What I’ve Learned About Being a Mother

lena5

Today, Babycakes is three months old.

How did that happen?

In this time, I’ve learned several things about motherhood, at least in my own life and for my own baby, that I never imagined I’d learn. Let me share.

  • You do actually forget how much labor hurt. I mean, I know it hurt. I remember crying, struggling to breathe through back labor, throwing up, squeezing my husband’s hand, and, at one point saying, “I don’t think I can do this!” But I don’t physically remember the pain.
  • You shouldn’t doubt your maternal instincts. They’re called instincts for a reason. We’re programmed to intuitively know certain things, and that includes knowing what to do for our babies. I spent a lot of time in the beginning (and admittedly still) second-guessing myself. Am I feeding Babycakes often enough/too often? Do I respond too quickly when she cries, or not quickly enough? Is she getting enough stimulation and learning time? Do I hold her too much or not enough? Once I learned to stop questioning myself and start listening to my daughter, things seemed to get a lot easier.
  • You are the expert on your own child. Sure, it’s great to read up on all the different parenting techniques and ask for advice. But you’re also going to get a lot of unsolicited input from a lot of people, especially well-meaning relatives who think you should’ve been giving the baby cereal by now and nursing her to sleep is a bad thing. But as with maternal instincts, I am the most knowledgeable person when it comes to my baby. And I’m going to do what seems right to me. Will I make mistakes? Sure. Probably already have. Oh well.
  • That whole “babies sleep all the time” thing is a total myth. At least in my house. Babycakes is a stellar sleeper at night – we were getting 5-6 hour stretches by 3 weeks, and now she regularly sleeps up to 10 hours a night, interrupted by an early morning feed. But she does not like to nap at all. The lack of time during the day to do anything but entertain her is offset by the uninterrupted sleep we’ve been getting.
  • No baby is as adorable/smart/funny/etc. as yours. My daughter still hasn’t really figured out her hands, and tummy time is like torture. But she figures things out that we didn’t think she was developmentally ready to do. Plus she’s hilarious. And beautiful. And far too alert for her own good – she has to look at and listen to everything. That’s probably why she’s such a crappy napper. She communicates to us in her own language that can sound like anything from a kitten to a baby wookie, and responds when we imitate. She’ll be going to Harvard next week, I’m sure.
  • Each baby accepts things out in their own time. Babycakes screamed her face off every time we put her in the car or stroller for the first month of her life, which was particularly challenging since she also hates pacifiers. Suddenly last week, the car was no longer akin to being put on the rack (though she still hates the buckling/unbuckling process), and just on Tuesday the stroller was not a torture device. She loves eating milk off a spoon, but still won’t take a bottle, even if it’s the only option she has.
  • Things will hit your emotions in weird ways. All it takes sometimes is a particular song on the radio to make me well up. It took all my willpower not to start sobbing in the doctor’s office waiting room when one of those hungry-kids-in-Africa commercials came on the TV. I cry sometimes when I see tears in my baby’s eyes. It was probably harder on me for her to get her first set of vaccines than it was for me, though she’d probably assert the opposite if she could say more than, “Ah-goo.”
  • You will discover immense capacity for worry. Along with hypersensitivity to every sound your baby makes. You want only the best, and for your baby to be happy and healthy. You’ll wonder every minute you’re awake in the middle of the night if the baby is sleeping okay. You’ll reach over and lay your hand (gently) on her chest to feel that it’s still rising and falling properly. You might even try to get her to squirm a little in her sleep, just to make sure she’s alright. Moms have been doing this, I’m sure, for centuries.
  • Your capacity for worry will be nothing compared to your capacity for love. I loved my baby before I ever met her, but since she’s been born, I often find myself overwhelmed by how much I love her. There are many times I’ll be snuggling and rocking her after she’s fallen asleep nursing, and I just can’t contain my tears of joy and love. The first time my husband found me practically sobbing over our newborn, he was afraid something was very wrong. But rather, everything was very right.
  • You will finally understand how much your own mother loves you. My mom said to me recently, “You know how you feel about her? That’s how I feel about you.”
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