Baby Love

I like babies, and I love little kids. They thing is, I’ve spent most of my life assuming that everybody else likes them more than me: that I—by comparison—don’t like babies etc. Too, I grew up being matter-of-fact around babies; I was helping with babies as soon as I could safely hold them, taking care of my siblings and volunteering in the church nursery while I was still in elementary school. I thought that helplessness around babies was something that only existed in screwball comedies.

When I was in California for my sister’s wedding, my mom gave me an unsolicited parenthood pep talk. (At the time, I’m pretty sure that she thought I was secretly pregnant, but I believe she’s over it now.) She told me that she’s never liked babies or little kids—which makes me wonder why she had four and wanted more, but that’s neither here nor there. She said that I should hurry up and become a mom because I’ll enjoy it in a way that she never did. She was talking, I think, about the fact that I would be happy to fingerpaint or build pillow forts or help a toddler help me make pie. I’m tolerant of untidiness—probably a bit too much so, but we’re none of us perfect—and I’m not frantic about routine. (These are all qualities that my mother does not share.) Lord knows when I’ll be an honest-to-God, for-real mother (I have hopes to be pregnant by Christmas, but we’ll see), but I feel a deep and quiet happiness when I think about it.

I worry about jinxing myself here. I also already worry about being a terrible mother, about having sobbing meltdowns because futurekid won’t stop screaming. But it’s true that there are things I don’t worry about. When I was a teenager, I worried that I’d be abusive if I became a parent—I was abused, albeit not grotesquely, and my incomplete understanding of how these things play out led me to assume that I’d kid my unlikely theoretical future kids. After a great deal of therapy and a little introspection, I realized that I’ve always turned those feelings inward, and while self-flagellation is less than ideal, it certainly makes me a safer caretaker than my mother was. I worry about not being able to figure out what a baby needs or wants—I mean, I can certainly run down a list of obvious picks like milk or a diaper change or, I don’t know, I’m already out of ideas. Maybe this theoretical kid is bored? Or gassy? I am getting anxious just writing this. I don’t want to break the baby. But I imagine I’ll keep telling myself what I kept telling myself about childbirth the last time around: stupider and less worthwhile women have made it through this just fine, so I’m going to make it too.

10 thoughts on “Baby Love

  1. You will be brilliant*.

    * By which I mean loving, compassionate, muddled, chaotic, willing to assume all is well, worried, sad, lonely, wishing to be alone, cuddly, silly, about to yell your head off, yelling your head off… you get my meaning here.

  2. I think that even if you have sobbing meltdowns because futurekid won’t stop screaming, you’ll still be a great parent. At least i’m banking on that. You are already a great mother, and someday- soon, it sounds like!- you will be a great day to day parent as well.

  3. Oh, your mother and my mother would have SO much to talk about when it comes to actual child-raising versus making their daughters feel incompetent about their own child-raising potential, so I hear you!

    This will probably sound stupid, but our cat is very noisy. I can tell which of his noises means “hungry!” and which means “pet me now!” and which is “I’m bored and can tell you were enjoying what you’re doing and thought I’d bother you!” and so on. And so I tell myself, if I can manage it with a cat, a baby couldn’t be less clear. So I’d say that isn’t something you should be worrying about and you can check it off and move on to worrying about something else if that’s what you feel compelled to do!

    • I have the same relationship with my cat–my least favorite is his pissy little yap of a meow that means “I expected dinner an hour ago, never mind the clock, woman, DINNER AN HOUR AGO!”

  4. I think we ALL have fears about motherhood, and I think the fears themselves make some of us able to talk ourselves into the thought that those fears might come true and that we WILL be terrible mothers. I’ve done so myself. AND I’ve sobbed while exhausted with a screaming baby in the dark. But you know what? MOST days, I think I’m a pretty darn good mom despite trying to talk myself out of it. Self awareness goes so far, along with a motivation to DO something once you’re aware. We arent’ REQUIRED to repeat cycles.

  5. I think those fears about motherhood are actually an indicator of good motherhood because it is sort of mothering without a child there. I mean, it’s like pre-mothering this imaginary child. I worry about the people who think that having a kid is no big deal way more. The most important thing, in my opinion, is reaching out to other moms so we never feel isolated by our own darker thoughts (we all have them). I’m not crazy about the baby stage — to me it’s purgatory until they start communicating — and I might have had tremendous guilt if I didn’t know other women who could commiserate about how bored and exhausted I was. I used to worry because I wasn’t treasuring every moment and instead was anxiously awaiting the NEXT stage. Parenting is hard. Good parenting is imperfect. Good parents have their not-so-stellar moments. You are a person who reaches out for help, who is thoughtful in her actions and who has a hugely compassionate heart. That makes you way ahead of the game.

  6. Every mom – even ones who are arrogant enough to claim ahead of time that we’ll be good at it – worry about not being good enough. I think it’s a good sign to worry about that stuff. I also think that you have some serious skills in the arena of self reflection and self awareness that will enable you to be aware of how you are mothering and set goals for areas you want to change.

    In other words you are already miles ahead of a lot of women who have babies. You’re going to be great. I can’t wait for the post where we get to find out you’re expecting. ♥

  7. I had literally never held a baby, much less taken care of one, when I had my first. You learn as you go,no matter what, because each baby is different–what might stop the endless crying of kid #1 will make kid #2 screech all the harder, etc. I am grateful for the friends I could call in those sobbing meltdown moments, as my own mom had receded into revisionist history, where her babies had never projectile vomited, stayed up all night, or had a diaper rash.

    Like Dawn said, it turns out I’m better with some ages than others, and it’s been interesting for me to consider what that says about me.

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