I spent a very big chunk of time the other day “wearing” and holding my three week-old daughter, Evelyn. The night ended with a bad stomachache (hers triggered mine) and by the time my husband got home and scooped Evie up in his arms, I was relieved. I slept for four hours, alone, in a pitch black room. I practically melted into the sheets. It felt good to be a separate entity, even if I was asleep for it.
But then, there are nights like tonight, where I set myself up for an intentional break from Evelyn and the Mom Guilt sets in. I planned a little “me” time, you know, that essential thing mentioned in all the parenting books (even attachment parenting guru Dr. Sears validates “me” time for mothers). I wanted so badly to do something work-related, because I’ve spent more time than I care to admit watching reality TV lately.
So my wonderful parents watched Evie from 8:00 to 9:00 while I worked on my computer in their dining room. It was like coming up for air at first — suddenly, my tunnel vision was gone. I felt like more of a person and less of a milk factory.
Then, my mind started to wander. Did Evie need a diaper change? Was she hungry? It had been over two hours since she last nursed, after all…or did she simply miss me? Did she want me to hold her? Evelyn may have been just one room away, but she may as well have been in Bermuda.
I have these two nagging voices perched somewhere in my brain. One says that if I don’t keep Evie close to me at all times, she will turn out to be a serial killer, or at the very least in her teen years she will bring home some greasy boyfriend named Skud who’s twice her age. The other voice says yeah, but your arms are exhausted, not to mention the baby carrier puts stress on your back, and the more you tote her around the more she sleeps, which means when you do finally put her down (hey, you can’t shower with her, after all), she’ll be super fussy and wonder where all the warm ‘n’ cozy went.
This voice also says I’m being an overachiever and a bit of a tool by trying to follow the Attachment Parenting model so closely.
I suppose the lesson I’ve gleaned from this is that it’s best not to get committed to a certain style of parenting too early. Although there are aspects of Attachment Parenting that I love (cosleeping and breastfeeding are perfect for us), I think babywearing will only do if it’s for short periods of time. Otherwise Evie gets overheated, or my back hurts, or she slips down too far in the carrier and I just know that she’s suffocating herself.
But the other lesson to glean from this is that if I get too caught up in trying to act out the role of perfect mother, I may forget to enjoy these early weeks of mothering. I suppose what I mean is that parenting isn’t a video game — I’m not supposed to follow some preset storyline as I level myself up as quickly as possible.
Instead, I’m supposed to snuggle my daughter close whenever the urge strikes. I’m supposed to touch her face and memorize the contours of her little features, because it will all change so quickly. And when we’re chest to chest and she nestles her head under my chin, I will continue to stop and really soak up the feeling of her impossibly soft hair, because this is one of the many silent things that sum up everything exuberant and heart-shattering about parental love.