On Trusting Yourself
I’m excited to be participating in the Preparing for Birth Series at A Little Bit of All of It. This week’s topic is “Advice for the New Mom,” and Lord knows I had to learn a LOT when I first started doing this 17 months ago.
When you have a new baby, you’ll find yourself answering the same handful of questions over and over again, to the point that you develop short, scripted little answers for each of them.
“No, we’re not really sleeping. I guess you could call it napping, two hours at a time.”
“We’re not going to be trying any sleep training, but thanks for the suggestion.”
“I’m breastfeeding on her cue. She’s nursing around 12 times a day.”
“Oh yeah, she was born with all that hair. My sister and I were both the same way.”
“It is fun! I just love being a mom… most of the time.”
But there was one question that I was never able to nail down my quick and easy answer for…
“What has surprised you most about being a mom/having a baby?”
I was asked this question surprisingly often, and it caught me off guard every time. I never knew what to say. Let’s see…
Breastfeeding, not sleeping, the power of my emotions, the number of diapers a baby can demolish in a single day, the stress, the love, the joy, the doubt, the exhaustion, the beauty, the hours we could spend watching her do absolutely nothing but simply BE. Just all of it.
I was woefully underprepared for motherhood (though I think it’s fair to say that most of us feel pretty out of our element at first). I was terrified, and couldn’t allow myself to consider the possibility that after childbirth (for which I was extremely prepared), I would be responsible for the care of an actual newborn human baby. I had zero experience with babies. They made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like them. Truthfully, I was afraid I wouldn’t like my own.
When Isabella was born I was overwhelmed. I was in constant doubt, questioning myself at every decision, sure that I was doing everything wrong. The Baby Book became my best friend, always nearby when I was nursing so I could look up all the startling or alarming or confusing things I was encountering every moment. During those early days I spent a lot of time googling things on my phone and reading blogs and books and WebMD articles.
But as Izzy and I got to know one another, slowly, very slowly, I began to listen to my own instincts. Instead of asking Dr. Sears what he thought, I started to focus on my daughter. I was amazed (and still am) by how powerfully you can love someone. I adore Stephen, but it’s different. We fell in love slowly as our friendship grew. We chose each other. We share with one another, we give and receive.
I didn’t choose Isabella- she came to me, with nothing to offer but her small self, her new existence, her complete and total reliance on me for all her needs. And I was head-over-heels, fiercely, and suddenly in love with her. I didn’t have to try. I didn’t have to conjure up motherly feelings that weren’t there the day before. One day she was in my arms, and I was irrevocably changed.
That’s what surprised me most about being a mother; it comes naturally. We are biologically, physiologically, and emotionally hardwired with the instincts and abilities to care for our children. Even if you’re terrified, everything you need to mother beautifully is already inside you.
My advice to new moms is simple: trust yourself.