Thursday, January 31, 2013


I've always put a lot of pressure on myself, so I knew that I'd have to try to be extra gentle with myself when I became a mother. Scratch that. When I got pregnant. Wait, no. From the moment I began to think seriously about trying to conceive. I've had incredibly unrealistic expectations of myself all along. I'd like to be able to go easy on myself, but right now that ability comes and goes. 

Instead, I've basically restricted my life down to only things that make healthy and emotionally stable babies, and it's been that way for the two years (trying to conceive, pregnancy, and mothering). I cut out all caffeine, alcohol, and anything and everything I could ingest with any known risk of harm to fetuses/nursing babes starting months before I even began trying to conceive. The last time I was drunk was on my honeymoon. I exercised (but not too strenuously) religiously to get my body ready for pregnancy. While pregnant, I took organic prenatal vitamins, omegas, calcium, superfood supplements, and probiotics. I ate all organic foods, and an excess of produce. I got plenty of sleep and rested my body. I held my breath when walking past smokers, vehicles emitting smelly fumes, people painting their houses or using permanent markers. I played relaxation music constantly (to calm myself and the baby). I could go on. The point is, I was am nuts. Crazy. When it comes to the level of perfection I believe I should be able to provide for my child, it just never feels like it's enough….like, I am enough.

Now that my child is on the outside of my body, it's only gotten worse...with the exception of the early months, which were honestly much easier for me than my current life. Up until about six months, when Emerson became mobile and independent, I felt more at ease in the world than I think I ever have. I was doing my thing, mothering and nurturing, and it didn't feel as difficult to provide my child with everything she needed because I was it. My arms always kept her safe and soothed, my breast milk provided all the healthy nutrition she needed, she took so many naps throughout the day that it was easy to fill her awake hours with plenty of enrichment and interaction. That was the honeymoon. 

Now it's a full-time job trying to keep my child from injuring herself. My arms are a place she returns to periodically while spending her time exploring/getting excited about/getting pissed off by/destroying/building a life. Emerson also now requires food, of the outside-of-my-body variety. Trying to piece together her weekly meal plan is an insane word problem, the likes of which I haven't seen since studying for and taking the LSATs. I panic as I try to balance the foods that constipate her with the foods that make her poop, foods that provide enough iron for her growing body, foods that provide enough vitamin C to help her absorb said iron, foods with protein….all while working with the small set of foods she can actually eat at this point in her life. Then there's the fact that Emerson is now awake. Like, all day. And after I prepare meals, clean up meals, give baths, dress, change (repeat, repeat, repeat), do the laundry, clean up spills and messes, soothe a child who has bonked her head/fallen down/gotten stuck somewhere she can't get out of (repeat, repeat, repeat), there are only so many hours minutes left to enrich her. 

Meanwhile, I feel perpetually assaulted by countless INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT/CRITICAL/READ THIS OR YOUR CHILD MIGHT DIE/HAVE A LOW IQ/SUFFER FROM MALNUTRITION/BECOME A DELINQUENT AND NEVER HOLD A JOB, etc etc. All in caps. Underlined. Italicized. Starred. Circled. Every day, I personally seek information on any number of child-rearing issues, and also happen upon a dozen other unsolicited ones (thank you, Facebook/email subscriptions/blogs). I read, I sometimes take careful notes, I try to commit it all to memory and put it into effect. But, I am overwhelmed. I am panicked. I feel like less of a mother for not being able to stay on top of it all. So, I try to relax and not think about any of it, but then I end up feeling neglectful. Because how can I not care about my child's life/brain/health/future?! Have you read about the toxic levels of arsenic in rice and rice products?! Did you see that study Harvard did that links fluoride to brain damage, significantly lower IQs, suppressed immune systems, cancer…..?! Have you heard about the incredibly hazardous effects of the vinyl used to make kid's backpacks and lunch boxes that only needs to be near them for minutes in order to leach into their bodies?!


But, then. Then there are the moments when another mama comes to me and I see a bit of myself in her, and I can talk to that part of my heart/mind/psyche that needs to hear me say, "you are wonderful just the way you are. Please go easy on yourself." And I feel better, proud even, of my efforts. As my husband used to say when I'd worry aloud to him that I wasn't doing a good enough job at being pregnant, "that baby has the Ritz Carleton of wombs, relax." And realistically, she probably has the Ritz Carleton of childhoods. I might not be able to see it, but it's there. I'm there, and she's there. And I love her so much that I drive myself crazy researching every facet of life I can think of and striving for some ideal that isn't anywhere near possible to achieve. 

In the end, all I can do is my very best, and that is the one thing I can always say I do. That is the one thing we all do, every day, parent or not—our best. If we could do better in any given moment, we would. So, just for today, I'll let that be enough.

This totally plays in my head all the time...

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