My sweet little baby turned one this month, which is a hugely emotional event; I’ve been referring to this as the “best, worst, longest, shortest year of my life.” Parenting her is such a joy but the passage of time and the new skills she’s developing remind me that the journey from baby to kid and beyond is a fast one. So much has shifted in my perceptions, values and relationships. It’s the most rewarding, demanding, soul-shaking thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned so much- here’s just a few lessons my tiny teacher has brought me so far.
1. Trust yourself
There are a lot of people making a lot of money telling people how to raise their children- how to get them to sleep, learn, behave, stop crying… the list goes on. And of course, every relative and lots of strangers will give you lectures ranging from polite to stern about how x, y or z will “ruin,” “spoil,” or imperil your little one.
None of those people spend 24 hours a day with your child. None of those people know them like you do. You are the expert in your baby and if you hold that baby close and listen to your intuition, you will know what to do. You know this intrinsically, organically. No book can match that connection, and Aunt Franny might have her opinions but your baby chose you because they knew you had the skills to meet their particular needs. Trust yourself and your baby to find your own unique groove and get comfortable there.
2. Find your tribe
This is one of the greatest gifts motherhood has brought with it- a group of brilliant, strong, hilarious women without whom I surely would have curled up and died months ago. A supportive community of like-minded people sharing similar experiences can make even the roughest patches of early parenthood manageable; even if no one has a solution, you can at least find reassurance that you are not crazy and there is nothing wrong with your baby. Some parts of parenting are just hard and you need the support of people who understand and will not judge or criticize how you choose to deal with these challenges. I’m so grateful to have the mom friends I do, and when I haven’t seen them for awhile there is a real, palpable difference in how I feel. Processing the madness of the baby days with these women (and the scattered casual glass of wine) has helped me in such a huge way. If you don’t know other new parents you can meet some at a postnatal fitness class, a playgroup or online- there are lots of great groups on Facebook for parents, two great ones based in St. John’s are Breastfeeding Support Newfoundland and Labrador and Natural Parenting Network Newfoundland and Labrador.
3. Receive as well as give
As far as trusting your gut as a parent goes, I knew immediately that what felt right to me was to be a highly engaged, responsive parent. And as it turns out, the universe gifted us with a baby who would need that attention- sometimes A LOT. The emotional output is huge. And the quiet time that I need to recharge is hard to find when caring for a small person with my whole brain, body and heart 24 hours a day. I am blessed, though, with a wonderful community of family and friends who were and are willing to help me find that time, even if it was just giving me a few minutes to shower and pee by myself, or an hour so I could come to my mat and practice. No one can do this alone- it can be hard to accept help but receiving like this allows you to recharge so that you have more to give. Let someone else wash the dishes, cook supper, or walk the dog, whether it’s a friend or family member or you hire a postpartum doula. Deliberately set aside some time to nourish yourself, too.
4. Let go of expectations
Life is not a Pinterest board. There will be mess, tears, poop, criticism. I remember lovingly setting up the bassinet next to our bed while I was pregnant only to find that the baby screamed every time I put her in it. I had a kid who would only sleep while attached to my body. Co-sleeping (which I swore I would never do) and babywearing became my best friends. Some things I thought would be easy were hard; some things I thought would be hard were easy. You can’t know until you’re in it just how you will make any of this work, but the more you are worried about rules and “shoulds”, the more tears and stress there will be. More than anything, parenting has taught me about ishvara pranidhana- surrender to the divine. Giving myself over to the wisdom of my babe allows me to really enjoy being her mom, rather than trying to get her to fit my expectations. I think we’re both much happier for it.
Every day there’s something new to learn. I’m so glad to be taught by this little human.
What lessons has parenting taught you? Were there things you expected that turned out differently than you thought they would? How did you find your tribe?
If you’re looking for a great way to meet other new moms, I have a new session of Buddha Babies Mom-and-Baby yoga starting at Nova Yoga on April 1 at 10:30 AM. It’s a six-week pre-registered session for babies six weeks of age up until active crawling. Sign up here!