This month was a special one. June is the month of our wedding anniversary, but that always seems to fall in the shadow of another important day. Two out of our five kids, #1 and #4, share the same birthday. They are exactly 9 years apart! While I certainly didn’t plan it that way, especially since #1 was born a full month early, their bond is so special and it’s been such a joy to watch their friendship unfold.
This year is a milestone year. #1 turned 13. Thirteen. THIRTEEN! I am officially the mother of a teenager, and while I can not wrap my head around the idea of how this is even possible, I am SO EXCITED. I am staring the next 5 years square in the face and am just overwhelmed by everything that is coming our way. This is our rookie year at parenting the teenage soul and I am so glad to have family and community around us that have already walked this path. It’s gonna be tricky… but so freaking awesome!! I have the biggest smile just thinking about it!
I was thinking back on my first months with him.
He was born a month early and was this teeny tiny little thing. We had some issues with the breastfeeding as his sucking reflex didn’t quite have time to develop, so he hung out right at 5lbs for the first couple of months. We used to dress him up in Build-A-Bear clothes when we needed a good laugh. We called him Wee-Man and all the strangers would stop me to look at the adorable tiny baby. I was a 20yr old mom who didn’t know much of anything about full-time baby care. So I did what new parents are always encouraged to do. I hit the books.
Well… I hit a book. An attachment parenting book. And I took it as the absolute in how to not ruin your child. I did all the things. I breastfed, baby-wore, and bed-shared with the best of them. I believed them when they said this would build an unbreakable bond. A bond so strong that my baby wouldn’t even need to cry because I would know his cues before he ever got to that point. This became the ultimate goal. I could have a cry-less baby!!! All I had to do was wear him all the time, sleep with him on my chest and stare deep into his eyes as he nursed at my breast. DONE!
Then we went to the mall.
Towards the end of our trip, my tiny, 2-week-old boy (who had of course been safe in his ring sling, nestled close to my chest so our heartbeats could be in perfect sync and his little soul could feel nurtured and protected and known) started to get fussy. In the middle of a mall I had never been to before, I was frantically trying to find an escape. I was running through all the possibilities of what could be wrong with my baby while the sweat of humiliation and the heat of the hundreds of strangers’ stares I was imagining began to burn my face.
Of course, we had a diaper blowout on our hands. Of course, the unmistakable yellow ooze began to seep through my son’s clothes and my favorite ring sling. Of course, I had no idea where the very public bathroom was. Of course, my son’s fussiness had now become a full-blown baby wail. And of course, that meant that I had already failed as a mom. My baby was crying. I had failed to sense his discomfort. I had failed to recognize his needs. I had failed to keep him comfy and satiated. My baby was crying. In public. And I was not far behind…
I don’t remember actually getting into the bathroom and cleaning up what I now know was simply my inaugural public poop blowout. But I do remember finally getting to our car where my husband was waiting for us. He was so kind as to say something like “I will go get the car while you deal with that…” Classic. And while I don’t remember the exact words I spewed in my husband’s direction while I buckled our baby into his carseat, I do know that if baby earmuffs had been a thing then, they probably would’ve come in handy. I was not kind. My face was still on fire. My heart was racing and I was the most overwhelmed I think I had ever been.
Then we got home.
I tried to explain to my very confused husband why I was so upset. “He cried!! I didn’t catch it in time, What if he doesn’t learn to trust me now?” As the words came out of my mouth, the blank stare of “Are you seriously serious right now” on my husband’s face made perfect sense to me. Did I somehow forget that what I was holding so close to me was, in fact, a human baby? Apparently so. Did I forget that I was brand spankin’ new at this whole parenting thing and that there was no way I was going to figure out how to have the only non-crying baby in existence in the first 2 weeks on the job? Obviously! I stared at the book, that just a few hours earlier made me feel so well-equipped to handle this baby thing, with a sense of slight betrayal. I don’t think I ever read it again. It all seems so silly now, 13 years and 4 additional kids later, but that experience truly did teach me something that I have had to hold onto throughout my parenting journey…
God has given us an innate understanding of our children.
He has placed within us, in the very fibers of our being, an intuition on how to care for our babies. The second we try to step outside of what we feel peace about, we are fighting against what He has given us the grace to do. I am not convinced that every mom has the same instinct, or that we should all have the same parenting “style”. Of course, I have my beliefs on what is healthiest and what practices our culture has adopted that are actually quite harmful. I have strong opinions that have formed after years of experience and research. I am more than happy to share my experiences or things I have found helpful or my reasons for believing a certain method is/is not the best choice, but I am in no way going to tell a new mom who is struggling to find her footing in this scary role that if she does/does not follow a certain way of parenting that she will never have a lasting bond with her child. I hold fast to the belief that I am not entitled to proclaim my strong opinions. My opinions are not gospel.
We are doing our best here.
We can only do what we know is being asked of us by the Creator of all Life. Prayerfully navigating the path of motherhood is no easy task in and of itself. Clinging to Jesus, depending on the leading of the Holy Spirit, following the steps of our Good Father… that’s all we can do. If we are truly about loving our babies, it will require self-sacrifice. It will require choosing to trade our own comfort for the benefit of our children. It will require seeking out the wisdom of fellow parents in our community and humbly admitting when we are at a loss. It will require us to rejoice in the fact that when we screw it up, we get to experience grace upon grace upon grace and learn and grow and cherish the journey. It’s a beautiful thing.