This post was originally shared on FIT4MOM Chapel Hill / Carrboro for a tribe of women I’ve come to love and admire. The story in this post means so much to me, that I felt it needed to be shared here, too.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I tried to imagine what each of those baby milestone moments felt like for first-time parents. It must feel wonderful. The pride, the joy, the sheer awe that comes with realizing that you created a tiny human that can accomplish a feat as riveting as rolling from back to front. Amazing! I told myself that every single moment must be documented, celebrated, and remembered, because all of the old people in my life just kept telling me “they grow up so fast”.
Colin’s nursery was ready for him months before he arrived. Meticulously planned and decorated, it was the most perfect room in our home. Literally, all I wanted to do was sit in that room (on that beautiful chair), admire every sweet little detail, and wait for him to arrive. Of course, Colin arrived late and with a bit of drama (emergency Cesarean), but that only made me appreciate him even more. He was here, and we could finally enjoy that gorgeous nursery together.
My husband and I were fortunate in that Colin was some sort of rare “dream baby” or “golden child” because he was an amazing sleeper from the beginning. I’m not saying he slept through the night (that didn’t happen until after he turned 1), but he just went down easy. Bedtime was so peaceful and fun! It was never a struggle.
… Until the day he climbed out of his crib.
It took us completely by surprise. Our son, the freakishly amazing sleeper, had never shown any interest in vacating his crib. Hell, I nodded in agreement with the moms who joked “yep, crib until high school” and found myself silent and unable to relate when moms expressed exhaustion over toddler sleep issues. This was uncharted territory and we were not at all prepared.
We’d purchased a secondhand twin bed frame from a neighbor, but had no mattress for it yet. Desperate for sleep, we scrambled to come up with a plan. Oh, did I mention we had another baby who was 8 months old during all of this?! #Exhausted. While waiting for the twin mattress to arrive, we did the “toddler bed” conversion on his crib. On that very first night in his “big boy bed”, I must have read a dozen books while attempting to stall the inevitable “mommy, don’t go” meltdown. The crazy thing is, I knew it was going to be hard, but I wasn’t ready for how hard it would be for me.
I sat on the floor next to his “toddler bed”, held Colin’s tiny hand in mine, and sang all of Jingle Bells at least 20 times through. Cozy and snuggled up beside his pillows, Colin was unaware of the silent tears that had begun trickling down my cheeks. As I began to sing, my voice cracked and I started to cry. He just listened. When I squeezed his hand, he squeezed back. I asked him for a hug, and he gladly got up and gave me a huge one. He also made sure that I sang both verses by piping up “now the ground is white!” I could physically feel my heart swelling with so many emotions as I gave him a thousand kisses, and left the room.
The next few days were hard. Colin had some awful nights, and I had some terrible days. One afternoon, while my husband was at work, I had scrolled through my Instagram and phone camera roll and texted him a bunch of photos that I’d captured of Colin sleeping when he was a baby. Looking back at those photos brought so many emotions to the surface. “I don’t understand. How is he ready? I’m not ready. It’s not fair. I didn’t have any warning. Why is this so hard for me?” I found it insanely difficult to accept that his crib days were over.
To me, that crib marked the beginning of our mother-son relationship. It wasn’t just a piece of furniture, it was the care that went into putting it together, the time spent washing and preparing the sheets, the special blanket chosen to match the room, the hand-crafted felt crib mobile, and of course, his beloved fox stuffed animal. It was as if none of that mattered anymore. I found myself sobbing on the couch and struggling to accept what was already happening.
In the midst of the sheer exhaustion and just our normal day-to-day, I found myself slowly starting to change my mindset. He was growing up, and I needed to try to view this as an exciting change, and not dwell too much on the nostalgia of it, for those should remain cheerful memories. Colin had a few really rough nights before we finally set up his twin bed and put a baby gate in his doorway. (To anyone going through this transition: the gate was a game-changer! We can leave his door open, but without him escaping all night!) This mama has found that she doesn’t need to wear a strong facade all of the time. The crib is important to me, and that’s okay. I have so many precious memories of ginger-haired, squishy-lipped Colin sleeping in that crib.
And while he may have outgrown it, his baby brother will get to use it now.