They said it would go too fast. That I would blink my eyes and she would be five, on her way to school. They were right.
In the beginning, I cried more days than not. I cried when she cried. I cried when she didn’t cry. I cried in the shower, looking down at the flap of skin that once held my 10 lb. newborn. I cried at Target, pulling diapers off the shelf. I cried when a warm day came and we could finally walk around the block so she would stop crying.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I could hack this motherhood thing. I walked in circles around our small city apartment, her small, noisy little mouth fumbling for my breast as I stepped. I could have stopped, but I needed those steps. I didn’t know what I was doing—moving helped me feel like I was doing something.
To help get my arms around what was happening and “learn” how to be the best mom I could be, I read. I read books about sleep training, online forums about nursing, pages and pages of blog posts about motherhood. Each one said something different: It’s just cluster feeding and will soon pass; stop pacifying her with the boob; start sleep training at five weeks; don’t even think about sleep training until 12 weeks. You’ll learn to differentiate between the cries, they said. She’s talking. She needs her diaper changed. She’s hungry.
Could she really be hungry again?
Weeks passed and I started to get my feet under me. She smiled and I grinned back at her. The sun shined and as we opened our windows, the world started to open again. Early morning cuddle sessions, regular feeding times and long strolls around the neighborhood – we began understanding each other and a feeling of normalcy began to surface. The more time I spent with her, the more I wanted to be with her.
She sat up. She crawled. She talked. She walked. We cheered. We laugh cried. We took way too many pictures. Her accomplishments were ours and we grew more madly in love with her every day.
As she grew, I grew with her. My patience. My confidence. My trust in myself and my instincts.
When she was ready to transition to a crib, I was ready.
When it came time to stop nursing, I knew it was time.
When she started flipping over on her stomach to sleep, I knew it would be okay. That it would all be okay.
The thing that no one tells you about motherhood is that there’s no way you can prepare for it. And that the only way you can become a good mother is by just doing. Some days, that means losing your bra and any expectation of how it’s “supposed” to go and letting it happen. That may mean a messy house. Or walking out the door with a giant ketchup stain down the front of your white tee. Or eating hot dogs for dinner. Again.
As we celebrated our oldest’s fifth birthday, I also raised my glass to five years of motherhood. While I’m still unsure of myself on most days, I have learned a lot about who I am as a mother. Like that I should generally let Pinterest projects live on Pinterest. That I’m not a yoga pants in public mom. That I am really good at making 90s rap lyrics sound like lullabies. That I can clean up my kid’s puke or change a poopie diaper without gagging. And that when it comes to cuddles with my girls, I can make the world stop so I can suck up every single bit of it.
Wow, what a ride.