this year has been the longest of my life. Looking back, Peter’s birth seems both moments ago and as if many, many lifetimes have passed since then.

And they have. That’s what’s so magical and disorienting and exhausting about the first year of parenting. You live so many different lifetimes and just as you adjust to one way of life, to one set of routines, to one orientation of reality, it all changes again.

Even seemingly simple things, like how to take a shower or get dinner prepped have to be constantly re-navigated as your baby changes and grows. You might be someone who hates routine, but I’m certain you’d find that you actually had a lot of structure keeping you grounded and centered in pre-baby life.

For two days our entire world was contained within a small delivery room. It felt impossible to believe that the sun was still shining and people were continuing to go to work as if this wasn’t the most momentous occasion in history.

There was the lifetime of that first night when we were alone just the two of us. I still couldn’t move my limbs very well after having an epidural and had to ask for help to pick up Peter every time he’d cry. I felt clumsy and confused and needed help getting him to latch as it was as if my mind was no longer controlling my body. His cry was louder than any of the other babies on the ward and I felt like we were an inconvenience. I missed Matthew and was lonely but also so full of awe and love.

There were those first days at home. They just seem like a blur now. We were all giddiness and confusion. Those were the only nights Peter ever slept in the moses basket. I’d sit up in the night to feed him, experiencing a strange combination of pain and bliss. We desperately Googled videos on how to get a baby to sleep and wondered if perhaps ours was broken?! He certainly wasn’t the dozy newborn we’d been told to expect, always alert and taking everything in.

For one week our life once again shrunk down to the size of a hospital room after Peter was diagnosed with meningitis. We lived huddled around his crib, praying for him to get better. The beeping of machinery became our soundtrack as we lived off of fish fingers and tomato pasta made by a kitchen tailored for children.

For six months we ate every dinner in bed, watching The West Wing with Peter curled up asleep beside us. When he was ready to sleep alone for the first part of each night, spending the evenings downstairs felt strange and spacious at first.

There were months when each day felt like its own lifetime. I spent 8-12 hours a day breastfeeding Peter. Life was one long Netflix binge and we’d walk to Tesco every day just to get out of the house. I’d call Matthew by 3pm, begging him to come home as early as he could.

Rose-tinted glasses made me look back on that lifetime longingly as parenting became more active and I dreamed of a little Netflix time. But at least it was replaced by mat leave mom dates, walks in the park, and plenty of cake.

Soon we were chasing after a mobile baby and learning how to make our home a child-friendly space – a task that is a constantly moving target as Peter is able to get into more and more things.

I’ve made dinner with Peter in a sling. In a bouncy chair. Sat on the ground at my feet. In his high chair. Balanced on my hip. Now he can sit on the counter. Soon he’ll be stood in a learning tower.

And life is changing yet again. Peter has dropped his afternoon nap – which I’d secretly been wishing for so there was one less moving part to fit together. But again I find myself having to create a new rhythm that meets our current needs.

When I first got pregnant I had a fear that I wasn’t ready. That I hadn’t done enough personal development to be the parent – or person – I wanted to be. Now I’m learning how much parenting helps us to grow – often by throwing us into the deep end. If there’s anything I’ve learned by living each of these hundred lifetimes it’s that I’m incredibly adaptable.

And amidst the parenting challenges, it’s helpful to remember how temporary each lifetime is. One day Peter will sleep in his own crib. We’ll go out in the evenings. We’ll take holidays without him. We’ll even live in our house just the two of us again. And we’ll look back on our current challenges with rose-tinted glasses. Wish we could live inside them again for just a little while.

2 Comments

  1. July 9, 2018 / 6:14 am

    This is such a gorgeous and true account of what first years are like. My three are now four, six, and eight. We’ve had so many phases and rhythms. As they get older it’s like a new riff appears in our song every few months. The arrangement changes and I have to stay with the beat. I improvise around familiar refrains and new expressions. In the first year, you are not only picking up the beat from scratch and exploring an entirely new tune, but also the music shifts it’s pattern so much more often. So phew! The rhythm changes, the riffs alter, but the beat is there. Congratulations on bringing some brand new music into the world xxx

    • Sarah Starrs
      Author
      July 9, 2018 / 9:45 am

      What a beautiful, beautiful metaphor. Thank you, Alexis.

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