From the moment our first baby was born, I felt as though the world was trying to separate us. I struggled with this feeling for a long time, wondering if I was in the wrong, if my deep love and satisfaction with our being together was unhealthy. It felt as though our attachment was something that should be kept secret, that being too gentle, or giving too much attention to our sweet babe would draw attention to my parenting insecurities, but when she was placed on my belly, that moment just before our eyes met for the first time, I felt a connection stronger than any feeling I had ever felt. I was a mama. I remember how she tipped her head just so, searching for an image she had never seen, but a voice she had grown to know over the past nine months. And her sweet scent; oh how glorious it was. It wasn’t until after our eyes met, that Papa Bear and I even realized we hadn’t checked to see that she was, in fact, a she. Together, the three of us celebrated between tears and warm caresses. It’s a feeling that is forever burned into a mama’s memory, and I’ll always tell the story fondly.
Not long after, a nurse bustled in and hurriedly uttered “well, I’m going on my break, so if you wanna know how much she weighs, you have to do it now.” Having never had a baby before, I suspected knowing how much she weighed was incredibly important (it’s not, in most cases), so after some coaxing from our midwife, our new bundle was whisked away while I was left, arms and womb bare, and feeling rather vulnerable. There it was, the ‘hurry up, time is wasting, we have to do it now, there’s no time for connection’ ideology that is the basis of our fast paced lives. That was my first encounter with the script of parenting. I didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time. All I knew was I was half bare, laying under a god light, anticipating the return of my husband and our tiny bundle.
Our experience with our midwives was nothing short of spectacular, but once we left the shelter of their care, I was overwhelmed by the need to ‘hurry up’, get over it, and follow the script. Our first ‘well baby visit’ involved the nurse literally scooping Wildflower from my arms and carrying her out the door, while our nurse practitioner, closing the thick metal door, explained that our brand new baby would be taken to be weighed while we had a chat. My stunned silence was met with confusion, which was then further drawn out by my reciprocated confusion. ‘Is this how it’s done?’ I thought to myself. Will they think I’m strange if I want to be there to help take off her little clothes and speak to her in a calm, soothing voice while they poke at her? After all, she doesn’t have the awareness of what’s going on, but she knows I’m not there and that she is cold and naked in a strange place. That’s enough to scare any person, and that’s just what a baby is, a small person. Of course, I followed my sobbing infant and held her close, the way I knew how. I quickly began to recognize this pattern, that I was just her mother, in some people’s eyes, not her mother, her strength, her voice, her guide.
Why is it that despite the studies on the importance of children being raised with a strong attachment to at least one adult, it is regarded as weak, overbearing, and strange? The majority of my new-mom worries would have melted away if I knew then what I know now. I wish I could wrap that me up with love and support and show her that her instincts were not wrong. We are not supposed to leave our babies; it’s our children who will leave us. Raising our children should mean just that; that they are never crying for their absent parents. Our children should not be unhappily subjected to parental ‘me’ time. Those twenty, thirty, forty years we had before they showed up on the scene? That was it. That was the ‘me’ time. They don’t stop needing us because we need a shower (unfortunately) or because we are headed out for the evening, or the weekend. Mother nature gave us breastfeeding, crying babies, and guilt (oh the guilt) to remind us. These are not things we need to overcome in order to convince ourselves that our lives haven’t changed. They have. And if we are ready to climb aboard, it’s the best thing for everyone. We become softer, gentler, stronger, bolder, wiser. We love deeper. Our lives becomes richer. Our connection with our children becomes everlasting.
Our universal need for love and attachment should trump everything else, but it doesn’t. Fear does. What are we so afraid of? Of love, itself? Of happiness and heart-felt emotion? Of sharing kindness and teaching security and reliability to our next generation? There shouldn’t need to be shelves of books explaining that ‘crying it out’ is unhealthy, that rocking your child is not just normal, but encouraged, and that pushing our kids to eat, walk, run, go to school before they are ready, is not beneficial. These experts are cashing in on something that used to be instinctual. If you hold your baby when she’s sad, feed him when he’s hungry, teach her when she’s curious, and love him when he’s hurt, chances are, you are doing a good job.
At the end of the day, I can’t help but feel different. Even though I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded people, I still can remember the condescending tones that I’ve heard. My heart remembers the people who have shown me disbelief when I say that raising our children is the single most valuable thing I can do with my time here on earth. I don’t need to be a doctor or a lawyer, or log numbers on a backlit screen. I don’t want to spend each day leaving my kids to care for other people’s children. Yes, I am just a mom, and no I don’t think I’m better than anyone else for making these choices; however, I am not privileged to be able to stay at home; there are many things that we do without so that I can. We made this happen. I have let other things, other dreams, other relationships get a bit dusty. It’s a time sensitive ordeal, this parenting thing. The time is now. And so I pour myself into homeschooling, and preparing nourishing meals, trying to be a good listener to the eleventh version of the same story I’ve been hearing all week, playing ‘royal’ AGAIN, counting down the minutes until Papa Bear comes home to join in the chaos, painting with my fingers, cleaning up paint on fingers and various other surfaces and fabrics, exploring all that Mother Earth has to offer us, studying grade nine geography (didn’t I pass this already?), balancing budgets, cleaning bathrooms, folding laundry (always folding laundry), planting gardens, chasing the potty trainee, wrestling chickens, and snuggling children, oooooh the snuggling. It’s really what makes it all worth it.
Hold them close,