Let me preface this: I am not writing any of this to brag, nor do I want to communicate that I, my child, or my life is perfect. I hate when people only share the positive stuff online because it tends to subconsciously shame those of us who have negative feelings from time to time. So: Lexi does have her frustrating moments, I have serious body image issues, and there are moments I want the freedom of the first 30 years of my life back (where I could work out 4h a day every day and not miss out on anything…) but I wouldn’t trade this new life for anything.
Motherhood has come easy to me. It is the most natural thing I’ve ever experienced. Again, not bragging- I can’t brag about something I didn’t accomplish. See, if you know me, you’ve heard me say it: I was made for this. I’ve kinda always known it, but a year and fifteen days ago, it became reality.
I should have known when I was pregnant and suddenly everything became about growing and protecting this little person inside me. Small choices that a much more selfish previous me would have agonized over (like would it really hurt to drink this tea, or does my
10th anniversary steak really have to be well done?” Both could reasonably be answered “no, go ahead”) became no brainers to me-because I wanted to take no unnecessary risks. Now, I was a little (a lot) over anxious, but that’s not my point. I had an incredibly easy and comfortable pregnancy. Toward the end, I was always asked or told “you’re ready, aren’t you? “”Tired of being pregnant yet” and it drove me crazy. I’ll get into why in a moment. I always answered the same way, “I’m ready to meet her, but I feel great, and I just want her to come when she’s ready.” Pregnancy was bliss, and I was so excited to meet Lexi, but I felt it’d be so selfish to rush her arrival.
My labor was incredibly long, and had a few complications, but was as calm and undramatic as it could be under those circumstances. It was incredibly empowering, and I hope I never ever forget the first moment I saw, then Held Lexi. I remember her tiny bum in my hand, her head between my breasts, and her still goopy, fresh from the womb smell in my nostrils. She was *mine*. I had never felt or known anything so powerfully. I got them to do the required monitoring of her for the first couple hours in the room with her in my arms, and when they did have to take her to see the doctor and be bathed, I felt a bit bereft. I took a nap,(I had been awake 72h at that point) and the moment I woke an hour later my first thought was to cry out “where’s my baby?!?!” Maybe all this sounds normal to you, maybe not. All I know is the moment she was born it felt like my whole life and my whole self made sense. I’d always felt like a failure at all I’d attempted. I always felt like I couldn’t get anything right, but when I looked at Lexi, when I held her and she looked at me, turned to my voice the very first day, nursed perfectly on the first try-I knew that all those years of percieved failure were like a fish trying to walk on land-someone tell 8 year old me that at 30, she’s gonna realize she *is* Ariel from Little Mermaid! I spent all those years dreaming and feeling like I didn’t belong under the sea of college, career (I tried a few), and other things, when I was waiting for my Heavenly Father to give me Legs and make me who I was meant to be. It’s not the best analogy, but it’s one that speaks to me in a strange way.
Everyone and their mother told me how hard and exhausting having a newborn/infant is, and how little sleep you get. That wasn’t the case for me. (Don’t hate, please!) Lexi started sleeping through the night (a six hour stretch) regularly at eleven days old. I was only sleep deprived the first week or so, and even that was mostly because of my labor. I kept waiting for that overwhelmed “what do I do now?” feeling to come. It never did. I just knew. I knew when she was hungry, tired, wet…she almost never cried, so when she did, I knew what to do, I guess. There were about 5x in those first few months that she cried more than 5 minutes, and all of them involved her being awake more than she should have or me trying to feed her a bottle-this child is a breast only girl, tyvm. She was an easy baby, and we were bonded. One of my very favorite memories of the early weeks (and basically my entire life, really) was when Lexi was 3 weeks old and my mom had come to spend a few days with us. Lexi was sleeping in a Moses basket next to our bed, so when she needed a change in the night I had to walk across the apartment to her room, which I never minded really. As I was walking back to our room at about 530 AM, my mom came up to me, tears in her eyes, voice breaking, and said “you are such a good Mama. It does my heart so good to see it.” Wow. It’s not that my mother isn’t a kind or encouraging woman-she is! But when you are a first time mama and you want so badly to make your own mama proud, that’s just the best thing you could hear.
