By Tori Redmond
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.
It’s called Song For a Fifth Child and in light of the number in the title, I’ve always kind of wondered if maybe Ruth wasn’t just a bit off her rocker. Five kids and she’s not writing poetry about locking herself in the bathroom, curled fetal with a mojito? Wow. I’ve always thought that to be both respectable and crazy, all rolled into one fine package. But, isn’t that about the crux of motherhood itself?
Oh, I guess I’m not supposed to say that. However, I have always really felt that those who gloss over and sort of June Cleaver motherhood were a bit daffy in the first place. Is it the most amazing, wonderful and I’d even go there- miraculous life event? Yes.
Is it all sunshine and lollipops?
Oh lord have mercy, no!
Sometimes, it’s beautiful. It’s that soft murmur of your adorable infant, nestled in close. Sometimes, it’s one of the most gross times in your life. I think anyone who has ever had a cloth diaper blow out during nursing can tell you that one. Other times, it’s the pure bliss of being seen as “radiant” with joy. Then, there are the times when you think motherhood means the loss of all dignity. Like when you run off door to door people by answering the door less than prepared.
Recently in my pregnancy support chat, someone posted a plea for understanding. She wasn’t happy being pregnant: the morning sickness, the fatigue and everything had her feeling really down. I have mentored a number of first time mothers in breastfeeding who were absolutely riddled with guilt over latch issues and other things. Why does all of this happen?
Because we aren’t painting a realistic view of motherhood. The only realism I’ve seen run rampant in respect to pregnancy and motherhood has been in respect to raising teens. Oh, we’re all quick to talk about the trials and tribulations of that little slice of wonder.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my primary hobbies were binge drinking, looking very aloof and distant at poetry readings and always making sure that my roots matched the rest of my dye job. I had absolutely no plans for children, and I am not engaging in hyperbole when I tell you that I had all the maternal instinct of a potato.
Had you told me then that I would be pregnant with my third child, penning a guest blog for an attachment parenting site, after laughing, I would have asked you if that involved duct tape.
Yet, here we are- like all new mothers, I evolved as a parent and I continue to. Let me tell you a few things about pregnancy and parenthood as I know it. First of all, Mz. Hamilton’s poem is absolutely not crazy. It’s actually pretty true. In my years of parenting, I have whined, cried and complained frequently. I have nursed through growth spurts that made me feel as though my breasts might never be free of a baby suckling. I have been in my final weeks of pregnancy and thought surely, that baby would never be born.
Guess what? They do wean. They are born. I’ve not yet ever heard of someone remaining pregnant forever. Weirder than that, no matter how fatigued you get while nursing- even extended nursing as I did, right about a month after they wean, you start to miss it. Terribly. The squirming acrobatic nipple pinching toddler of doom that existed just weeks prior? Becomes that warmly snuggled little angel, gently twirling your hair and sighing happy sighs of contentment after finishing up a nursing session. And oh, you miss it.
Don’t even get me started on how weird it is to go from the swollen feet, the aching back, the vomiting and fatigue of pregnancy and constantly complaining to deeply missing those kicks and feeling of oneness with your unborn child. Because you get that, too. I think that’s how the human race has continued on as long as it has, honestly. We rewrite over the bad in our minds with a nostalgia so deep and so beautiful that even lactose intolerance during pregnancy becomes a lovely thing. When that happens with me, I will let you know. (I’m sure it will, right? Right?)
This is the most important thing I can impart to new mothers, or mothers just getting started with attachment parenting. I know that not all of us began as baby wearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding champions. I certainly didn’t, and attachment parenting was definitely a switch from where I began.
With my oldest, I was a scared kid. I had just turned 20 when he was born. I had no idea what I was doing and listened to all the advice I could get. Things like:
You can’t hold him all the time, he’ll get spoiled!
Oh, you have to give him formula from time to time, what if he doesn’t get enough?
And perhaps the most insidious of all:
You have to let him cry it out or he’ll never learn to sleep on his own.
I remember every cry my eldest made. Either because I didn’t go pick him up as everything inside of me screamed to do or because I just wanted him to sleep on his own. There’s a reason those cries hurt you inside. That reason is, you’re not supposed to do that. It’s wrong, and everything about your instinct knows it is. I didn’t know back then what I know now- and I think this is the most important one:
Those people who give you this advice are wrong.
I am very happy to say that yes, my oldest did turn out to be a fine, upstanding young man. My youngest, however, I did things very differently. I stopped listening to the well meaning types. I went with my instincts. You know what?
He didn’t get spoiled for being held all the time. Actually, my 6 year old is one of the most openly loving, expressive kids I’ve ever met. Not a hint of being spoiled.
He never starved. I learned to check diapers. He always had enough wet diapers, and he was the cutest little chunk of a Buddha baby. He didn’t touch anything but the breast until he was a year old and he didn’t starve. I really thought he might be during those growth spurts, but the diapers were always fine. In a growth spurt, I’ve seen even seasoned mothers get a little rattled. It doesn’t last.
My youngest son has never once “cried it out”. He has been sleeping through the night since he was about 4 months old, and there has never been an issue.
All the trials with both of them, and I’m still learning new things about motherhood. I think that’s the thing to remember: you think you’ve got it under control, and they’ll bring something new to the table. If they don’t, the next baby will. Each pregnancy and each child is different and patience is not only a virtue, but it’s something that can mean the difference between regrets and content memories. While I certainly do not regret any of the attachment parenting I adopted with the youngest, I do look back on my eldest’s babyhood with a twinge of guilt I can’t shake.
“Babies don’t keep” was a sentiment made to help people to prioritize. However, it can also be something to help you through some of the more frustrating aspects of motherhood. They happen, yes, but the beautiful aspects far outweigh them. You’ll never once hear me saying: boy, I wish I had spent less time nursing and more time writing ad copy!
And with good reason. Pregnancy, babyhood and childhood all pass in the blink of an eye and retrospect will teach you that: no matter how frustrated you were at certain points- those certain points passed quickly, too.
Hang in there. You can do this.
Tori Redmond is a 33 year old mother of 2, living on a rural property in Dixon, Missouri. A freelance writer and poet, she spends the bulk of her time facepalming and trying to ignore some of the more blatant absurdities found in modern society. She also likes canning and gardening. Involved in a number of activist causes, Tori is passionately politically aware and is also heavily involved in environmentalism and animal rescue. Though not a parenting writer, her personal blog can be found at Confessions of An Unrealistic Optimist.