Produced by Robin Stevenson
Photography by Jessica Blaine Smith
From the print edition, March 2013
The first year is all about the milestones, the developmental markers you’ll find detailed in every baby-care book, such as rolling over, their first word and those shaky first steps. Then there are the moments. The times that stand out in your mind for the joy, or maybe even the relief, they brought. We asked parents across the country to share some of their most memorable ones.
Smile on me
“I have been told that I have the most smiley baby ever. I wouldn’t disagree. From that first smile a few weeks into his life, Gavin only breaks his grin when hungry or tired. In fact, on his first airplane flight, all my fears about change in pressure or change in schedule were eased when I realized how thrilled my eight-month-old was to be surrounded by so many new people to smile at. People actually know my baby for his smiles. But they don’t know that certain special smile that my son saves just for me. When I walk into a room, he lights up. His six-toothed grin fills his face and his hands start clapping wildly. To this baby, I am a rock star. I did not have either of my two children so that I could boost my self-esteem. I am not a parent to gain love and appreciation. Motherhood is, and always will be, about my children and how much they are loved. But that feeling that I get when I look at my son’s smile—the one that makes me feel like the most important thing in his life—is incredible and beautiful. My baby’s smiles show me that he doesn’t just need me—he loves me, and he loves how I love him.”
—Laura O’Rourke, mom of Cameron, 3, and eight-month-old Gavin, Halifax
She slept through the night
“I remember the first night that Mila slept for five hours straight because it scared me to death. I woke up feeling so refreshed (which hadn’t happened in weeks) and then the panic set in. I said to my husband, ‘I didn’t wake to feed her!’ I ran into the nursery, my heart racing, only to find my baby girl fast asleep all snuggled in her swaddle blanket. I did what any parent would do and checked to make sure she was still breathing by putting my finger under her nose. Sure enough, she was fast asleep. It was a great and scary feeling all at once. We had been doing a midnight feeding, a 2 a.m. feeding (which was killing me) and a 5 a.m. feeding. So to have her sleep through the night was amazing for all of us, and I knew that it would be just a matter of time before it would become a regular thing.”
—Karin Beaconsfield, mom of four-month-old Mila, Markham, Ont.
In my arms
“When my daughter Emma was nine months old, I decided to return to work early. With a house move and a five-year-old, I felt I hadn’t given Emma enough attention on the shortened mat leave. Every weekend since then, I have set aside an hour to nap together. Well,Emma naps—most of the time I just stare at her. Her cheek against my chest, feeling her breath against me, reminds me how lucky I am as a mother. I know in a few years there will be no more nap time with Mom, so I make sure I set aside as much time as I can. I also use this method to put her to sleep at night before putting her in the crib. Head against my chest, she closes her eyes as I pat her back. I know I’m creating a bad habit getting Emma to sleep using the ‘kangaroo cradle’ but she’s my last child, and it’s my time with her, just Emma and me, and each evening it brings me closer to her.”
—Carmela Lombardo, mom of Isabella, 5, and 13-month-old Emma, Barrie, Ont.
The learning curve
“The day my son figured out how to pop his own soother back in his mouth.”
—Christina Campbell, mom of Ava, 4, and eight-month-old Reid, Toronto
“It had been a very long day of my son crying non-stop, except when he was feeding or sleeping. His crying had been getting worse that week, both in terms of how long it lasted and also its pitch—an ear-piercing wail. I was beginning to seriously question my qualifications for being a dad, as nothing I did to calm him seemed to work. That day, though, I guess I must have managed to rock
him at just the right frequency as his crying calmed with each pass until it just stopped. I was finally rewarded with a lovely, cheeky grin. That was magic!”
—Ian Marquette, dad of three-month-old Carmelo, Upper Stewiacke, N.S.
“I can remember being terrified when Sicily got her first cold. She was seven months old and she developed a chest cough and had a plugged nose so that every breath made her sound like a tiny Darth Vader. I felt the insecurities of being a first-time mom take over. Was I capable of giving her the same tender, loving care that my own mother had given me—a mother who nursed me through scarlet fever, whooping cough, chronic ear infections and so much more with such a natural, nurturing ease? I didn’t sleep at all the first night, checking Sicily constantly to make sure she was still breathing. Every gurgle and cough would send me into panic mode. What if this turns into bronchitis? Could this permanently damage her lungs? Do we need to go to a hospital? I called my doctor for his opinion and he said to call back if Sicily’s symptoms worsened. I felt like it was a race against time, so I diligently tried all the homemade remedies my mom used on me when I was sick. I made chicken soup and puréed it; a warm bath was given; I smoothed a natural vapour rub on her feet; added an extra layer for warmth and rubbed her feet on a few key pressure points and held her extra tight. And just as I started to doubt my own capabilities, she got better.
