Since the moment I could read, I devoured anything in sight. I have, since I can remember, had this insatiable desire to learn, to read, to imagine, to challenge what I already know. As a girl, I remember my mom would have to send me outside to play during the summer, because I’d get so wrapped up in a book, and forget about the world around me. In grade 11, my English teacher told me that most adults never read another book in their entire life after they are done school. That made me sad, and I made a vow, that I would never be that person. That no matter where I was in my life, I would always read, and I would always enjoy it the same way I did then. I still to this day, have a love affair with an amazing book. Ask The Hubby, he’ll tell you how lonely he can be when I find another good one to read. Or he’ll tell you how I tell him he MUST listen to this passage or that passage.
I love reading. It’s just who I am.
|Sleepy Potato, just a day old.|
It was no surprise to me when I was pregnant with Potato, that my love for reading fell into the realm of parenting. When I was on bedrest with him, I soaked up every article I could about breastfeeding, I researched all the gadgets out there, I made sure I knew my stuff. The first thing he taught me was that reading meant I had knowledge about situations, about ailments, or common parenting issues. But not necessarily on what it means to be a parent. What happens when your are launched from being your own person to being a Mom for the first time, is completely life changing. It quite literally will turn your whole world upside down…and in a good way.
Some of the reading did help. It guided me when The Hubby was asking me if it was normal (I knew that a baby not sleeping was normal and THAT much poop is also normal), or kept me calm when breastfeeding didn’t happen magically and perfectly at first. It didn’t prepare me for the whirlwind that becoming a parent is. What I did find out though, is that I still got to be an expert in something. When it comes to Potato, The Hubby and I are Potato Experts. We know our stuff. When Potato cries at bedtime, I can usually tell you what he needs specifically. I can tell you why he just freaked out at you, or the names of all his trains that he obsessively plays with. I could tell you what his cries meant, when he was wanting a nurse, or just a comfort. I could tell who he loved, who he was uncomfortable with, and when he was at the end of his rope. The Hubby will even admit to you that I sometimes know him a lot better- it’s not because I’m better, it’s simply that I spend more time with him. Day in day out, he’s my sidekick. He was nourished at my breast, and raised with my gentle hands on a daily basis. How can I possibly not know him better then anyone else? I am his mother.
Over the years, since we’ve had him, there have been multiple situations where it has been implied by friends and family that we simply didn’t know what we were doing. Or that perhaps they had a better answer. We do things differently, we’re a little wacky. I know it raised eye brows when I said I planned to breastfeed him until he was ready to wean on his own. I know that things were said about us about our decision to share a family bed. This time with Girlie, I can feel people waiting for us to give up on cloth diapers, to renounce the co-sleeping finally, and to stop breastfeeding sooner then we did with Potato. I know we don’t parent in the culture mainstream. That’s just not how we roll. In fact, we’re constantly pushing upstream, against the current. The point is, our children are healthy, happy, and beautiful. Yet, it always surprises me when I hear another comment, whether it be blunt or passive aggressive about how we should be doing it this way or that.
In attending several parenting groups, one common theme seems to arise at almost every meeting. The previous generation who wants to impart their “wisdom” on these young, unsuspecting mothers. Sometimes the wisdom is sage, sometimes it’s not. More often then not, these Mothers feel violated, disrespected and hurt by the way the past generation seems to tell them that they know their babies better then they do, as these sweet babies Mothers. These new mom’s feel conflicted, confused, and frustrated. Often times they know the answers to the questions they have, they just needed someone to tell them that they were right for trusting their gut, and to also say, “You are doing an amazing job”.
I remember after one particular visit at a family function, driving in our car, back to the safety of our home, The Hubby and I were discussing the events of the night. No matter what we did, we’d been ignored. We’d said no, they’d pretend they didn’t hear us. We’d ask for our crying baby back, they’d deny us. We’d say we planned to breastfeed for an extended period of time, they’d raise their eyebrows like they somehow knew better. I remember breaking down and telling The Hubby that I felt like they were trying to make me feel like I was somehow a terrible mother, like I’d never be any good, and that I simple knew nothing. Those visits became fewer and fewer because we simply couldn’t stand be to be silently laughed at for our parenting decisions.
