I thought I missed having a newborn. I was wrong.

pexels-photo-113717When a friend of mine asked if I would be willing to watch her 3-month-old while she went to a doctor’s appointment, I jumped at the chance.

Did I want to cuddle a baby for an hour? Obviously. I have been a little sad lately about the fact that my children, 3 and 6, have long outgrown onesies and diapers that are so small they look like they belong to kittens.

I couldn’t wait to smell the top of the baby’s head and admire her tiny toes. All morning long, I looked forward to hearing the little sounds that only newborns make.

Finally, 1:30 p.m. rolled around: Baby time! I scooped up that baby with a half of a mind to never give her back. Holding her reminded me of how giant my kids are now. My kids no longer make cute noises and have gummy smiles. How I missed that baby phase!

I figured I could hold the baby and have lunch at the same time, because that’s so easy to do, right? With a salad in one hand and 12 pounds of baby chub in another, I was ready to settle into a very amazing 60 minutes.

Somewhere in between trying to get the lid of the salad open and trying to shush the baby’s teeny whimpers, I felt a strange feeling. What was that?

I shook it off. It was salad and snuggle time. Cherish every minute!

I just had to figure out how to simultaneously hold the baby and get lettuce and chicken onto my fork. Maybe if I just sat in that chair – nope! Nope, she didn’t want me to sit, which she made clear with a series of shockingly loud wails. OK, no big deal, I could stand up and cradle her with my left arm and pick up my fork with my – NOPE! No cradling allowed. This baby wanted to be upright.

OK, she was upright and totally balanced on my left side, and bouncing back and forth seemed to be helping soothe her. Now, I could creep back over to the table to get my food – NOPE! She spit up all over me. Hey, that happens. I didn’t like that shirt much anyway.

I started getting that feeling again. What was that?

It took a few more rounds of unsuccessfully eating until I could finally put my finger on it: No, it wasn’t that familiar strain in my neck from looking down at a bundle of sweetness in my arms.

It was that feeling, that recognition, of how incredibly difficult it is to have a newborn.

I couldn’t believe that I was only a few years removed from it, but I had already forgotten it. Here, I had been longing for those days, and I never stopped to think about how hard those days really were.

Having a newborn is work. I’m someone who loves to lift weights, but DANG that 12-pound girl got heavy. As I held her, I remembered all the back issues I developed after having my children. I remembered how many days I would stare at the clock, counting the minutes until my husband would get home and give me the physical and emotional break I needed. I remembered crying – a lot. I remembered feeling unsure of myself and scared at what we had gotten ourselves into.

I remembered how awful it is to be sleep-deprived, and to not know what to do to get the baby to stop crying, and to feel like my world is unraveling one blowout diaper at a time. I remembered sore nipples that would sting so badly whenever the baby would latch. I remembered the debate I had every time – EVERY TIME – the baby went to sleep: do I eat? do I sleep? do I clean? do I work?

Those 60 minutes with my friend’s precious baby were a really good reminder for me.

I think my job as a parent has gotten a little easier. Maybe it’s because I have adjusted to the chaos of having kids. Maybe it’s because as children get older, the things that are hard are just different. Maybe it’s because I do actually sleep more, even if I’m still not sleeping enough.

And maybe it’s because we haven’t hit the teenage years yet, which I hear are just awful.

Maybe I have hit the sweet spot. At 3 and 6, my kids are still adorable but gaining independence but not ready to let go of my hand just yet. We still have hard days, but wow, we have come a long way.

I loved every minute I got to spend with my friend’s baby. And, to my own surprise, I was happy to hand the baby back. The newborn phase is behind me now. I’ll always treasure the time I had with my babies, but I’m very happy that we have moved into the sweet spot.

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