Shortly after my third child was born, a neighbor very kindly picked up my eldest from school to help me out. As I thanked her at the doorway, she encouraged me to be sure to take full benefit of my “baby year.”
Intrigued, I asked her what she meant by that term. A mother of three herself, she explained that a baby year is essentially the permission to say no to everything extraneous in order to focus on adjusting to a new baby. No meetings, no school obligations, no volunteering to take on anything new, no extra household chores. It is also the permission to be unapologetic in asking for and accepting help.
The concept of a baby year really resonated with me. The length of that adjustment period is different for everyone, of course, but in my two previous experiences of bringing home a new baby, it was about a year before I felt fully settled and like myself again. No doubt it is related to the fact that everyone is sleeping more, but something happens right around that year mark that makes motherhood more than just survival–I guess you could say I get my groove back.
With that in mind this time, I allowed myself some grace and focused on getting to know my son and how he fit into our family. Our world became necessarily smaller and simpler, and that was okay, especially as I knew it was temporary.
But then quarantine happened. And everyone’s world became smaller and simpler.
Baby year no longer was a choice. It was a mandate. And as a rule-follower, it was suddenly easier to say no and stay home. Any secret feelings of FOMO that I had during this baby year instantly vanished. It’s hard to feel like you’re missing out if there’s nothing to miss out on.
Yes, we are still living a Groundhog Day-esque existence, but there is a consistency to everyone’s days that I can’t help but think is beneficial to Baby. He doesn’t know what he is missing out on (is he really missing anything?), and honestly, it’s much easier to fill out the section of his baby book that lists “places visited this month.” Um, the back deck? The neighborhood on our daily walks?
I know there will be consequences to this sheltered experience. As we slowly start to get back into the world, I’ve already seen glimpses of what will no doubt be some serious separation anxiety. I’ve completely forgotten how to pack a diaper bag. And it makes me so sad that our son hasn’t gotten to know or even meet most of his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Photos and video calls are great but no substitute for grandma snuggles.
We don’t know how or when any of this is going to end. Will we spend the remainder of this baby year in uncertainty, continuing to (mostly) stay home and socially distance ourselves? Will we celebrate our son’s first birthday in November via Zoom?