There seems to be this never ending battle between them and us. With the mom’s of yesteryear, and the Mom’s of today. We live in an age where information is at our finger tips, we have access to it wherever and whenever we want. Sometimes it can be a blessing, sometimes it’s overwhelming. There are opinions emblazoned every which way you look. This so called expert says this, your mother in law says that, the girl from your prenatal class is doing that, the commercial said this was best, the magazine warns against this…it’s EVERYWHERE. In the first year, I felt sick with all the differences of opinion. How could one possibly know what was best for their child?
And then it hit me. I’ve always had the answer. We ALL have the answer. You know what’s best for your child because YOU are their MOTHER. Not your doctor, not your best friend, not your mother, or mother in law. It is ALL you. You can read a million books, and not take a single thing away from them, or you can read one and have it speak to your parenting soul. I know this, because I’ve read a multitude of books, some that I devoured, and some that I just shook my head, and moved on. The reality is, when it comes to YOUR kid, you are the expert. You don’t need a degree, or a fancy coat, or be able to say you’ve raised this many kids. You made that baby, you know that baby. That simply makes YOU the expert.
How did I figure that out? It wasn’t until someone who was supposed to be part of my support system essentially mocked the way I raise my child, and my love of learning as much as I possibly can. The reality is, it wasn’t that incident that made me realize why I parent the way I do, I’ve known and The Hubby has known for years. We don’t parent Potato as gently as we do because a book told us to.
I parent him the way I did because when I was 17 I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I made the decision to become a Birth Mother for the unborn child that I was carrying. I figured out that I was an expert on my baby, because I was a mother, even as a Birth Mother. When I had to put my selfish needs to the side, to make sure I made the right decision for my child, and used my own instincts? That’s when I realized that NO one could ever tell me what the right decision was for my child.
That’s why, when people question my parenting or insult me for it, I take it personally. I parent the way I parent my children, because I had to place one of my very own in the hands of a loving, more suitable family. I lost out on so much, and it wasn’t until I had Potato that I realized just how much I truly missed. I don’t regret the decision to place my son for adoption, I was simply doing the best for him, and to this day it is still the right decision. At the time, I simply had NO idea that it would shape me as the mother I am today. And that’s what I am, the mother I am today because I chose to make a selfless decision for my child years ago. One that has blessed us both considerably, as well as my two gorgeous children.
When Potato was just a month old, or so, I’d dealt with another person trying to tell me how to raise him. At that point, I didn’t have the words to actually tell them why I felt so drawn to the parenting I was doing, in fact, at that point, I had no idea that what I was practicing had a name or label. I was doing what felt instinctual, and so right. One night, when I was up late, for the umpteenth time with my Small Fry, I wrote a piece that I have shared before. I am sharing it again, because I think that there are some in my life who need to do some reading to understand me better. Clearly being around them for so many years has not taught them enough about me. So here it is, for the whole world to see. This is not something I talk about frequently. Not because I’m ashamed, but because it’s simply not up for discussion. Because only certain people are trusthworthy enough to know of the finer details, and quite simply, a lot of people just don’t get it. This decision has made me the woman, wife and mother I am today. No book could ever teach me what this life changing experience taught me.
I was 17, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know the joy of motherhood, I didn’t know the blessing that having a child was. I did know that my little boy needed a better Mom, a better home, a better life. I knew I couldn’t give this to him at the ripe age of 17. I knew that he was bigger than me in so many ways, so I had to let him go. I’ve never regretted that choice. I know to this day that I did the best thing for my little boy. I gave him physical life, and I gave him his life; a life that he deserved, and one that I knew I couldn’t give to him. For him, I became a birth mother.
