Looking back at my own life since I started college, everything I have learned to know has been orderly, research-based, precedent-based and simply put conclusive. Whether I was reading through a bunch of history books to write yet another paper on predicting the future of the European Union, or sifting through hundreds of pages of case law to argue my Moot Court brief, I always functioned within the comfortable confines of what was known.
I’m having flashbacks of having my math homework returned to me with a note that the answer to the problem was correct, but the way in which I reached it was not the same as we were taught by our text book. Funny enough, the tutor who had helped me with that question was a math genius from another country.
Now fast forward to my first pregnancy, when it suddenly hit me that I had no idea how to change a diaper, how to cook baby food (or any other meal for that matter), or how to deal with the well-known sleepless nights that everyone was telling me about. I had an OBGYN for the first four months of my first pregnancy, who said that a C-section was easier than natural birth, who called me at 7:30am to tell me that “there was a high likelihood that [my] unborn child had down syndrome” … exactly in those words… and who frowned when I eagerly took a bag of natural organic supplements to my first visit, wanting to see if it was ok for me to supplement during my pregnancy.
So let’s put two and two together in the mind of a newly pregnant mother, who had just spent the past decade of her life “NOT reinventing the wheel” in her educational and professional journey…
…to sum it up, I needed guidance and structure. I started following mommy groups to get recipes and signed up for new-parent/infant classes as well as a natural birthing class. The information was overwhelming, especially considering the vast spectrum of opinions that is out there. I was convinced that there was ONE answer for each and every one of my questions; I just had to find it. And thus began my journey of confusion for the remainder of my pregnancy and the first year of my child’s life.
My baby shower registry was quite amusing for many people around me: it was littered with everything from ORGANIC cotton infant mitts, to more expensive chemical/chlorine free diapers and wipes, and ORGANIC crib mattresses.
My supportive hubby and I could not imagine using anything other than chemical free products for our child, despite the fact that it would mean less money in our pockets. We quickly learned to ignore and laugh off all the smirks and jokes that were made about our choices, because we simply did not care!
The word on nutrition was confusing. I heard everything from, “why are you not supplementing with formula?” or “mix your breast milk with powdered rice cereal to fill her up at night time for better sleep.” No one really talked about whether or not the formula should be organic, and free of unnecessary fillers.
Then around 5 months, it was suggested that I offer her rice cereal as a first food, yet no one had heard of the notion that a 5 month old baby was missing the necessary gut bacteria for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients when offered something as heavy as rice cereal. Many moms complained about their little ones being constipated, and then they wondered why I chose to offer avocado as a first food, followed by mango and peas.
So where was that “one answer” that I was looking for?
As I spent countless hours reading online or ‘consulting’ with mothers about sleep matters, the confusion and lack of answers became even more prominent. The consensus amongst many around me was to let her “cry it out”. Funny thing is that when I would tell them that I “just couldn’t do it”, they would laugh at me, and say that I was just being weak. What they did not realize is that I was indirectly expressing that I was in tune with my instinct, my mommy gut, and that I could not close my eyes knowing my infant child was crying it out, feeling helpless and alone in a world that was new and strange to her.
Every time I deviated from the “norm”, I felt better about myself, and I bonded even more with my child. Since that difficult first year of motherhood, I learned that if I am in tune with myself as a mother and a human being, I do not need structure or conclusive answers to my questions; all I need is love from my husband, a warm hug from my babies, and confidence that I am doing the right thing.
So now that my youngest is almost two, I know that there are no fixed deadlines for potty training, that it’s ok for either of them to have nightmares and to seek the comfort of our bed at night, that there is nothing wrong with refusing to force my daughter to give family or friends a hug or a kiss, and that it’s ok for my girls to go out of the house with not-so-clean-clothes. I have learned to pick my battles, to stay strong and resist offering anything other than what is being served at the dinner table, and to let them eat their chocolate ice cream once in a while.
I am sure that I will continue to make plenty of mistakes along the way as well, but none of that compares to the smiles on their faces and that warm feeling that comprises my mommy-instinct.