My son slept terribly last night, the fallout from too much travel and change and fun. My husband brought him to me mid-morning and he napped for three hours, then again for two hours late in the afternoon.
Smart people just thought, “Uh, oh.”
Yup. At bedtime, the still overtired (but fresh off a long nap) kid spent almost an hour not staying asleep, either flopping around or whining or (the very, very worst) crying like someone just killed his puppy. It’s so sad.
Sadder yet is standing outside the door to his room crying because the only thing we can figure is that he needs to work himself down before he’ll sleep. I never figured I’d be such a softie, but here I am. Super soft. If I don’t comfort my sad, crying baby, how am I his mother?
I was reminded of those awful days when I was trying to breast feed and feeling like a failure because my son was crying out of frustration, and the biggest (most secret) reason I wanted to succeed was this: if I didn’t breast feed him, how would he know I was his mother?
It’s a ludicrous question now, but it felt perfectly valid when I was still adjusting to my new role as a mother. The answer: I’m his mother simply because I am. That’s all, and enough. Christians believe they are worthy of forgiveness simply because they are, and so goes this motherhood thing. I’m his mama not because I grew him in my body and got him out successfully*, but because I love him like only his mama can.
And so I remind myself — hours after he finally fell asleep but not long enough for me to shake the feeling that I failed him somehow — that nobody can love my kid like I do, and he can’t help but feel that even as he cries that sad cry and wonders why I can’t make it all better. I wish I could, but my role is as a guide and helper, not fixer. Well, not all the time.
*I had a c-section, and despite the success of that procedure in producing a healthy, happy baby, I felt for a long time like I failed him for the first and seemingly most critical time by not being able to birth him myself. I went over each moment obsessively, trying to learn from the experience as though I could go back and make it all right. Did the downhill spiral begin when I went to the hospital (note my phrasing, as though I wasn’t directed to go straight there by the most anti-intervention practitioners I could choose) or when I went for the epidural like a starving person at a buffet? Now I know — or try to know — that it doesn’t matter. He’s here and healthy and won’t likely think to ask whether he was pushed out of my parts through the sheer force of my will or cut out of my body through the expertise of someone else’s until his pregnant wife makes him ask me. The circumstances, ultimately, matter far less than the desire. I wanted — deeply, fervently wanted — to do whatever was best for him.