Friday, September 21, 2012

musings on motherhood

Going home from the hospital

On the car ride home from the hospital after giving birth, I told Alex that I finally felt at ease in the world….finally. I never have—I've always been awkward and uncomfortable and confused. But, as my child grew within me during pregnancy, those feelings began to shrink. And once I held her in my arms, I felt relieved, like it was the beginning of my life. Being a mother is the most natural role I've ever taken on. And though that role is central in my life right now, I've also found more clarity and comfort in all the other areas of my life since my little one has been around.

Because this mothering thing is so important and feels like it is a huge slice of the what-I-was-meant-to-do-on-this-earth pie, how I perceive my abilities and talent in this area is pretty crucial. So, that is why this next thought was so difficult for me to bear: my first week as a stay-at-home mother was horrible—it was stressful, frustrating, exhausting and left me questioning myself as a mother. It was my first full week of being at home with the baby without my husband here to help (we've been so lucky in that he's been home for the majority of Em's first four months). Instead of going easy on myself, I decided to also tackle working on a nap routine—regular daily times, extending the nap time longer than 45 minute cat naps, and teaching my baby to sleep somewhere other than on my body in the Ergo. I took all of this on rather than just learning how to cope with my new role. While I did make a lot of progress with all the how's and where's and when's of nap time, I still found myself frustrated, emotionally depleted and not enjoying being a mother. By the end of the week I was in tears and picking fights with my husband. The progress I made wasn't satisfying and didn't make me feel hopeful for the future, it made me feel like a failure, because I hadn't miraculously "cured" my baby overnight (or within a week) like so many books/parenting strategies/relatives/doctors/random strangers claim should be possible. Moreover, I felt like a failure because it was so damn hard on both Em and I. Something felt off.

And then. A voice spoke to me in the middle of complaining to my husband. I shushed Alex to listen to it (and then he asked me how many voices I was hearing, because I was seriously going bananas). The voice said, "listen to your gut." That simple message—one I've lived my life by, and have repeated as my mantra throughout pregnancy and now motherhood yet somehow temporarily forgot—suddenly seemed new. I told Alex I had a revelation, which he thought sounded pretty dramatic, but really, it was a revelation. I went from crying and panicking to being filled with peace, just like that, after a week of a sucky suckfest in Suck Central.

As difficult and without solution some situations seem to be for me, one fact never changes: somewhere, inside myself, I always know what to do. I may resist the answer, but, in the end, I will have to come back to it, because it's the only right solution (for me). This applies to my life in its entirety, but it is so incredibly pertinent to basically every minute of every day now that I am a mama. No friend, relative, doctor, book, media outlet, or fellow mama knows what I should do with my baby. As long as I remember that, I might keep my sanity on this journey through motherhood. My revelation (remembering to listen to my gut) completely transformed my experience from challenging to joyful. My second week as a stay-at-home mama was utterly pleasant, and I found myself more in love with my child than ever. We've enjoyed each other's company tremendously, because there are only two people I've listened to and trusted in regards to how to parent my child: me, and Emerson. We know. We know.

Part of my joy, and what my gut was telling me, was that I needed to accept my circumstances, and more importantly, my child (yet another topic, but here we go….). I think we are drawn to read about, talk about, and search for answers concerning our children because IT. IS. HARD. Raising a child. Understanding a baby. Surviving. And we need help. So, it makes sense that we'd want to find some magic cure for every difficult phase, and perhaps find a philosophy (e.g. a book) to latch on to. I am no different—I'm pretty obsessed with reading about child development, child psychology, child-rearing and the like. But, I also think we have to temper our expectations when looking for help outside of ourselves, because all of our babies are individuals and nobody knows those individuals like their mamas. And while I know that that fact won't stop me (personally) from hunting the internet every time Emerson has a problem I don't know how to fix or hitting up the index of the good old Dr. Sears Baby Book when I want advice or calling a friend to vent when I'm struggling or going to my new mama's group to gather up useful tips, it does help to remember that my baby is the one and only Emerson Winter. 

What I know (for myself) is that when I accept Emerson as Emerson, this little operation we've got going on over here runs a whole lot more smoothly. Case in point, when I slowed down the nap routine train, Emerson mysteriously began napping for over two hours every day AND she took several naps in her swing (read: NOT ON MY BODY, wohoo!). I don't expect those habits to stick permanently just yet, but I know that I won't always be typing these posts with Em breathing heavily and sucking her fingers on my chest (as she is right now, le sigh). She and I are figuring it all out, together, every day. The end.

Playa, please. We got this.

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