We found out we were pregnant in January.
After months of trying, the news came as a surprise. We knew our home and lifestyle in Placencia, Belize as a childless couple would certainly be turned upside down. We expected this. But because of our adventurous nature and my educational background, I thought some of the “whole parenting thing” would come easily, or at least naturally.
I would know what was best.
I’ve had really bad anxiety since I was small. My adult life has been spent in two contradictions: constant panic and breaking through the panic to force myself to travel and experience the joys of life.
My husband and I met abroad. He was traveling and I was teaching teachers, reading ‘Eat, Pray, Love,” and yearning for purpose and non-conventional living. Since our engagement, we’ve motorcycled cross country through Mexico to Belize from NY, got married, and made Belize our permanent home.
After finding out we were pregnant, we decided to move back to the states for the last trimester. Leaving our home and beloved dog behind, we set out on our next big adventure: to live with my parents in Michigan (for 6 months) and wait for the arrival of our daughter.
She came three weeks early, on August 23rd at 11:23pm. After a surplus of birthing classes, hiring a doula (the best choice ever), and vowing to try for a “natural” birth, labor happened. Some things went as planned, some things didn’t. When she was placed on my chest after her birth, I fell in love. I felt a new purpose, to protect and love this innocent & dependent human, completely and wholly.
The exhaustion and challenges of birth set in after our five day stay at the hospital. In the hospital, I was occupied with visits from our doula, parents, friends, lactation specialists, and doctors. Once we got to my parent’s house, reality set in.
I immediately started trying to take control of the new human being in our life. Documenting breastfeeding times, bottle feedings, breast-pumping and wet diapers. Googling and pinteresting any and every question I had. Freaking out in panic attacks when the schedule would change. Remembering, “Oh yes, this is normal. Newborns don’t follow your schedule, you follow theirs.”
My daughter is constantly teaching me lessons. Lessons about living in the moment. Lessons about giving up on the idea of control. A wise mindfulness professor once said, “control is being okay with whatever happens” — these are freeing words to live by as a parent.
I remember thinking to myself throughout my pregnancy about how when I became a mother, I would do things THE BEST way. Only breastfeed, no bottle. Natural birth, no epidural. All fair-trade organic clothing. No throw away diapers, only cloth, even in the newborn stage. All wood, no plastic. My best friend and mother of two was sweet. She didn’t try to tell me to rethink my plans or laugh at me. It wasn’t until the other day, after seven weeks of motherhood under my belt, when she asked me with mischievous eyes, “So how are the cloth diapers going?”
Each day, I make decisions that I hope will benefit my family. If buying a pack of throwaway diapers allows me and my husband to get twenty more minutes of shut-eye, then so be it. If expressing my milk and having my husband feed our baby in the middle of the night prevents a panic attack from lack of sleep, well okay. We believe in ethical living and want the best for our daughter, but birthing this tiny being is helping me to “chill out” in some ways. We are doing the best that we can! Aren’t we all?
Enough with the guilt.
Hold yourself in compassion & kindness. Try to get back to the peaceful and beautiful intuitive state of motherhood. Learn from your baby and experiences. And give yourself a break!
So what has my tiny teacher taught me??
Throw any constraints and ideas of what motherhood SHOULD be out the window.
Stop thinking about what your child SHOULD do or SHOULD be like.
Enjoy today…the time goes fast.
Ask for help.
Hire a doula & surround yourself with positive people.
Take each day at a time. Don’t try to do too much too early.
Kiss every crevice of that precious baby.
Becoming a mother has been the most rewarding and challenging experience of my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. What has your tiny teacher taught you?