On my very first night home with my first baby, I was more terrified than I had ever been in my life. Jump off a bridge? Sure! Scale a rock face? No problem! But leave me alone with this tiny, beautiful person? No thank you.
I had a fistful of worksheets, clinging to the vague instructions we got from the hospital. That information was our jailer and our lifeline. We kept meticulous track of poops, pees, and feedings, obsessing over every detail. I didn’t know what to do, or if I was doing anything right.
That night, while I was leaning over David’s bassinet to check that his chest was rising and falling, we had an unexpected visitor who was overstaying his welcome. As with every situation in new parenting, we didn’t know what to do. Our old, laid-back, social selves were hesitant to tell him to leave. Our new selves were still finding ground; we didn’t have the confidence to make what was, in hindsight, the very obvious decision.
I was exhausted, sore, overwhelmed, and every part of taking care of my baby felt unnatural. I knew I needed to spread out in my awkwardness and make my entire home my nest, but I couldn’t because there was an acquaintance in my living room.
I called my mom in tears. I told her about the guest, and then I asked her a barrage of specific questions about feeding and caring for my baby. She didn’t answer even one of my questions. Instead, she answered, “Trust yourself. You are that baby’s mother and you know what’s best.”
(Meanwhile, she told my dad to call Tom to tell him to kick out our guest.)
The next morning, the anxiety of the night had lifted with the sun. I was cradling my infant in the crook of my elbow, talking to my sister on Skype. My sister was living in Asia at the time, and she had paved the way to motherhood — she had three kids by the time I had my first.
I told her about the night, the visitor, and call with Mom, and about how she didn’t answer my questions.
“Oh, I know,” she answered. “Mom won’t tell you what to do.”
That conversation with my mom was almost nine years ago, and I think about it all the time. I don’t remember the questions I’d asked her, but I do remember her answer. She could have responded with facts, figures, information. Perhaps a 3-step guide to breastfeeding, or a 10-step guide to getting your baby to sleep. Instead, that first night, she taught me every single thing I needed to know about being a mother.
Do your best, trust your gut, and love your kids. God gave you these specific kids for a reason. It was not a mistake; you are equipped.
Thanks, Mom, for showing me the way.