While we were expecting our daughter my husband and I took a prenatal class. We learned all about the ups and downs of being pregnant, a general idea of what to expect when labor hits and what to expect in the delivery room. I read the enduring and ever popular “What to Expect” book. I had daily email reminders of our little one’s development in the womb. I felt pretty confident in my ability to be pregnant and give birth to a baby.
Was I as confident about my ability to actually be a mom? No, I don’t think so, but I wasn’t exactly “freaked out” by the thought. Parenting comes naturally right? I liked kids, had worked in childcare for several years, even had a baby brother that I took care of a lot growing up. My husband and I are intelligent, caring people. We can do this!
I breezed through labour relatively quickly and pretty much complication free (she did have the cord around her neck but we got through that). My baby was beautiful and appeared healthy. This was going to be just fine.
Looking back I would say the shock set in about 5 or 6 hours after our daughter was born. Here I was, exhausted, in pain (I had a lot of stitches) and responsible for this screaming infant. I knew I desperately needed sleep but that was next to impossible. My daughter, quite literally, never stopped crying. The three private rooms that our archaic mother and baby unit had were all taken so I was forced to share a room with a family who had people coming and going at all hours and seemed to have one only volume setting – extra loud. I was desperate to go home. I was sure that everything would be ok if we could just go home.
It wasn’t. It felt like every 5 minutes I was questioning whether we were doing this right. Is she suppose to scream that much (oh and the answer is no she’s not)? Why won’t she sleep? Is poop suppose to be that color? Is she getting enough to eat? Why is she eating so much?
Somehow we made it though those first few weeks of parenthood. It’s all really a blur to me now. Almost every night was sleepless and the days were filled with crying (both her and I) and anxiety. After a lot of persistence on my part we finally got to the bottom of the seemingly never ending crying and screaming and with the help of a doctor who actually knows what he’s doing and a pharmacy who actually knows what they are doing we slowly began to get rid of some of that stress but it seems it is always replaced with a new one (although none of them compare to that).
We now have a two year old and there are still days I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. There are a billion and one people who are more than happy to give you advice on parenting and most of it is conflicting. Most of the time we just go with instinct and common sense and don’t rely very heavily on “expert advice” (with the exception of her pediatrician’s advice) when it comes to raising our child. There is just no way to live up to everybody else’s expectations of how to be the perfect parent. I know I’m not perfect. I don’t strive to be perfect. My only goal is to be the best mother I can be to my daughter. Am I doing that? I think so. I hope so.
This past weekend we took our daughter on a trip to see her grandparents. After spending the long weekend with them we loaded up the car yesterday to head home. As we were about to leave my mother in law hugged me and said “You are a good mom. You are doing an amazing job raising your daughter.” I can’t completely express what those words meant to me. Until that moment nobody had told me what I was a “good mom”. To hear somebody say that to me, and not just anybody but another mom and a mom that I respect, meant the world to me.
So, next time you run into another parent that you care about take a moment and tell them that they are doing a good job. It doesn’t matter if their parenting skills are different than yours or their kid just threw a major tantrum (actually that’s when they can use the reassurance the most!) just put yourself in their shoes and say “You are a great mom (or dad)!” I guarantee it will make their day.