In my life, there have been many times I have had to do really hard things. I have pushed myself physically to my absolute limit, I have cried and writhed with the pain of grief, I have struggled with my children, my marriage, myself.
In all of these and other trials, I have been told, “baby steps, just remember to take baby steps”. This is so commonly heard and said, but I wonder how often we really think about what it means.
As I sat in Elliott’s room last night, I thought about this. He was in his bed, happily talking to himself, every so often saying, “Mama, blankie” – to which I would reply with covering him back up and returning to my spot sitting by the dresser. I sat with him for an hour last night. But here’s the thing, he didn’t cry. He stayed in his bed and he fell asleep without my help. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been gentle and what we both need.
I’ve taken baby steps.
Let’s talk about baby steps for a minute. When we first hear that phrase we might think, small or short steps. I remember playing “Mother May I?” in grade school and that is what was meant when “Mother” said take baby steps. Small, short steps.
However, now that I am a Mother, I think of it more literally. What are those steps really like? The first steps are awkward, halting. There might be one step and then the baby falls. Gradually the baby works his way up to two or three steps. Then before you know it, they are walking with confidence, bending over to get things, and standing back up again.
It is easy to see that walking toddler and forget the hard part of the learning process. It is easy to forget how many times they fell down, how many kisses you had to give, how many times they failed before they truly got it and succeeded. It is also easy to forget their absolute persistence. They don’t give up because they fall down. No, they get up and keep going. It’s not easy, but they keep working at it until they get it.
This is what I think of when I think of baby steps.
The Mother in the NICU with her baby who prays, cries, and pleads for a miracle, for her baby to come home. I think of the challenges she goes through and then the day when she finally takes her baby home – baby steps.
The parents who have lost a child. That grief is all encompassing, it is hard, it is painful, it is raw and it always hurts. Then the day when they can laugh and truly feel happy and not feel guilty about it – baby steps.
The woman who isn’t happy with herself and her body, but decides it is time to take control of her health. She starts out with her first “run” which consists of 1.5 mile jog and 1.5 mile walk. She works, builds up and runs a half marathon and finds a new passion and healthier lifestyle – baby steps.
The Mother who desperately wants her baby to sleep at night, but doesn’t want to do cry it out. She starts a new routine and while it is hard, eventually that baby falls asleep gently, without crying, and feeling secure – baby steps.
I could go on. There are so many times in our lives we need to remember the baby steps. We need to remember that nothing worth it comes easy. We need to remember the absolute virtue of persistence.
We need to remember that just because we learned to walk as a baby doesn’t mean we won’t ever have to take baby steps again.