Motherhood hit me like a sledgehammer. A love-filled, cute-as-a-button, wouldn’t-change-it-for-the-world kind of baptism of fire.
With our incredibly high needs baby on song from the moment he was born, we didn’t even have the grace of the “sleepy newborn” phase to allow us to catch our breath or momentarily lull us into a false sense of security that, yeah, we could rock this parenting caper without so much as a hair out of place. Our baby needed us sooo intensely. It was stifling.
We weren’t deluded (okay, maybe we were). We knew having a baby would be life-changing. We knew a newborn required a hell of a lot of care. We knew we would need to deal with sleep deprivation, but in our deluded pre-baby state, we also thought all babies slept. We thought all babies went down in their cots to sleep, and once they were asleep, they’d stay that way unless they were hungry or no longer tired. We thought that as long as we responded promptly to our baby, he’d rarely cry — how wrong we were.
Initially, we surrendered quite well to it, thinking things would calm down. But when they didn’t, the doubts crept in and grew ever stronger as they were fueled by advice that started seeping in from every angle. We began to fight against our baby and his intense needs. We could no longer simply accept that he just needed us, so now we had to battle our way through sleep associations, wants versus needs, manipulation, and being too fussy, too demanding, and too wakeful to get to our baby.
We were desperately unhappy, desperately unsatisfied, and desperate to “fix” our baby so we could resume life. We were swimming against the tide.
Thankfully, after a six-month battle, our sweet surrender came, and it changed my whole way of being.
I had heard many times that it was okay just to let things slide when you have a new baby. In my head, though, I had placed conditions on when this would be okay and for how long. I accepted that I might need help with a newborn while I recovered from birth, but I’d concluded that after that I should have been able to stay on top of things (with maybe the exception of when I had a sick baby).
This unrealistic expectation I had arbitrarily set for myself severely affected my sense of self, my mood, my confidence, and ultimately, my relationship with my baby (after all, if he weren’t so demanding, I would have finished the laundry…).
A part of finding my surrender was acknowledging that permission to let things slide extends to however long it takes for you to be getting through your day easily enough to let some of it back in. For me, I had my second baby just 20 months after my first, and a high needs baby coupled with pregnancy, then combined with a new baby, has meant that it is literally only now — three years on — that I am letting some of it back in. The fog started to lift a little while back, and slowly but surely, I am feeling more “normal,” more on top of things and not as desperately in need of rest as I was.
I know not everything can slide, and I can guarantee you that not everything did. The actual essential things were always tended to, and we lived fulfilling days. But I knew I had permission to choose rest over chores and rest over outings whenever I needed, and I needed it a lot for a very long time.
I am not ashamed of this, and I do not feel guilty or lazy or any of the things society may expect me to feel. While some things did slide, my core business was my A game. Raising my babies, meeting them at their point of need both day and night, nurturing and savoring them, keeping myself well, keeping myself rested — I can confidently say, I have been getting this done.
I am raising whole humans. I am wiring tiny, new brains with my gentle, loving tenderness and time. The chores won’t be missing my time, love, or comfort. My energies are going to exactly the right place.
If we could measure the value of simply “being there” for our babies, I firmly believe we as a society would stop fighting so hard to get away. Some days it feels like you have achieved a grand total of zero, but truly, being your baby’s whole world, that is more than enough work for one day.
Every minute spent holding, comforting, nursing, nurturing, soothing, and being present with your child is of infinite value to that small being in your arms, your family, your community, and the world. Time spent on our babies is never time wasted.
So you have permission to let all those other sideline things slide for as long as it takes for you to feel they fit back in without you having to sacrifice your sanity, your rest, or your baby’s needs.
You’ve got this, mama.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy