when you're pregnant, people try to prepare you for the aftermath of adding an entirely dependent human to your home by assuring you you'll have to let go of cleanliness and order. you'll need help, they say. you'll have to leave the dishes, they say.
i heard this and, i think, internalized it as some sort of challenge. like, somehow, if i could "do it all," then i was successful. i was proving them wrong.
and i have been doing it all. but i'm doing it all by rushing. i shower and dress every day. i do the dishes and the laundry. i see people, i make food, i exercise, i write, i read, i vacuum the floors, i am on top of the grocery shopping and bills.
i know that's no miracle. i know those things have to get done and everyone's getting them done(ish), but i have this ferocity about having everything in order all the time. in order to get it all done, i'm frantically cleaning during melby's short naps and cramming in exercises at any hands free moment and shoveling my roasted vegetables into my mouth during moments of respite. i have to do it all. because if i don't, i'm not a good mom.
that extends to melby. i realized it yesterday. the good mom has a baby, who is happy and sleeps well. conversely, the bad mom has the baby, who cries and wakes up a lot.
i don't believe that for a single other human. i really don't. babies cry and sleep like shit. it's in their biology. but for me, that's my expectation. that's what i assume people are going around feeling about me. they see my restless, judgy, often disgruntled baby and think, beth is a bad mom.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?
this is not going to cut it, people. life is hard enough, motherhood is hard enough, without this imaginary jury of people critiquing my every move.
my baby sleeps like shit. she sleeps like shit and yes i've tried swaddling and rocking her to sleep instead of nursing and laying her down semi-awake and keeping her room at the just perfect temperature and using gripe water and massaging her belly and sticking to a routine and reading the books and not reading the books and every other thing a person might suggest. and i end up feeling like some sort of monumental failure, because i can't coerce my 11 week old baby into sleeping well. like if i just did the perfect combination of things, if i just knew how to be a good mom, then i'd be REM cycling like a motherfucker.
but she sleeps like shit, because she is a baby and she is wired to seek comfort and security from me. she is being a baby. one magical baby sleeps 6 hours a night at 8 weeks and then everything i read tells me my baby should too and i feel like i’m monumentally fucking up motherhood, because i haven't figured out how to make that happen.
this morning, i realized, she's not ready.
i've said it to parents for years at school. they want their 3 year old to be potty-trained. three year olds are supposed to be potty-trained. but their 3 year old barely notices a toilet exists and doesn't care when they have poop in their diaper. they're just not ready, i'd say.
it's so clear when they're not yours. they will get there. they will, undoubtedly. they will not be 15 year old in pull ups. i always knew it for them.
it doesn't mean you, as a parent, don't have to do anything. you can have conversations about it. you can let them see you use the toilet, so they're comfortable with the idea. you can get them a little potty to explore. you can notice when they're peeing or pooping and help them make the connection between that feeling and the act of doing it. you scaffold, you participate, you create opportunities. but you can't MAKE anything happen.
and i realized this morning, the same is true for melby right now. she is just not ready to not sleep like shit. i hear some moms complain that they're 10 week old went from sleeping 6 hours at a time to waking up every 2-3 hours. 3 hours is a good stretch for melby. i feel like a champion when i get 3 hours of sleep. and that's okay. that's my baby. that's where we are.
I DO NOT HAVE TO RUSH MY BABY THROUGH HER LIFE.
i am saying that to my imaginary jury and myself.
melby wants to be held right now. she wants to nurse to sleep. she wants to wake up sometimes every hour and know that i am there to keep her safe. i am tired as all hell, but we will both survive. we are both right where we should be.
i have got to stop rushing. being at the next step doesn't make me better. it doesn't make her better. it doesn't mean we're good or not good. we don't get a sticker. we don't get more validation. we don't win.
this morning, it was time for nap and instead of rushing to achieve independent rest, i just held her in my arms and rocked her quietly. she was wide-eyed, staring back at me. she had the quietest smile on her face, the most trusting smile, the i'm safe smile. when melby looks at me, i see a soul a million years old. it sounds cheesy, but it feels very real. she's not a gleeful baby. she has big, beautiful smiles, but mostly she seems constantly discerning and a little dubious, like she is really assessing everything that's going on around her.
she gave me that quiet smile and then her eyes welled up with tears.
she didn't make a sound. she just looked at me, weeping a little.
i wept a little too.
it's okay to feel sad, i told her. i told myself too. being sad doesn't mean i'm a bad mom. it doesn’t mean you're a bad baby. it means we have feelings.
and eventually she fell asleep. it took a long time. i held her.
this is where we are. my baby sleeps like shit. i hold her until she falls asleep. sometimes i rush too much, but i am working on forgiving myself even that. there is no good mom. there is no bad mom. there is just now and how i choose to live it.