I am fairly certain that every mother goes through a quiet wrestling of spirit shortly after she has her firstborn baby.
She feels the trifecta of terror, bliss, and exhaustion. She hears the buzzing voices of relatives, coworkers, friends, and “experts” – telling her what she should BE and DO as a mother. But, ever so slowly, she learns to listen to that tiny whisper in her own heart.
As quite a surprise to me, I started to parent my babies like this: breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, nighttime parenting, and gentle discipline. (Some people might refer to this style as “Attachment Parenting,” but I rarely label it. Because I don’t want it to sound like: “WE do this and THEY do that.”).
Part of what felt best to Tim & I was keeping our babies always with us (as in, not leaving them at all in the 1st year…with anyone). It’s not like it was a “rule.” We just never wanted to – and that was that. In fact – until very recently, we never left either of our girls with anyone except grandparents.
But, at age four, our oldest daughter is blossoming into a “bona fide kid.” She is exceptionally independent.
- we’ll go to a play and she’ll go to the crowded front row by herself to get a better view.
- we’ll go to a brand new church where she doesn’t know a soul and she’ll wave us good-bye without a bit of trepidation.
- we’ll meet a stranger and she’ll clearly say her name, without hiding behind my leg or sleeve (she actually told me to not say it “for her.”).
I used to sometimes wonder – Would I EVER not breastfeed her? Would I ever sleep through the night again? Would I always be changing diapers? Would she always cling tightly to me in new situations?
But now – glory be – she goes to the bathroom (and helps her sister go to the bathroom). She can get a snack and carry on a conversation and pour herself a glass of water. She laughs at jokes, puts on her shoes, and scampers off to play with friends. She takes showers, turns on lights, and goes to bed all by herself (where she sleeps the entire night).
She is capable and compassionate, strong-willed and sweet, lively and loving.
People told us a lot of things when we had our firstborn baby. They said it would spoil my baby to hold her too much. They said we needed to “teach” our baby independence by leaving her in a nursery. They said to have regular date nights away from the baby – or our marriage would suffer. They said cosleeping would hurt our sex life. The said if I breastfed my baby to “sleep,” she’d never learn to “self-soothe.” They said that it would be hard to transition our baby to her own room if we co-slept (it was a piece of cake, by the way). In reality, none of those things were true for us.
I think I’m writing this to say two things to anyone out there who is a new mom: (A) It gets easier and (B) it’s okay to swim against the current of conventional parenting advice – if you want to, of course.
Take a deep breath, mama. You are doing just fine.