How Motherhood Changed My Understanding of Time

Time is such a funny thing, isn’t it? The concept of time. It’s rather grand in theory and is the kind of thing that makes your brow furrow if you think about it too long. Time. Time. TIME. It completely loses its meaning.

What does time mean anyway? Well, until recently I never concerned myself too much with the passage of time other than to use it as a filler during small talk. “Wow, I can’t believe it’s already [insert month]. This year is going by so quickly!”

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Upon conception, though, time is measured very differently, carefully even. With the help of an app, I could easily tell you at any moment exactly how many weeks (and days) pregnant I was. I’m not sure about you, but until then I had never measured my life in terms of weeks minus the occasional vacation countdown. (Baby’s progress, meanwhile, was measured in comparisons to increasingly large fruits and vegetables. Thirty weeks? Baby is the size of a butternut squash. Kind of a strange custom, really, but a lot of things about pregnancy and motherhood are strange.)

All you think about when you’re pregnant is time. “How much time do I have to finish the nursery?” “When will baby be born?” “Will we ever have time to play board games again when baby comes?”

It should prepare you for what’s to come, but it doesn’t even come close.

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Will the time ever come where I can see my legs again?
Pictured: Me at 37 weeks

Time stopped the day Baby Bear was born. It stopped the moment he was born.

After a 36-hour labor (an amount of time I will never forget), I was practically delirious. Luckily Papa Bear was a little more with-it than I because otherwise I’m not sure I’d remember anything from that first day. At no point did I really know what was going on around me or what time it was. All I could do was flit in and out of sleep with this incredible baby on my chest. Our visitors brought us bounties of food (including a steak and a long-awaited Portillo’s hot dog; I never seem to forget food), I know I showered at some point (the best shower I’d ever had), and I waddled to pee under the watchful eye of a nurse a handful of times. Otherwise, everything is a blur. I was exhausted and so overcome with emotion that even when we decided on his name I was not entirely alert.

In the days after his birth, I felt awestruck and more nostalgic than I’d ever been. Which was a strange feeling given that I had this new baby in my arms. I looked back and reminisced about the entire birth experience. I felt sad that each new day took us further away from that glorious moment when we first laid eyes on each other. Glorious sounds a little flamboyant, but that’s the only word I can use to describe it. Though I felt like we were still in a daze and had a hard time remembering what day or time it was, I already wanted to slow down and make sure I was truly savoring everything.

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Please, never let go. (Okay, maybe let go, we’ll cut your nails, then come back.)
Pictured: Baby Brown Bear’s 6-day-old hand grasping my thumb

But then, miraculously, life continued on. Our whole lives were building to this moment and yet it passed like any other. Papa Bear and I adjusted to parenthood–this probably shouldn’t be in past tense–and have had to succumb to the now advanced pace of time.

When Baby Bear was three weeks old, he and I started attending a wonderful group for new moms (about which I will write more later). At the time, he was one of the youngest babies there. While it had taken so much effort and planning to arrive even somewhat on time, I sat there in bewilderment as the moms of older babies seemed to be so at ease with their babies and their new lives. They were relaxed and took all the things their babies did in stride while those same things still caused me so much anxiety. I admired these ‘older’ moms and hoped that some day I’d feel that way too.

I didn’t recognize it as it was happening, of course, but one day I looked around the room and realized that my eight-month-old was now one of the oldest babies there. As I tried to reassure these ‘younger’ harried and frazzled moms that life gets easier, I marveled at the fact that these babies were even born. How was it that the world didn’t stop turning when Baby Bear was born? Logically, of course, I knew this was ridiculous, but I couldn’t shake the sensation. My life monumentally changed; I no longer had a paying job, I wore yoga pants nearly constantly, I spent a lot more time with my dog, and, oh yeah, I had a baby to care for every second of my day. Was there a little tremor, at least, when he was born? Could other people feel it too?

Every single day seems to pass differently than it did before. It is simultaneously more and less structured. I no longer worry about catching the bus to catch the ‘L’ (good riddance, rush hour commute). Now, my life is measured by library times, nap times, bath times, and bed times. The weeks and months pass at an alarming speed, but that’s partly because of how much can change between each one. During one week, he peers up at me with his little toothless grin; the next, he is accidentally biting me because he hasn’t adjusted to his teeth yet.

As annoying as it can be, his life is being measured by what milestones he is hitting (or not hitting). Mine seems to be going in reverse of his. One day he will no longer fit in my arms. With each passing milestone, we are one step closer to him leaving for college. It might be a little bleak, but it’s true. Try as I might to savor each and every moment, I often catch myself scrolling through Facebook and then feeling overcome with guilt that I’m not just staring at his angelic sleeping face because it won’t always be there.

See, that’s the problem with parenthood that I wasn’t really prepared to handle: I have no idea how much time is left to enjoy each thing. It can be anything from something as innocuous as how long he’ll end up napping that day, to something more important, like how long he’ll want to keep nursing. I sometimes wish I knew. Not so I could feel better when I zone out, of course, but so I could just appreciate it even more. Mom guilt aside (that’s a whole other topic), I just want to be able to thoroughly enjoy each moment without thinking of and worrying about how fast it’s all going.

Every single parent we know has at one point told us to “enjoy it because it goes fast.” Of course I understood what they meant, but I really couldn’t wrap my head around it until it started happening to us, too. Last week, a friend said to me, “I can’t believe he’s almost one!” I stopped her, but then realized that his first birthday is only a couple of months away. It made me want to grab him, squeeze him, and never let him go.

Even now, as I type this, I have to fight the urge to let him sleep instead of waking him so I can snuggle his nine-month-old self. That’s another funny thing about parenthood: as excited as I am for him to go to sleep so I have some time to myself, I often find that I miss him only an hour or two later. In all of this blur of time, he’s become my best little buddy.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that motherhood has completely morphed the way I view and experience time. It’s no longer just something to casually remark upon. It is now something to be truly cherished. Baby Bear, I never want to take you or anything you do for granted. You are my miracle.

Plus, all of this is just another reason not to worry about setting him down to fold that pile of laundry or scrub the tub. Because, really, given how fast these babies grow:

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7 thoughts on “How Motherhood Changed My Understanding of Time

  1. I also had a 36 hours of labour. I developed a fever in the middle of it. It was so hard but I kept looking at the clock they had on a wall counting hour after hour thinking this baby will never come out on its own. I still count her age in weeks. It’s 13. I count how many times she wakes up at night. I count how many days til my husband has a day off so I can take off for a few hours. 🙂

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  2. This hits so close to home! Thank you for articulating this feeling so well.

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  3. Pingback: Mama Bear’s Labor & Delivery Resource Guide | Baby Brown Bear

  4. Pingback: Motherhood: The First Year in Review | Baby Brown Bear

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