Congratulations, you have a baby! You are about to experience overwhelming love and wonder at the miracle that a real, live human baby really did just emerge from your body. You are also in for a whole lot of exhaustion, unexpected surprises (shield yourself when changing that diaper!) and, unfortunately, frequent self-doubt and anxiety.
Whether you’re a first-timer or well on your way to building your own football team, each child will throw different challenges your way, starting soon after you get home from the hospital. There will be many things that merit real angst, though in most cases they will be temporary bumps in the road. But what shouldn’t stress you out is the comparison between your child and others when it comes to development and growth.
I write this from the trenches: we are in the early weeks with our third child, a serene, snuggly angel who has given me a newfound appreciation of a stage I largely navigated in a fog the first two times. Every day she is stronger and more alert, but she is also quite small. Her size is invariably the first thing people comment on when they see her, and it’s a challenge to find clothes she’s not absolutely swimming in.
At first, my daughter’s size was simply one of her physical characteristics, along with the jet-black hair that matches her dad’s, or the long, graceful fingers that stretch out in front of her as she’s waking up from a nap.
But that age of innocence on my part was short-lived, and I was soon confronted by the looming figure of the Average Baby.
The Average Baby has regained his birth weight by week two; it took my daughter three. The Average Baby continues to pack on at least an ounce a day; my baby had numerous periods in the first month when the number on the infant scale didn’t budge for several days.
No matter that my little girl checked off all the other boxes of a healthy, well-fed baby. I became consumed by the fear that she was “falling behind,” and would weigh her up to three times a day, crying bitter tears if the gain I was hoping for didn’t materialize. Each feeding became an anxiety-ridden effort to bring her closer to what our pediatrician, various baby books and Google told me was “normal.”
Fortunately, a few trusted voices ultimately broke through my panicked inner monologue, urging me to listen to my maternal instincts and really see the baby who was right in front of me 24 hours a day. “Look at your daughter, not the scale,” they advised. And you know what? They were absolutely right.
Our daughter has seemingly hit her stride when it comes to gaining, though she remains quite petite. And I know it won’t be long before we’re piling up all the clothes that are too small and marveling at the distant memory that she was ever this tiny.
I look back at those weight-obsessed first few weeks and wish I could have taken the advice I’ve given to other moms over the years as they fret about an infant who is “late” to reach some developmental milestone: He will get there when he’s ready; babies develop at a pace that’s unique as their personalities.
So enjoy your baby for the amazing little creature she is. And don’t let comparisons to the Average Baby keep you up at night; your baby will take care of that part all on her own.