The day those two pink lines appeared, I felt the world stop moving.
What would have otherwise been a normal Tuesday was suddenly overcome by a tsunami of joy, fear and squealing family phone calls. My brain buzzed and a giddy smile lingered on my face. I could hardly wait until my husband got home. He eventually walked through the door, exhausted after a 14-hour shift. I wanted to make it a special moment. Like those quaint videos people record where the perfect present is waiting on the table or a loved one is sent on a scavenger hunt.
Instead, I just stood there in my pajamas holding a pee stick and the news exploded out of me.
He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “I’m sorry, what?”
“We are pregnant.” That sounded weird. “I’m pregnant.” That sounded terribly lonesome.
“Babe. We are having a baby!”
Suddenly, my husband was wide awake.
We celebrated, hugged, cried. We chatted about names and genders and nursery decorations. A whole world of possibilities had emerged.
When my head hit the pillow, my mind kept racing. The silence of the house was suffocating. How was my husband snoring? How was I seriously the only person awake, pondering this little miracle growing inside of me? My dreams of him were growing with him.
What color would his eyes be? I could imagine his laugh bubbling up to the ceiling. His first steps. College graduation. I closed my eyes and hoped that wave would carry me away into the Land of Nod.
Then I was hit with the biggest question mark my heart had ever felt. I sat straight up in the bed.
“Will I be a good parent?”
I prayed. I texted friends. I googled articles, read message boards, and bought a few books on Amazon. None gave me the feedback I longed for. The affirmation that everything was going to be okay.
After a few days, I finally found “The App.”
The App was this magical tile in my iPhone—this tiny little square I went to for all my pregnancy answers. It even tracked the progress of my growing baby.
I was a woman obsessed.
Milestones made me happy. Hour by hour, I received pings on everything from the ideal growth of my baby, to expected changes in my body, to birth preparation, and beyond. These milestones were clear indicators I was doing something right, so long as we stayed on plan.
*ping* Today your baby is an avocado! You should be eating more protein! Have you asked your doctor about a birthplace? It’s important to talk to your avocado!
*ping* Today your baby is a squash! You should already be tracking Baby Squash’s movements. Are you listening to Mozart?
PING! PING! PING!
This, my friends, was all before birth.
Then came my son. He was angelic in every way. His soft skin, squeaky sounds, and milky smell—it was everything I ever dreamed of. But did I relish in his utter perfection?
No, not really. I mean, I tried.
But I was incredibly worried about his weak cry, crappy APGAR score and poor latch. These were all tasks I needed to work on. Things I had to “fix” to be a good mother.
The next day, The App updated. It started telling me which milestones this little human “probably” should be achieving, week by week.
Hooray! More things to monitor. I furiously checked boxes, proud that my son was ahead or on time for his milestones.
What makes a successful parent if not a successful child?
It was an exhausting roller coaster that left me frazzled and, frankly, insane.
A little while later, I was preparing for my son’s 18-month pediatrician appointment, sneaking the bottle into the diaper bag like it was cocaine contraband. I couldn’t possibly let my doctor see that my son was still drinking from his “baba.” That was definitely NOT on The App. But, two vaccines later, he started sobbing and pointing to the bag.
“Baba! Baba! Mama, pleeeeeaase!”
My doctor sat down on her stool and smiled. “You know, it’s okay if he has his bottle right now. He needs a little comfort.”
She paused and waited for my reaction.
I was humiliated. I pulled my contraband bottle from the bag. He was instantly soothed.
“Your son is a happy child,” she said. “He’s loved, and he knows it. He’s unafraid to try new things, and he’s confident interacting with strangers. All of that matters. Stop focusing so much on these milestones. I think it’s driving you crazy.”
She gave me a friendly, if not concerned, wink and left the room. At that moment, fear, pressure and weight just emptied out of me.
Tears poured onto my son’s little head until we were both exhausted and his bottle was empty.
The milestones didn’t really matter.
All this time, I was tracking them for me. I needed to know if I was doing my job as a parent, and the only way I knew to determine my success was by his milestones. I needed to know if I measured up.
When I got home, I deleted that app. Instantly, I felt a weight float away. I know now that I am a good parent, in every way that matters. That there are milestones—unwritten milestones—infinitely more important than a pincher grasp and potty training.
My child is loved.
He feels safe jumping from the side of the pool into my open arms.
He giggles at his own jokes, confident that his sense of humor is funny to others.
He runs to our bedside on stormy nights, knowing we will protect him from thunder and other scary things in the world.
When he scrapes his knees at the playground, he looks to me for the “am I okay or not?” response.
I watch my son’s personality bloom and his sense of humor sharpen.
Those are the milestones no app can ever tell you. And believe me, they’re the only ones worth measuring.
This is an excerpt from Mom Babble.