It was one of the longest weeks of my life—but I felt like a true parent for the first time.”
—Sara Duck, mom of 10-month-old Sicily, Toronto
The belly laugh
“My daughter, Cooper, was just nine months old and we were watching the movie Mulan. It was very close to the beginning when the little dog falls down while carrying some chicken feed. Cooper laughed so long and so hard, I called her mom at work and left a voicemail for her of Cooper laughing. We still listen to it to this day.”
—Gabriel Steele, dad of Cooper, 5, and eight-month-old Jack, Toronto
“I had an emergency C-section and all I could remember after the surgery was laying on the gurney shivering and shaking. I could hear my baby cry, but could not see her for at least 15 minutes while the surgeon stitched me up. When the nurse cleaned up Ada and put her on my chest, I remember looking at this red, puffy baby. She was crying and her closed eyes were covered in ointment. I finally said to her, ‘Hello, Baby.’ She stopped crying momentarily and opened one gooey eye to look at me. I felt like it was her way of saying hello back.”
—Marlene Yuen, mom of four-month-old Ada, Vancouver
I’ve got this
“My youngest suddenly grabs the spoon from my hand and brings it toward his mouth. It’s a small spoon, a soft blue and green plastic one used by his older brothers before him, a familiar part of our kitchen. But in asserting his independence and attempting to feed himself, that spoon has been made extra
special today. It’s a stellar day for spoons and arms and hands. He can’t yet talk, but his eyes and his smile speak so many words: ‘Look at me! I can feed myself! I don’t need you to do everything for me after all!’ He is thrilled. So am I. Even if the pasta falls right off the spoon and onto the high-chair tray and he ends up feeding himself with his hands.”
—Emma Willer, mom of Oliver, 7, Callum, 5, and 14-month-old Charlie, Toronto
“From the moment Tavin was born, Riley, my energetic toddler, was excited and in love with his new baby brother. It didn’t take long before Tavin also became fascinated with his big brother, always searching for his face in any room. The moment I will always remember came when Tavin was about seven months old. I was in the kitchen when suddenly I heard a strange, high-pitched noise split the air. I dropped what I was doing and went scrambling into the living room where I had left my kids only minutes earlier. As soon as I was in the doorway, I came to a halt with a suddeness that would have made the Road Runner envious. The noise was not some kind of distress call, but was, in fact, Tavin squealing with delight and giggling so hard that his little body shook uncontrollably on the floor. He was reaching out for his brother, but was laughing with such intensity that he could just barely move his arms in his general direction. When Tavin started to regain control, Riley would look back up at him and say ‘Boo!’ and Tavin would once again be taken over with unquenchable hysterics. There is nothing in the world quite as lovely as the sound of a baby’s laughter.”
—Kyla McDonald, mom of Riley, 3, and 15-month-old Tavin, Winnipeg
“Being the youngest, Dean is pretty much just toted along on his older sister’s adventures, usually just sitting quietly, taking it all in and flashing his great smile whenever someone makes eye contact. That was, until he discovered his own rhythm during Maeve’s weekly music class. One day, while playing his usual role as the smiling observer, he grabbed one of those little egg-shaped shakers and gave it a go. Delight filled his face as he realized he was the one making that great shhh-shhh-shhh sound. His eyes twinkled and he squealed that baby squeal of joy and shook that shaker in perfect time to the music. We have since dubbed him the ‘human drumstick’ as he is now a non-stop percussionist, turning any surface, toy or container into a drum or shaker.”
—Elizabeth FitzZaland, mom of Maeve, 2, and eight-month-old Dean, Vancouver
…or maybe all the stuff he can’t do is magical
“With our first two kids, encouraging the milestones turned me into a cheering, over-the-top caricature of myself, a camera never far away. I hailed every attempt to step, smile, giggle, taste and sing with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for audience members of an ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’ episode. As our third child grows, something strange is happening: I’m relishing all the things he can’t do. At four months old, he certainly won’t declare that a complete stranger at the grocery store has a “yucky face.” I can take him out for breakfast and he’ll sleep through the whole thing. It’ll be at least a year before he tries to run away from me and hide among the racks of clothing in a department store. And the joy of hearing him say ‘Mama’ is yet to come, but when it does, will his eyes light up like they do when he sees me now? I’m enjoying the time in between all the eagerly anticipated firsts.”
—Tricia McCraney, mom of Isaac, 3, 19-month-old Owen, and four-month-old Mason, Ottawa