I can't believe we're here already. I'm scheduled to go to the hospital on Wednesday morning, May 4.
Very recently, my business partner and friend, CityMama, had a son. One of her earliest Facebook updates about the baby included a statement about how cute he is. And I froze.
In my experience, newborns are terrifying. They are cause for months of anxiety and fear before they even get here, and then they arrive and your fear only intensifies as every moment of every day is filled with the probability that you are doing everything wrong. You know because you went online and asked and the moms confirmed it: your way is stupid and dangerous. And then the books warned you. And the reviews on Amazon. And the horror stories on Babycenter.com.
When I was a new mom, everything was cause for near-crippling anxiety, even though I did my best to stave it off.
You MUST wear your baby because of BONDING except also if you do, your baby will suffocate. You must swaddle but NOT LIKE THAT. You'd better be using organic cotton! Are you sure it's colic and not a deathly allergy? Babies can be allergic to AIR, YOU KNOW. Why aren't you letting her cry it out at three months? You should never let her cry it out before three years! What? Moms who use the cry-it-out method should be arrested! You can't measure how much breastmilk you're providing but it's probably fine but maybe it's not enough and you have to just know because it's instinctive and you are doing great!/ Unless your baby is failing to thrive which totally your fault because you don't know anything.
I tried once to write about how my bond with Eve wasn't immediate. I never meant to suggest that I didn't love her, simply that I didn't instantly and without hesitation feel overwhelming, obsessive I-am-in-love-with-her-every-breath love. I felt more like: I had a baby, and now I...have a baby. And she is fascinating and beautiful and I wonder who she is? While I'm figuring it out, I will do everything I can to make her existence wonderful and also not break her.
Over time, I slowly became more confident in my ability as a parent. My fear dissipated as she started growing into being Eve, and I started growing into being Eve's Mom. Now, I am consciously aware that I once feared I didn't feel enough for her, but I can't remember those days emotionally. I feel all the overwhelming, soul-encompassing, shake-me-to-my-core love for my daughter there is to feel.
The stuff I couldn't quite get to when she was new and I was so scared.
The stuff that, without realizing it, I assumed I'd deprive myself of again.
I assumed I'd be so scared, so worried, so wrought with WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A BABY? anxiety that I'd take months to adjust. I assumed I'd start back at square one: terrified that at any moment, I could do something wrong and the baby would go away.
So when I saw Stefania's update, it was like a slap in the face. A good, great, incredibly needed slap from a mother who didn't fear her child.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I know that babies are cause for celebration, but that's only seemed true in the greater sense. Yes, bringing life into the world is a miraculous thing, but living with a newborn? That's nothing but fear and judgment, depression and anxiety, feedings and sleep-deprivation, hormones and physical uncomfortability...nothing but struggle for the first three-to-six-to-nine months.
Except what if it's not? What if you shut down the computer and close the books and turn off that voice in your head and remember that it will most likely be just fine?
What if you let go of your fear and you do, actually, trust yourself?
What if, instead of thinking HE IS YAWNING BECAUSE HE'S NOT NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP, you think, "Aww, he's yawning!"
What if you accept that the hard stuff (because it is hard) is completely outshone by the good stuff?
What if you relish all that is distinct and special about a baby's first few months of life before it's over with?
What if you actually look forward to bringing a new baby home?
And with that, I'm going to go pack my hospital bag.