The First Cut is the Deepest: On Hard “Firsts”


In the romantic imaginings of what parenting will be, we indulge ourselves with dreams of all the important “firsts” : first steps, first words, first days of school, first lost teeth. I had wanted to be a mom for so long by the time the twins were born that I had a significant collection of “first fantasies”, and it’s satisfying and wonderful to realize that even my best thinking of what it would be like to see my babies do something new for the first time fell short of how amazing it actually is to experience it. In fifteen months, we’ve had piles of firsts from typical developmental milestones (rolling over, solid foods) to cultural and existential firsts like  interacting directly with their twin for the first time and first time seeing snow. At this current new-walker, new-talker toddler stage, we are first-ing left and right these days.

Whoa! First solid food! (Avocado.) Mind = blown!

Yet sometimes when I think about all the expected and exciting firsts, I am struck by how many firsts I didn’t expect. Firsts that are scary, heart-breaking, hard to accept and complicated. As a mother, some of these kind of firsts impact me far more than I expect they will impact C and B. Often they come out of the blue–like C’s first bloody nose yesterday–and scare me and make me think crazy things (“Now he knows that his nose can bleed…now he knows about bleeding…he’s probably scared to bleed or get hurt now…now he can never un-know about bleeding). Sometimes they make me sad, like the first time a dog growled at B when she got too close and she learned that not all creatures want to be loved on by her at all times.

First Santa visit hit an unexpected snag.

Here are some firsts I didn’t expect…firsts that were hard:

  • First day of life, 7 weeks early, unable to be held by their parents because they were attached to life-saving medical equipment in the NICU.
  • First time they appeared to feel betrayed by me: 1 year shots. This was so gutting that I tear up as I type it.
  • First time apart from each other. C was re-hospitalized for 4 days shortly after they came home from the NICU  and B was not allowed in the unit to visit due to infection risks.
  • First time at daycare., 1 year old. They were totally fine, I was a disaster.
  • First day B wearing her  glasses, at 8 month’s old. She hated them, I cried, it was dramatic.
  • First time being told “no”. This one happened while I was feeding them at maybe 6 months old, when B kept spray-spitting out squash because she liked the sensation. It flowed out of me like water, automatic and firm: “No. No spitting.” Life until that moment had only consisted of “yes”.

While I know all these unexpected  firsts are a necessary part of letting my children experience the world and become people, I still struggle with how to manage my own experience of them. I think this speaks to a great truth about parenting for me: it’s the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. My half of the bargain involves being present for the hard stuff, feeling the ache in the hard first moments as willingly as I feel the joy in the exciting ones. Which, incidentally, is a “first” of my own.

What “firsts” have you and your kids experienced that took you by surprise?

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Shauna Silva
Shauna is a native of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom and Middlebury College grad who relocated back to VT in 2013 after more than a decade in Seattle, WA, where she came to appreciate good Pho, Orca Whales and the magic of a long ferry ride. Shauna and her wife, Ang, are a proud 2-mom family with their toddler boy/girl twins. Shauna is a clinical social worker who worked as Child & Family Therapist, parent educator, trainer and consultant for over a decade before being dramatically humbled by her own pregnancy and parenting adventures. She currently works full-time outside the home as a mental health program administrator and full-time in the home chasing diaper escapees and reading "Goodnight Moon." She and Ang are thrilled to be raising their family back home in the Green Mountains where they expect the twins to get really, really good at hockey.


  1. Hi a friend sent me your blog and I wanted to let you know Santa is my husband! Was this taken this year? If so it was a miracle Christmas for our family. Santa became very sick and all but died. He spent over a week in intensive care and out of the hospital only in time for a few of his gigs. Glad your children enjoyed him

    • Hi Beth– Yes, this was Christmas 2013! I didn’t recognize your husband at the time but my mom told me later who he is and that he had been very sick. I am SO happy to hear he is ok! He was absolutely wonderful with the kids, even when Colby became unexpectedly hysterical. Please tell him thank you for being the kids’ first Santa!


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