The Baby Stage
Some parts of the first year you will remember clearly, like watching a movie. Other parts you will have no memory of, which is typical and probably a good thing. There are things that surprise us, and is seems different for us all. Mine was feeling that there was a cord of sorts connecting me to my child. I had a kind of uncomfortable tugging sensation when she was far from me, especially in the first 5 or 6 months. I had never heard of it and didn’t know that happened. Even after she was born, it felt we were physically connected in a way, and on my commute home from work I remember feeling in such a rush as I got closer to home, feeling that tug. Others told me they felt themselves walking toward the baby seconds before the baby cried without realizing they were doing it, an instinct that must come from seeing a facial expression, or maybe a smell or sense of some kind. Or sleep deprivation leading us to act without thinking!
You can read all of the books, watch the videos, and look up all of the parenting and developmental information, but nothing prepares you for that first year. It is full of surprises and constant changes. More than any other time developmentally speaking. Babies grow and learn so much during this time. I remember looking at developmental charts to help me know what to expect, because it felt hard (for me) to adjust to so many changes so quickly. It felt as soon as one stage was mastered and we adjusted as a family, another was beginning. A whirlwind of change!
Above is a link to a WebMD list of developmental stages, I used this site as kind of a guide to the general development based on my daughter’s age because it was very succinct so I could glance at it at work. There is another at Babycenter. At home I still had my copy of What to Expect the First Year and another book I can’t remember so I read those again. Keep in mind that you may not agree with every book or every author. I didn’t agree with some of the suggestions in both books I read, so I disregarded some of it. That did not mean the information was not largely useful. It just means the books are written by a real person and their thoughts may differ from your own. Ask your pediatrician, parent, spouse, friend, coworker, or neighbor if you want to get a lot of information to sort through. I found this quite helpful because I learned what worked for others and incorporated some of it into our routine as well.
Now for some fun facts! You have a newborn for the first few weeks, and a baby for the first 12 months. Most babies’ first non-reflexive smile is between 6 and 12 weeks and first laugh is at about 3 or 4 months. This is when your baby begins to show the first signs of a personality of his or her own! They show more interest in the world around them and attempt to communicate and begin to notice more about their parents. I have a friend whose baby smiles and laughs so naturally and easily you can already see his exuberant personality at only 9 months! My husband and I used to make all sorts of faces and engage in silly acrobatics, only to see our baby daughter stare hard at us. She almost never smiled, really, until almost age one, then suddenly a light bulb came on and she became the life of the party.
Enjoy the baby stage, but also know if this is your first child, that it is so very different, and in this writer’s opinion, far easier, after the first year! And even more so after the second, and third. With each year comes increased independence. There are additional challenges to face, of course, but with each season your child grows and learns, and you truly do less and less for them, and even find that you can learn some things from them. My favorite stage was when my child developed language skills. For me, there was nothing like being able to communicate in a meaningful way with my child!