Six Words Every Mother Needs To Hear

I just need to sleep.

That was, undeniably, the main thought running through my head in the first few months after my eldest son was born. That, and ‘what on Earth have I done’, ‘where did I put the damn barrier cream’, and wondering when my downstairs area would stop feeling like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.

It won’t be like this forever. That was what my mother-in-law had said to me. It will get better.

I can’t remember exactly when she first said it. I can only assume it was on one of the many occasions I sat slumped at her kitchen table, face planted on the granite, lukewarm coffee mug in hand.

But it became my mantra. I repeated it to myself as I wore the bedroom carpet down, rocking a colicky baby in the early morning darkness. I told it to myself when an explosive poop meant a hasty retreat from the garden centre/supermarket/post office/all of the above. I remembered it when the midwife peered with a stern eye at his growth chart. And when I sat in the local coffee shop, staring forlornly at the empty zip pocket where the clean breast pads should be, as milk seeped through my top. And – a personal favourite – when my childless friends checked into the pub or the theatre or Spain on social media.

It won’t be like this forever.

As my baby grew and the issues of posseting and poop and leaky boobs morphed into those of teething, food allergies and separation anxiety, I again reminded myself that it was only temporary. That I would get through it. That it would pass eventually, and I could hope to reclaim a smidgen of my social life.

And it was true. The sleepless nights gradually reduced until he finally slept through and a nap routine developed. I switched to formula, for his sake as well as my own, which meant family members could take a turn at feeding. His awareness of the world around him increased. He could play, so I could play with him. He learned to walk, so we explored the garden. His attention span grew, so we enjoyed stories together.
It won’t be like this forever.

Before I knew it, he wasn’t a baby any more. No longer could I carry the length of his delicate body along one arm. The tiny, grasping fingers learned to draw. The soft fontanelle which had once pulsed beneath soft baby skin and feathery hair disappeared, now protected by bone.

It won’t be like this forever.

His chubby frog legs straightened out and now wiggled and kicked to escape the change mat. That tiny mouth that searched instinctively for milk now prefers ice cream and sausages and orange squash. The wide eyes that watched my face with ineluctable intensity will now glue themselves to the TV given half a chance.

It won’t be like this forever.

The head that could snooze (and for a time would only snooze) on my shoulder will now rarely do the same, save for the post-swimming car-to-house transfer and the occasional late-finishing family gathering. The days when it was still just me and him, with no little brother vying for my attention. When he had me, all of me, and didn’t have to share. Those days are fewer now and a rare treat.

And I know, in just a few years, he may not come running to me for cuddles. He won’t need my help to get dressed, or to make lunch, or to go out and visit friends. The tantrums will transition to sulks and my kisses at the school gate will be greeted with a shrug and an ‘urgh, Mum…’

Soon I’ll be the one vying for his attention, and yearning for those bittersweet years of nappies and midnight lullabies when I told myself, “it won’t be like this forever.”


Nicola Wiggins: I am a Welsh working mum living in Hertfordshire, UK. I have been published in Huffington Post and Funny Pearls and was shortlisted by Anthology magazine in 2022 for their short story award.