The Moment I Learned to Really Love My Child

My mom was on a plane 39,000 feet above me; my husband was at work on the other side of The East River; my nearest friend was one state away; my baby was screaming in the crib, and I was on the living room floor completely losing my shit.

***

She was only a few weeks old, and I lacked experience. I read books, but no parenting book can prepare you to actually be a parent. It had been a nearly sleepless week, and we were both trudging through exhaustion. That day, I tried everything. Everything. Still, she cried. Frustration bubbled up, consuming me, and before the thought of doing something I’d later regret had the chance to wiggle it’s way into my head, I remembered what the nurses said: it’s okay to let her cry sometimes. It’s okay to take a moment to breathe. And never shake the baby.

I couldn’t attempt to soothe her for another bloodcurdling second, so I put her in her crib, shut the door, and walked away.

I pressed my forehead against the cool wood floor, curled my legs into my chest, and left my arms limp at my sides as I wrenched tears from my eyes. I heaved words assembled into desperate pleas at the universe. I prayed to a god I didn’t even know I really believed in for determination and strength to be the mother my crying child needed and deserved.

“Please help me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to make her stop crying. I’ll do anything,” I begged. “What do I do?”

I rolled over, spread-eagle, and stared at the ceiling. Her cries were reaching decibels so high that the glass chandelier was swaying ever so slightly, reflecting bits of light off the brass. I imagined melting into the floor to disappear from my new role as mother, to hide from that hideous light fixture, to hide from life.

“What do I do?” I repeated in a whisper. I pinched my eyes shut and searched my brain for advice I’d been given and chapters I’d read on this sort of thing. I couldn’t come up with anything that I hadn’t already tried. “Why do I suck at parenting so bad? What am I doing wrong?”

Someone – not me, not anyone in the hallway – someone outside and inside my head simultaneously in the most loving, calming voice said, “Just love her.”

I sat up, eyes wide. I knew that advice. It was something my mother had said to me once.

***

We were taking my dog on a walk through my neighborhood, urging contractions to kick in. I remember flashes of four-family brownstones as the words left her lips. I thought it was awful advice. How could I not love my child?

***

My eyes darted around the living room to see where the voice came from. “Hello?” I asked. No one answered, but I didn’t imagine the voice. It was as real as the cries resonating from behind my child’s bedroom door.  Was it God? Was it my own conscience?  “Just love her?” I asked back. As I repeated the words out loud, something clicked. In the moment when my baby needed me most I wasn’t loving her.

I carefully stood and pushed wet tangles of hair from my face with a fraction of new determination and strength. Yes, this is difficult. Yes, I’m alone, but I have to do it. She and I only have each other.

I opened her door. Her squishy arms, tiny fists, and face the color of confusion, were the first things I saw. Remorse twisted its way through my gut. Am I a horrible mother for letting her cry? I went to her crib with breath stuck in my chest, new tears falling from my eyes. I knew I had to comfort her.

I knew I had to love her.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

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Miracle of Life. Circle of Life.

How is it that someone so tiny, who I never even knew before just a couple weeks ago, can touch my heart so fondly?  How can I love this tiny miracle so much?  I want to protect her, despite the many miles between us.  I am not incredibly spiritual, by any means, but I do believe in God and he has created someone special in my brand new baby niece.

She is beautiful and fragile.  Sweet and innocent.  She smells like any other delicious little baby and I feel as though I could literally snuggle her all day.  Getting to visit my sister and this tiny little girl was a blessing.  It made me appreciate life and family so much more.  She is, without even trying, teaching me to be a better person.

Then I look at my own beautiful daughter, who turns FOUR today (OH MY…) and it makes me love her more as well.  She is the most intelligent, independent, beautiful and spunky little girl I know.  She loves with her entire heart.  She has more empathy than most adults I know.  She has an incredible imagination and a love for art.  She has a pretty voice when she sings and her smile melts my heart every time.  And although she challenges me occasionally and gives me gray hairs, I love her to pieces.  My life would be incomplete without her by my side.

I know if my mom was with us today she would be overjoyed with these two beautiful girls and the jobs that my sister and I are doing as mothers.  Although I understand and accept the fact that she is no longer here on this green Earth, I really do wish she was here to offer up some of her motherly advice on occasion and witness our daughters growing up.

With all of this on my mind; my daughter’s birthday, my sister’s new baby and my mom not here to witness it, I have a real understanding of the circle of life on this morning.  Life goes on.  Happy times are always around the corner.  And even though our time is temporary here we need to appreciate.  We need to love.  We need to take it all in and make the very best of each day.

P.S. Happy birthday, Reagan!  Mommy loves you more than you will ever know!