I thought I knew exactly the kind of mom I was going to be. I had imagined it since I was young and, while it had evolved over time, as I aged and matured and better understood the world, it was, in my mind in many ways, cemented. Or so I thought.
I was going to be protective but not overly so. I was going to teach rather than discipline. I'd be somewhat stringent on following guidelines in order to get my baby to sleep well, eat well and behave well. I was going to acknowledge my child's small accomplishments but not overly praise them. I was going to go somewhere between the cry-it-out and attachment parenting methods. And I wasn't going to put my baby above everything else.
It's been just a little over two months since Noam was born and, though I'm no expert on motherhood or parenting or raising a baby, I like to think I've picked up a few things and formed a few substantive thoughts on the subject. So I thought I'd share them here.
To begin, I'd like to go back to my pregnancy. Before Noam was born, I had decided I'd read as many books on parenting as I could. I love to read and it seemed worthwhile. I also believe I had a healthy perspective on parenting books: I'd read them but I wouldn't get too caught up on the nitty-gritty. If something made me anxious or didn't seem right, I could simply skip it and move on. And so I read several books and started to fine-tune the theories and behaviors of the mom I thought I was going to be. I subscribed to certain schools of thought that made the most sense to me.
But then I had Noam. And soon after that, I wanted to burn most of the baby books I had read.
Now, of course there were parts of those books that I found super helpful. 'Oh yes, I remember reading about this type of behavior in newborns.' was something I often found myself saying. It helped that I knew what he and I were going through was normal and expected. But many of the things I read now seem to me, in hindsight, idealistic, unreasonable or just downright wrong.
I guess my point in saying all of this is this: I've always believed everyone draws their own lines. But sometimes those lines shift, change shape and size and position or altogether disappear when you actually experience parenthood as opposed to just theorize on it. Allow them to move. It means you are learning about your baby and your family and growing as a parent.
Here's a specific line that's shift turned my world upside down: co-sleeping. We co-sleep with Noam. Just a few weeks ago, I would've been very against making this public. And even now I'm a little nervous about the comments I may receive because co-sleeping seems to have a negative connotation and judgement can be toxic. Before Noam was born and many weeks into his infancy, I held those same negative feelings toward it. But as a mom, I carefully observed and 'listened' to Noam and what I perceived was that he's a baby who has a high need to be close to me. I didn't create this in him. He just works this way. And instead of fighting the way he works, instead of putting the mom I believed I was going to be above my baby's needs, I shifted my line. I shifted my line from baby in bassinet to baby in bed (this shift happened about four weeks ago and it's working so well, I look back only to acknowledge our growth as a family). And while we're just talking about a few physical feet difference in position, it might as well be miles. It feels that different.
Co-sleeping works for us. (I have read extensively on safe co-sleeping and would only do it if it were safe.) It has literally changed our worlds - I sleep better (because Noam doesn't wake as often and he's happier as he sleeps, because I feel good about knowing where he is and that he's peaceful) and Noam sleeps better (because the constant contact with me makes him feel comforted and safe and that's what he needs right now). I tear up a little when I think about being able to give this to him - about being able to give him something that he so desperately needs right now - and I love that I'm able to be there for him. And, at the risk of sounding defensive (because maybe I feel like I need to defend my decision a little bit because the mom I thought I would be is still in my head sometimes): does Noam need me a little more than some other babies may need their moms? Maybe. Though all babies need their moms in different ways. But he is the happiest, most content baby and I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that he knows he is safe with us, that we are here for him and that he is taken care of in the most profound way.
When I look back at the mom I thought I was going to be, I don't have any animosity toward her. I don't judge her for the way she would handle each situation a newborn throws her way. (There is far too much judgement when it comes to parenting - bottle or breast? crib or family bed? daycare or nanny? - when most parents are likely, simply doing their best given their specific circumstances). I used co-sleeping as an example of decisions every parent needs to make but it could've been any number of other decisions and I would have the same general philosophy: rather than draw a hard line or follow parenting philosophies word-for-word, listen to your baby, observe your baby and do what your baby needs most. Once I stopped subscribing to how to be a certain 'type' of mom, I found that I became the best type of mom.