Last night I rocked my daughter to sleep.
She’s not a great sleeper and I know the experts and doctors say that you should put your child down in their crib while they are awake to teach them to self-soothe to sleep on their own. On a typical day, I do this. But last night I rocked her to sleep.
As I sat in the rocker holding her, I stared at her soft little hand curled around my finger. I looked at her little swoop of a nose and immediately thought back to seven months before when her little tiny hand could barely grasp fully around my pointer finger and her little nose was just a tiny button on her sweet round face.
As I nursed her later in the night, I thought about how when she was just born, she could barely touch her toes on the bed as she lay across me. Now her legs stretch out well beyond me and often flail around as she kicks at anything she can behind us.
I thought about how when we used to burp her after a feeding, we could swoop her up easily. We would have to hold her little chin while we burped her because her bobble head was too heavy to hold up on its own. She would sit there and curl her toes contently. Today it’s almost impossible to burp her as she squirms all over the place to see what’s going on around her or grab anything in front of her. Now she pretty much burps herself.
And that’s why last night I held her close and rocked my daughter to sleep.
I’m definitely not perfect. I’ve made many choices as a mother that many moms might disagree with and others might happily nod their heads in approval to.
I’m learning as I go. I’ve received so much advice – so much wonderful advice. Lots of it I’ve tried and love. Some of it I’ve kindly accepted and banked as “maybe someday.”
I’ve read so many articles and studies it could make ones head explode (and sometimes I think mine already has). C.D. loves it when I quote articles to him as “proof” (this is said with heavy sarcasm).
But at the end of the day, no one will know my daughter as well as my husband and I. And at the end of every day, we are all constantly learning as we go.
We’re going to make the wrong decision sometimes. But we’ll learn. We’re going to make the right decisions. And we’ll learn.
I held my daughter a LOT when I was home with her during maternity leave. I wanted to soak up every… single… opportunity I could to feel the warmth of her and be as close as I could be before I couldn’t be anymore. I knew the experts say that doing this may make it harder for her to tolerate being put down or be alone, but I did it anyway. Today, she plays incredibly well independently and has already started to squirm out of my arms any chance she can get.
I put my daughter in daycare when she was only 16 weeks old. I knew she could be overwhelmed by the chaos of screaming toddlers and older infants running around having come from a quiet home where I was her only caregiver during the day. I knew that she would get colds and that her tiny little body would have to start fighting them off early. But today she’s incredibly social and gives everyone she sees a huge laugh and smile when they say hi to her. She’s gone through four or five colds since January 1 of this year and with each one she acts as if it doesn’t phase her.
I nurse my daughter. This was a personal choice and one that I’ve sacrificed a lot for (namely my sleep and old wine-drinking habits). There were times that it was probably frustrating for those around me when I’d leave during a party to nurse her in private. Or when my poor family and husband were given probably ridiculously elaborate instructions on how to feed her expressed milk. But this is something I would not change for the world. It has created a bond between my daughter and I that only she and I can ever know and feel. It’s such an awesome feeling when I pick her up from daycare and the first thing she wants to do is nurse when we get home, regardless if she was fed recently or not. Or last week when I had an absolutely disgusting stomach virus – I’m confident she did not get this despite us being so close so often because of the antibodies in my milk.
I worry about her constantly. I’ve called the Nurses’ Hotline more than my fair share despite my pediatric RN mother repeatedly assuring me, “She’s fine – stop stressing.” I stress nonetheless and have to sheepishly smile at my Mom when they give me the same answer she previously did. With each boo-boo and sickness, I’ve learned that I’ll always worry about her. But I’m also thankful because she’s strong like her daddy and has already figured out that she doesn’t need to scream her little tush off if she bumps her head or arm on something.
I’m not perfect. I’m not going to be perfect and I’ve decided I’m not going to try because there are too many other things to stress about in a day.
But what I am going to try my absolute hardest to do is be the best mommy I can be. I’m surrounded by absolutely amazing mothers and to join their club is beyond aspirational. Sometimes this means making decisions that may not be popular. And that’s okay, because I’m surrounded by so many people who love my little family.
To all of the mothers who are trying their best but feel like they’re not doing enough or doing it wrong, stop. Look at the life in front of you – you are amazing. Don’t second guess yourself. It will drain you and take you away from what’s important – caring for your family. There are a MILLION ways you can parent. Choose what’s best for you and your family. You’ve been given an incredible gift, so appreciate it and break the rules sometimes.
I might put my daughter down awake tonight. But I might rock her to sleep. Either way, in the end, I’m sure we’re going to be okay.
Cover photo by Rachel Megan