I've heard it said that the inciting incident for every story is either the beginning of a journey or a stranger coming to town. In the case of parenting, I think it's both.
Our journey began about four years ago when my husband said to me, completely nonchalant and out of the blue, "Let's have a baby." My heart started pounding, and a list of excuses as to why we weren't ready began pouring out of my mouth.
He insisted that the time was right, and that if I always submitted to my fears, we would never have children. A huge argument and many tears ensued. Long story short, our son Levi was born almost nine months to the day later. And then… everything changed.
The most difficult part of parenting for me was not adjusting to lack of sleep or breastfeeding or dealing with a crying infant. Levi was an easy baby and I took to motherhood pretty easily.
What was not easy was wading through the swamp of self-doubt about my parenting choices. And that tedious journey began the night we came home from the birth center:
Do I let him sleep overnight in that rock-n-play thing? I read they shouldn't sleep in it for long periods of time, but I want him near me when he's sleeping and the pack-n-play across the room seems terribly far away…I guess I'll try it out...
He's crying…what time is it? Oh, no, he woke up before his scheduled feeding time. I guess I'll try to rock him back to sleep… Uh oh, not working. I guess I'll feed him? Is this okay?! The midwives would say so, but that book my sister-in-law recommended said to stick to a schedule…
I felt like a mess. And that was only the beginning.
Over time, I came to realize that I was nearly always in a state of inner conflict. In one corner was Maternal Intuition and in the other, the So-and-So's and all of their advice. The So-and-So's was certainly the stronger of opponents. I was constantly frustrated by the amount of opposing opinions about everything.
I just wanted to do the right thing, and everyone had a different opinion about what the "right thing" was and warned that if you did the "wrong thing," your kid was going to turn into some horrible human.
With the support of my husband, I began to listen to my intuition and do what felt right.
At first, it felt like I was betraying reason, and I was constantly looking over my shoulder as I would go rendezvous with my instincts. But the more I did it, the more I realized that my intuition was actually more reasonable than reason itself—it was actually completely trustworthy
Doubt would still creep into my mind, and then I would sit Intuition down and look at her in the eyes and say, "Do you really know what you're doing? Because So-and-So says ____________." And Intuition would graciously smile at me and say, "Listen, does So-and-So know and care about your child as much as I do?" to which I would always answer, "No."
For whatever reason, I think most of us feel insecure about our role as parents. There's no required training, no Parenting 101. I think deep down, a lot of us are afraid of parenting. We are afraid we are going to lose our own identity. We are afraid that our kids won't love us. We are afraid we are going to screw them up. We are afraid we will fail.
With a mindset like that, it's no wonder we listen to the So-and-Sos. It's a miracle that anyone learns to trust their instincts when it comes to parenting.
Yet it is so important. That moment when your baby was placed in your arms, you became an expert: an expert on how to parent your particular child. Whether or not you were academically trained—your body, mind, and soul became intimately, mysteriously, beautifully connected to your baby.
Maternal intuition gave you an ability to know things, and while it's not objective or qualitative or will be written about in a peer-review journal, her voice is incredibly valid. Because you are biologically and spiritually programmed to care for your child in a way no one else can.
When I became pregnant with our second child and someone asked me if we were going to make any major alterations to our parenting plan with baby number two, I could say with confidence that no, I wasn't. We had found our parenting style and it was working for us.
We haven't arrived, of course. I know the importance of flexibility when it comes to raising a child firsthand, and I will probably change my mind a thousand times by the time I've completed this parenting journey, which will be…well…never. But I'm confident that the choices I have made so far are good. And I can thank Intuition for that.