Monday, October 7, 2013

Motherly Instinct

From the time that I was a little girl I adored children, a love that was instilled in my by my own mother.  Ask anyone with a baby who knows my mom and they will agree that she is a "baby whisperer" and can work her magic on even the fussiest of babies.  I spent hours babysitting as a teenager, working in daycares as a young adult and planned to major in elementary education in college (that didn't end up happening but that is a story for another time).  Being around children was always easy for me.  People would tell me all the time that I was a "natural" that I would be a wonderful mother some day and I developed deep confidence in my ability to teach, play with and love children.  I was certain that I would marry young and planned to have a large family.  But as often happens in life Heavenly Father had other plans for me.  I served a mission in Ecuador and then spend the next 7 years in college majoring in majoring in music, which I never planned to do, before meeting my husband.  We were married three weeks before my 30th birthday and had our first baby two weeks before I turned 32.  It wasn't exactly how I planned for things to go but those 7 years were full of wonderful growth both spiritually and intellectually and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

I was so excited to finally be a mother and was confident that it would come easily and naturally to me because of the experiences I had growing up.  But once again I was broadsided by challenges, trials and emotions that were out of my control and my confidence was severely shaken.  I had an incredibly difficult recovery with Abigail due to some severe tearing during delivery,  Nursing was a very painful and difficult process at first which was compounded with the pain of recovery as well as major lack of sleep.  During the first six week after she was born she slept hard during the day and wouldn't sleep from about 8:00 pm until 3:00 am in the morning.  I was exhausted, in pain, emotionally drained and disappointed.  This was supposed to be easy for me.  I was supposed to know what to do.  

Confidence shaken and mentally and emotionally strung out I started reading every book I could get my hands on about parenting, sleep, nursing, etc.  While I did take away some very good information in the end I just ended up making myself more crazy and more frustrated because every book I read contradicted the book I read before it not to mention the fact that they all made me feel like a horrible mother no matter what I did.  So Bud,  being the good husband he is, forbid me from reading any more books and told me that I had to trust my God given motherly instinct.  I sobbed and I told him I didn't even know what that was or if I had one.  I was so confused.  I was supposed to be a "natural, wonderful" mother.  But the truth is no amount of baby-sitting could have prepared me to be a mother.  Sure I knew how to change diapers, rock a baby, and feed them a bottle.  But sleepless nights, nursing, no time for yourself?  I wasn't prepared for that.  Becoming a mother had brought all of the insecurities I knew I had and even more that I didn't know I had to the surface.  I questioned everything I did, compared myself to the "other mothers", tried to educated myself and asked a lot of questions.  And it left me feeling numb.  The first three months of Abby's life are a blur.  I feel like I didn't get to enjoy her because of everything that was going on.  Some days I loved her so much I couldn't squeeze her hard enough and other days I was terrified I was doing everything wrong and let anxiety rule instead of just enjoying and being with my baby.  Abby was just a happy, easy going baby (once we got passed the first six weeks anyway).  She could light up a room with her great big smile and cheesy grin.  She loved people and people loved her.  She taught me what is was to be a mother.  She helped me to realize that the only way to tap into my God given maternal instinct was to "tap in" to God himself by getting on my knees every day and asking for help.  I still feel like I am not very good at listening to my own motherly instinct.  I have to remind myself constantly not to compare my weaknesses to the strengths of other.  But I am working on it and that is all that Heavenly Father asks and I pray that it is enough.  

Here is part of an email that I wrote to my cousin before she had her first baby.  I wish I could go back in time and have my pre-mommy self read this.  But maybe I had to go through that for a reason.  Maybe it might help my children and grandchildren.

The best advice I could give you is to trust your God given motherly instinct.  It is really hard sometimes when everyone is throwing ideas and advice at you.  Read, learn, ask questions but then pray and then do what feels right for you and for your family.  There is no one right way to raise a child because every parent and child are different.  I got so overwhelmed by everything being thrown at me that I felt like I didn't even get to enjoy Abby at first.  Granted I had a super hard recovery with her but still.  Our weaknesses are our weaknesses and while we can improve every day we have to embrace who we are.  Motherhood brings every insecurity you know you have to the surface along with ones you didn't know you had.  I don't say that to scare you but so that you are aware of the fact that it will be hard some days, ok most days and wonderful some days.  But remember to lean on your husband and on Heavenly Father.  Being a mom pushes you to be better than you've ever been before.  BUT DON'T TRY TO BE PERFECT!  It has been the hardest lesson I have had to learn.  Start each day saying "Come what may and love it".  Remember to not "Sweat the small stuff, because it is all small stuff."  Some days will seem picture perfect and other days you will wonder why you ever agreed to do this.  And lastly, DO NOT COMPARE!  You are not your sister or sister-in-law or your Mom so don't try to be and don't try to live up to any expectation YOU think they might have for you.  They all have their strengths and so do you, so own it girl!  You are going to be an incredible mom.  I love you!

I have been struggling quite a bit lately with this and it was wonderful for me to read my own advice again.  So I am committing again today to not try to be perfect, to trust my God given instinct, to pray and ask for help more often and to do what I want to do and what I think is right and not because I think someone else will have a negative or positive opinion of me. Join me!  I think we'll all be a little happier if we do.

Happy Monday everyone!

My Charlotte being a little mommy to her cousin.  If she can follow her instinct so can I. ;-)

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