Breastfeeding came easy for me too. Sorry. I wince when other mamas talk about “you know how hard it can be” because the only problems I’ve had have been in my head, like my desperate “dip” in April. I’m gonna write another blog post about nursing though-this one is gonna be long enough!
When Lexi was about 4 months old, we were at a friend’s house for the first time since Lexi was born, and the friend said she’d never seen a mother and child who were so “one” with each other. This made me beam. There have been things I’ve agonized over-namely vaccines. I still
don’t like doing it, don’t wanna, but I do, mostly because Scott feels like we should. Mostly, though, I’ve relied on that one-ness with Lexi and knowing her and sensing her needs and ignored any books or culturally prescribed timeline.
With food, for example. Lexi was exclusively breastfed until she was 8 months old other than a dab of something on my fingertip. At that point we started a little Baby Led Weaning, because I was concerned she wasn’t getting enough milk. Turned out she was getting plenty, because most days she wouldn’t eat more than a bite or 2 of any solid on a given day. When she was about 10.5 months old, she started gobbling all the purees I’d give her for a week or 2, but then started getting mad when I wouldn’t let her feed herself and refusing to eat. I then figured out a few things she could feed herself safely (a challenge, because even now she only has two teeth), but she still really prefers nursing to solids, and there are some days that solids don’t happen. Lexi is growing beautifully, is in the 75-95 percentile on everything, and I have no concerns.
We also co-slept in the big bed from when she was 2-7 months. this was one of the best unconventional decisions we made. everyone got great sleep, Lexi got to nurse when she needed, we got lots of bonding. Then, when we stopped sleeping so well (mostly when i did) we moved her into her crib. it was a mostly painless process, and one we did gently-no rush, no cry it out.
Honestly, I think the “knowing and immersing myself in my child” method of parenting rather than following what “everyone” says is the “right” way is one of the biggest reasons this has come easy. Another is that Lexi is just an easy easy happy little girl. A few friends say that has a lot to do with her needs being met so well. I dunno, but I thank God for the blessing that is my daughter’s spirit every single day.
The other thing that I think has made motherhood come so easy to me is that I waited, cried, begged, and lost so much in the process of becoming a mother (a story for another day/post) that I see every single moment, diaper, and middle of the night wake up as a blessing. I LIVE for this! I may not enjoy it in the moment always, but I also know what it’s like NOT to have these things in my life.
I read a blog post the other day (that has now been shared on fb by two mothers of four who are younger than me), that kinda inspired me to finally get these thoughts out. The jist of the post was that this mama of five is often asked by mothers of one or two “how do you do it?” In the sense of they can’t imagine the work of having so many children, and her response through her blog post is that having any number of children wears you out and mamas of one or two are doing good work too! Awesome, part of me thought! What a humble way of thinking of it! Another part of me was annoyed and a little depressed. See, I never look at those moms with 4, 5, more children and ask “how do you do it?” I look at them and crave what they have. The boundless possibility, the opportunities to love, to experience the world anew daily. I’m not clueless about the work involved, either. I’m the oldest of four, and being quite a bit older than my siblings, I got a very real taste of having many toddlers to take care of. It’s really hard for me on a few levels when moms (especially of many kids) complain about how hard it is or just about their kids. One part of me knows that she is hurting and I want to help her not be so hard on herself. Another part wants to help her see how much it hurts women like me and women like who I was 2 years ago who ache for what they have and may never have it to hear what at least *sounds* like them being very ungrateful for all they’ve been blessed with. For me it’s like “oh I won the lottery and all this money is such a buuuurden” I know most of them aren’t ungrateful, but it can come across that way, and I’m really trying to work on being patient and loving them rather than project my own pain.
So, yeah, I feel almost guilty sometimes because I only have good things to say about motherhood. I want you to know I don’t think I’m better than you at all. We all have our own stories and struggles. And if you feel the need to tell me “Just wait…” don’t. Seriously. I am so very sick of hearing that. I’ve been sick of it since I first got pregnant. Guess what? Not one ounce of anyone’s “helpful warnings” have come true. I’m not 18 years old having a baby and naive enough to tho I it’s all rainbows and lollipops. I know there will be painful times on the parenting journey, but I don’t need to spoil the sunshine of today by dreading them.
For now, I’m gonna let my daughter cover me with kisses, bask in her laughter, and feel my hear swell when she signs “milk” for the 90th time today.