I'm a firstborn. A rule-follower. If you give me a task, I will get it done. Early. So, when James and I decided we wanted to start our family, I was organized. And I read books. I charted so I'd know when we had the best odds of conceiving. I decided that to give our baby the best start, I would deliver naturally. I planned things out: Our son will be flexible and fall asleep anywhere. We won't whisper when he's sleeping because he needs to learn to sleep through it. We won't give him a pacifier just to shut him up. We won't rock him to sleep, and I won't nurse him to sleep, because he has to learn how to fall asleep by himself. I won't let him sleep in his swing, and I sure won't give up on him sleeping just because he's crying. I will understand why he's crying and I'll be able to make it stop. I will be Super Mommy. I will love every minute of motherhood.
I do love motherhood. I am SO thankful to be doing this and I know that there is nothing else more important I could be spending my life on. But man, this did not start out like I thought it would.
Elijah was born via c-section. Turns out, even if you set your mind on something and get all prepared, you can't control everything (this is a lesson God, in His mercy, has been trying to teach me for years). Not only that, but I caved. I got an epidural. Granted, it was after 21 hours of labor, but still. I felt like a failure. And then I felt ridiculous for being disappointed. I have friends whose baby was stillborn. Others whose babies have had serious health problems. My little baby is perfectly healthy and alive, and I'm bummed about how he got here?!
My wonderful mother came to help for two weeks when Elijah was born. I honestly don't know how we would have survived without her! All too soon, though, came the day when she was to return to her home 1400 miles away. I stood on the sidewalk as she left for the airport with tears streaming down my face and felt so panicked. I was not qualified for this. And I think my two week old son somehow sensed this because all of a sudden, he practically quit sleeping! The next couple weeks were so hard. I loved this little guy so much, but I felt like I didn't know how to care for him correctly.
Correctly: [kuh-rekt-lee] /adj.
1. conforming to fact or truth; free from error; accurate;
2. in accordance with an acknowledged or accepted standard; proper.
I wanted there to be a right way and a wrong way, and I wanted there to be a method for knowing what the right way was for the given situation. Why don't these babies come with instruction manuals? A friend of mine accurately summed up how I was feeling: "If I just knew that what I was doing at any given moment was what my baby needs, I'd be fine." But I was constantly second-guessing myself. I compared what I was hearing from different friends, who all said different things, and felt even more overwhelmed. Let him cry himself to sleep? (Tried that-it took almost 2 hours and then it was time for me to feed him again anyway) Pacifiers can lead to nipple confusion? (Turns out my son isn't easily confused. I think the paci is a genius invention!) Turns out I really did need to figure things out for us, not just try to do things everyone else's way. Their advice was helpful, but I needed to give myself permission to try different things and then do what worked for us.
And all the grand plans I had? It was really hard at first, and we didn't always do things the way I thought we would. When we put him down to sleep and he cried, we'd go back and comfort him. Over and over, sometimes. It was torturous for several weeks, and there was a lot of crying at nap times, but now, he usually falls asleep pretty peacefully. There were weeks where we let him take his last evening nap in his swing because it was the only way he'd sleep. I nursed him to sleep at night because I was so desperate to go to sleep myself. I decided there was time for him to learn good sleep habits later (and guess what-he's starting to figure it out!). If he's fussy, we pop that pacifier in there! And he is a joyful, precious baby! I realized at about three months that things were getting easier. We'd settled into a pretty good routine, I felt like I knew better how to read him and know what he was needing. *sigh of relief* We've got this figured out!
But this week he's stuffy and congested and he's been refusing to nurse. I have been reduced to tears when he refused the breast but then took a bottle. I let my four month old hurt my feelings! So, I think I will never really feel like we have everything figured out. I knew this would be a learning experience, but it turns out it's not the kind of lesson that you finish learning. Ever. :) I'm so thankful for the grace and presence and wisdom of God, and the loving support of my husband and so many family members and friends. I could NOT do this alone. I want to be clear-I LOVE being a mom. I love getting the sweet smiles and laughs of my little boy. I love watching his sleeping face and listening to his quiet breathing and knowing that, for as long as God lets me, I get to raise him and teach him and love him. I love seeing his delight in certain games. It's so sweet to see his awareness of the world around him and know that it will only increase. It's scary that what is "normal" will always be changing, but he is SO worth it!
Thanks to AllisonO for asking questions that prompted these thoughts.