Now, I’m a mother again. This time, a different kind. The real kind. The kind that wakes up in the middle of the night. The kind that worries non-stop, the kind that claps in joy at the silliest things that her son does. I am a mother. Matteo is my pride and joy, I love him fiercely, with a love I never thought could possibly exist. His existence has opened new horizons, new feelings, new thoughts, and a new life for me. While he is learning so much from this big world, in the short time he has been here, he has taught me more about myself, then I have learned in my entire life.
I love both my boys, but my love is so different for each of them. My first shaped me for the mother I would one day be, and because of the selflless love I had for him, he’s made me a better mother for Matteo. My First taught me how precious a child is, and how beautiful it is to be a mother and watch your child grow. Without him, I would have never learned how much you can miss when you aren’t there.
I’ve contemplated my parenting choices. Everywhere I look people are trying to train their children into their schedule, mold them into the beings they want them to be. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, for them, it’s natural. However, what’s natural for me is so different. I’m learning every day the things I missed with My First, and because I know I missed them with him, I’m soaking every small, extraordinary moment up with Matteo. If he wants to stay up all night, I’ll let him. If he wants me to stick out my tongue over and over again, just so he can smile at me, I’ll do it. If he wants to nurse for hours on end, I’ll let him. All because I didn’t get to do it with My First. I want Matteo to be what he wants, because I want to watch him, I want to see what sort of amazing being I created without trying to make him into the baby he isn’t. I want to soak up every single moment, because I know I’ll never get it back.
At night, when Matteo is wide awake, when my eyes are heavy with sleep, I turn on some country music, and we two-step around the apartment. I sing to him, I snuggle him closer. His eyes flit about excitedly, taking in every color, every picture, every shadow, like he’s never seen it before. Every so often, he’ll put his soft little head on my shoulder, and snuggle into my neck. Within seconds, his head is bobbing up again, trying to remember where he last looked, before he took the time to show me that he felt safe. He’ll be crying, and the moment we start dancing, he stops. Matteo usually looks at me with wonder for a second, and then turns his attention to the objects in the room. We dance for hours at a time, until my arms get tired, until he needs fed, until he’s sleeping, whatever. We just dance, and it’s my favorite time of the day. He’s the best dance partner I’ve ever had, and I sure wouldn’t trade those late night dances for even a bit of sleep.
People talk about all the things that are awful about parenthood- no sleep, lack of a social life, not showering, having no time. The list goes on. What they don’t realize is that when you didn’t get to have that, when you didn’t get to experience those things, they are things you want to have. I didn’t get to see his first bath, or first smile. I didn’t get to see him cry real tears, or say his first word. I didn’t get stay up all night and rock him to sleep. The thought of all the things I missed with My First haunted me for years, and even to this day, I sometimes wish I got to sample a bit of his life in real-time. Yet, because of this, I’m embracing all of the imperfections of parenthood. I want the late nights, I want the lack of a social life, I want all of the things that come with parenthood. I want to experience the terrible, the good, the amazing, the awful, all of it. I’m amazed by the simple beauty of all of these experiences, even the tiresome ones.
There are no words, no amount of ‘thank-you’s that will be enough for My First. I always thought if I ever saw him again, he would thank me for giving him his beautiful family. I never imagined that I would want to hug him tight, and thank him for teaching me how to be a better mom, a more attentive mother, a mother who appreciates the beauty in things that others might miss. A mother who will be happy to learn from her child, who will want to soak up every moment with her child, and will go to all lengths to make sure that her little one is happy, comfortable, loved, and protected.”
My story isn’t every mother’s story. Why each Mother chooses to parent they way they do, is only something they know. Maybe they read an amazing book and it changed their life, and view. Maybe they adored the way they were raised and want to do it identical. Reality is, you, and me, we have no idea why a Mother does what she does. To try to damper her instincts, to try to tell her you know better for this reason or that? It’s absurd, it’s rude, and unnecessary.
The ironic moral of this post is this: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover- it actually might be worth it to pull it out and see what words are lining the pages.