New motherhood is the strangest, weirdest, most beautiful roller coaster I have ever been on. The highs are higher than I ever thought possible—first smile? Gahh! First kiss? OMG. But those lows? They are lowwww—why won’t this child sleep? Why does nursing hurt sometimes? When can I relax? Will I ever feel normal again? Please stop whining/crying/shrieking. Can someone else hold you?
The lows really knocked any shred of confidence I had in my abilities to mother this little creature. There seemed to be a million questions and I felt the only answer I had was a big fat "Uhh I don't know?"
The first few months of motherhood felt like a test I thought I had studied for, but turns out I had prepared for the wrong subject.
Within a week of bringing our sweet girl home, I developed vasospasms and milk blebs, most likely caused by a poor latch. I spent hours watching videos trying to inform myself on how I could get her to latch better. No one told me that my baby wouldn't be a master at nursing straight from the womb.
When I had to go back to work, my daughter refused bottles. I tried every trick in the world, and nothing seemed to work. My daughter was 4 months old when she simply stopped sleeping in her crib and would scream when I put her down. As she grew, the decisions and challenges kept coming.
Nanny or daycare? Work or stay at home? Normal vaccination schedule or not? Baby led weaning or traditional purees? Sleep training or not? Daily structured activities/outings or free play? Extended nursing or weaning at one? Time outs or time ins?
I read this article, that book, talked to this doctor, listened to that friend—and all the voices in my head overwhelmed me. I would decide on an answer, feel pretty confident, and then—boom!—I read or heard a conflicting answer and felt back at square one. Everyone seemed so sure they were right.
So why didn’t I feel this way?
Parenthood has a myriad of choices, and there seemed to be firm battle lines drawn between camps. I didn't care about which camp I belonged in, I just didn't want to screw up my kid.
I wanted to know everything, be certain in what I was doing. I was on the hunt for the elusive formula that guaranteed success. And if I’m being honest, these questions consumed me at times. I trusted all of these sources of wisdom, and yet they were all saying different things. How was I, someone who had never done this before, supposed to know who or what was right? This baby was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and feeling like I would fail her by choosing the “wrong” answer killed me.
For some of these decisions, I tried to stick with science. Surely research can’t be wrong, right? But again, I ran into conflicting interpretations of the data. Eggs are a great first food! No eggs until six months! No eggs until 12 months! No, the earlier the better! If science can’t agree, and some wonderful, wonderful moms who I respect can’t agree, where did that leave me? But here is what I learned (and what every seasoned parent knows): there is no formula for doing this whole parenting thing. There is no right answer. Instead of letting that terrify my type-A personality, I've tried to embrace it. This is my new mantra: do what works for your family until it no longer works.
Get all the input you can but at some point, put down the phone, shut the book and trust yourself. Even if that answer is a mistake chosen in love and executed with respect, chances are it can be undone. And while my journey was further complicated by a late postpartum anxiety diagnosis (and no doubt this amplified my fear and multiplied my questions) I know that many moms can relate to this roller coaster of doubt.
In fact, I have a suspicion that all parents feel this way at times. Knowing that more questions will arise as my daughter grows up, I have resolved to not let these questions consume me. Instead, I have to trust that I can handle what lows come our way. And when I fail, I can choose to see it as a chance to develop into the mother I want to be, not the mother “they” think I should be.