being present

It’s hard to believe that I have been a mom for over three months now. The days drag sometimes – amidst trying to entertain a baby, deal with undiagnosed crying, and naptimes – but the weeks are flying now.

In the beginning it was the hardest. I was trying to do everything right but it was hard to accept that maybe I’d have a different experience than the baby books told me. Tracey Hogg, “The Baby Whisperer,” tickled my ear with her promises of a routine early on, and yet berated me for being in my pajamas all day after the first couple of weeks. Dr. Sears was mostly helpful but still made me feel guilty that I wasn’t giving enough and doing enough. Dr. Weissbluth (sleep researcher who wrote Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) was probably my favorite for his no-nonsense, straightforwardness. I read his words over and over the first six weeks as he assured me they were the hardest, I would probably want to quit breastfeeding, and there would be times my baby would cry and may not be comforted by anything other than nursing.

But as any first-time mom will tell you, it gets easier. Two months ago at this time I would have had the baby attached to me non-stop and be typing with one hand. Today I am able to drink a cup of coffee while the baby takes a nap in her crib. I don’t have a mental countdown always going to keep track of when my husband will get home. I don’t feel constantly overwhelmed. Things are getting easier.

Yet I recognize that in some ways I wished away those first two months. Being a new mom and having no in-person support was very difficult and I found myself not being fully present. I find my memories of that time are already blurred, yet I swore to myself that I could never forget the days and nights of desperately wanting that little baby to stop nursing, to let me sleep, to stop popping off the breast over and over. I think I didn’t absorb the goodness and sweetness very well. I just let myself be too frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. It’s hard for me to see that little baby clearly in my mind – I already am having to refer to pictures sometimes, instead.

Having a child is a race against time. I was never the type to really desire having children, so in some ways, I’m very surprised at how nostalgic I’m already becoming. My baby is not even close to leaving babyhood and I see how grown up she’s getting – teeth threaten to break out of her gums; her noises are becoming more distinct; her body gets stronger and does new things. And I guess I just need to remind myself that I need to make sure I stay present right where we are. It’s easy to think, “I can’t wait until she can do ______” (walk, talk to me, go to sleep on her own…). But there is a long list of milestones and once one is reached, you can never go back. I don’t want to wish away her babyhood by being dissatisfied where she’s at, or being overly nostalgic. I need to just be present and attempt to savor every moment as best I can.

What does that look like, exactly? Well, I’m trying to take mental snapshots – to make the memories in my head so that I don’t forget them or rely on pictures or typed words in the future. I’m trying to stay off my computer while she’s awake so that I give her my full attention instead of dividing it up, even when all we’re doing is reading the same book we’ve read a bazillion times. I’m trying to touch her and be affectionate so that it’ll be familiar and normal to cuddle, snuggle, have a head or back rub.

She won’t be a baby forever, which is both wonderful and sad. I want to look back and be proud of how much I gave of  myself, and not be guilty of only giving the minimum required.

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