Being a mom was something I had yearned for and envisioned for myself since I was a young girl. I gravitated towards kids and volunteered at our church Sunday School regularly. I taught swimming lessons and babysat for many neighborhood families. I spent lots of time around friends and family who had babies and young kids, watching them closely, taking mental notes. After earning a degree in Montessori and Early Childhood Education, I went on to teach 1st-3rd grade students for 8 years before becoming a mom.
I thought I was more than prepared to enter the season of motherhood once the time arrived for my husband and I to have a baby. I read many books, listened to podcasts, took a childbirth preparation course, and interviewed my friends with young kids (especially my friend who has five kids ten and under!). We bought (or were gifted) all of the baby gear we could ever need, set up our son’s nursery, and then waited anxiously for his arrival.
When the day finally came, a few days before my due date when my water started leaking (see my birth story for more details), I was so excited! A few days later we brought Levi home from the hospital, my husband driving far below the speed limit the entire time, me peeking back at our little bundle sound asleep in the car seat. My mom (Nana), who had driven from Wisconsin to spend some time with us and help out, eagerly greeted us at the front door. She couldn’t wait to meet her first grandchild! She took Levi from me and held him the rest of the day, only relinquishing him from her grasp when it was time for me to feed him. Nana oohed and aahed, staring into his perfect little face.
Those first few weeks were a bit of a blur, all of us learning how to be a family of three and how to take care of a newborn, but the blow was definitely softened by my mom’s amazing help as she cooked for us, cleaned, and took Levi off our hands when we needed a break.
Not long after that stage, we traveled to see extended family and a few weeks later, more grandparents came to visit and help. By the time Levi was about two months old, it was our turn to really see if we had what it took to parent this tiny helpless human. My husband returned to work full time (though thankfully he was working remotely most weeks) and I was mostly on my own as a new mom.
When Levi was three months old, my husband had his first work trip – all the way out in California, and he was gone for five whole days. In the week preceding his trip, I was anxious. Would I be able to manage all on my own? Would I be lonely? Bored? What if…The possibilities of all the things that could go wrong in my husband’s absence rattled around in my brain. I preemptively planned one activity for us to do each day during his trip to keep us (let’s be honest…me) occupied. Monday we went walking with a friend, Tuesday we visited a friend with two littles of her own who lived an hour away, Wednesday we got a three-day trial membership at a nearby gym that offered childcare, Thursday we had our mommy and me swim class, and Friday we had our weekly Mamistad playgroup with moms who had babies Levi’s age.
In the end, it worked out great. That first night home alone with Levi fast asleep in his crib after a busy day, I looked at my watch. It was 7:30 pm. I had no one to answer to, no responsibilities or chores left. I just had some time to relax…and I had no idea what to do. It felt strange. My Kindle sat forlornly on the coffee table, the endless possibilities of Netflix intimidated me, and I knew my husband -- three hours behind on West Coast time -- wouldn’t be available to talk until long after I’d gone to sleep. While the quiet solitude and the option to kick back and relax was all available, I had trouble deciding what to do. It had been a while since I’d had such an opportunity.
In truth, for me being a new mom has lived up to a lot of the expectations that I had previously. There are lots of diaper and outfit changes, laundry, cleaning up messes, and attempts to sooth crying during many times of the day (and night). There is a lot of extra planning that goes into leaving the house – for any reason, for any length of time.
But there are also so many amazing moments during each day. Moments when I look into my son’s eyes and feel an overwhelming sense of love and connection. Moments when he smiles up at me and kicks his legs and waves his arms when I go to wake him up from a nap. Moments when he’s screaming and I pick him up and hold him close and he just melts into me, calmed. These are the moments I’d hoped for that I’m soaking up now.
I know this newborn phase has now come to a close now that Levi is nearing five months old, and I’ve really loved it. These first three months would have been completely different if it weren’t for my husband’s unwavering support, the involvement and enthusiasm of all of our family members, and the generosity of our friends and neighbors. It’s amazing how one’s community can rally around a family when they welcome a new baby into the world. I plan to repay these acts of kindness in the future to women in my life who become mamas.
I know not everyone loves the newborn phase – and that’s totally ok! There were definitely many sleepless nights and points when I questioned my identity after enduring what seemed like endless hours of piercing screams in my ear and the 5th diaper change of the day – at 10 am. But those brief moments of connection, Levi’s tiny squeals of delight, his smiles and giggles, or when he’d bury his face into me and I’d cradle his tiny body, seemed to mute the challenging times.
For now, I’m trying to savor all those precious moments, to remember to be thankful for the opportunity to have this time with my son, even during the fourth outfit change of the day (for both of us sometimes!) or when nothing I do seems to please him. There is a deep part of me that feels a satisfaction in this stage of our journey, as if I’m doing something I was meant to do. I’m doing my best to be present, even in the mundane moments of our day, because I know how fleeting this time is. At the same time, I’m looking forward to all the fun ahead we have ahead of us as Levi gains new skills and becomes more interactive and mobile.
I’m learning every day. Learning about what my new role as a mother, how to take care of and nurture my son, and how to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. I’m learning to truly appreciate the little things. This feels authentic and good, and real, and I’m loving it.