The day those two pink lines appeared, I felt the world stop moving. It was a wave of joy, fear, and squealing family phone calls. My brain was buzzing, and a giddy smile lingered across my mouth.
I could hardly wait until my husband got home. He eventually walked through the door, exhausted after a 14-hour shift. The news exploded out of me.
Just like that, he was wide-awake. We celebrated, hugged, cried. We chatted about names and genders and nursery decorations. A whole world of possibilities had emerged.
Colored by two pink lines.
When my head hit the pillow, my mind kept racing. The silence of the house was suffocating. How was I the only person awake, pondering this little miracle growing inside of me? I kept imagining the dreams that were growing with him. From first steps to college graduation, I closed my eyes and let the wave carry me away.
Then, I was hit with the biggest question mark my heart had ever known: "Will I be a good parent?"
I prayed. I texted some friends. I Googled articles, read message boards, and bought a few books on Amazon. None gave me the constant feedback I longed for. The affirmation that everything was going to be okay.
Then I found "The App." This magical tile in my iPhone that tracked the progress of my growing baby. I was a woman obsessed. Milestones made me happy.
Hour by hour, I received pings on everything from the ideal growth of my baby and expected changes in my body to birth preparation and beyond. They were clear indicators that I was doing something right, so long as we stayed on plan.
This, my friends, was before birth.
Then came my son. He was angelic in every way. His soft skin, squeaky sounds, and milky smell -- it was everything I ever dreamed of. But did I relish in his utter perfection? No, I was too busy worrying about his weak cry, crappy APGAR score, and poor latch. These were all things I needed to work on. Things I had to "fix" to be a good mother.
The next day, my app updated. It started telling me which milestones this little human "probably" should be achieving, week-by-week. I was furiously checking boxes, proud that my son was ahead or on time for his milestones.
What makes a successful parent if not a successful child?
It was an exhausting roller coaster that left me frazzled and, frankly, insane.
A while later, I was preparing for my son's 18-month pediatrician appointment, sneaking the bottle into the diaper bag like it was cocaine contraband. I couldn't possibly let my doctor see that Ben was still drinking from his "baba."
Two vaccines later, he started sobbing and pointing to the bag. "Baba! Baba! Mama, pleeeeeaase!"
My doctor sat down on her stool and smiled. "You know, it's okay if he has the bottle right now," she said. "Some of these milestones just aren't that big of a deal." She paused and waited for my reaction.
I sat quietly, feeding my son his contraband bottle.
"Ben is a happy child," she said. "He's loved, and he knows it. He's unafraid to try new things, and he's confident interacting with strangers. All of that matters. Stop focusing so much on the milestones. It's driving you crazy."
When she left, the fear poured out of me. I fed my son and cried until we were both exhausted and done.
The milestones didn't matter.
All this time, I was tracking them for me. I needed to know if I was doing my job as a parent, and the only way I knew to determine my success was by his milestones. I wanted to know I was doing my job. I wanted to know if I measured up.
When I got home, I deleted that damn app. Instantly, I felt a heavy weight just float away.
I know now that I am a good parent, in every way that matters. That there are milestones -- unwritten ones -- that are infinitely more important than a pincer grasp and potty training.
My child is loved.
He feels safe jumping from the side of the pool into my open arms. He giggles at his own jokes, confident that his sense of humor is funny to others. He snuggles in my bed on stormy nights, knowing his mama's body will protect him from thunder and other scary things in the world. He scrapes his knees at the playground, and looks to me for the "am I okay or not" response.
Am I be a good parent? Yes. Because...
I will listen to my child's laughter.
I will let my heart soar when he says, "I love you."
I will watch his personality bloom and sense of humor sharpen.
Those are the milestones they never tell you about. And they're only ones worth measuring.