I didn’t mind washing Lily’s bottles the first 15 times. I didn’t mind changing her diapers, trying to read her mind when she cried, getting up in the middle of the night or even being hooked up to “Lily’s Dairy Farm” (our affectionate name for the breast pump) during my first few glorious days as a mother. After all, I had a glowing, squirming, beautiful bundle of joy! She was perfect; what more could I want?
Sometime during that sixteenth bottle washing, I started to wonder why I’d ever wanted a baby to begin with. I was covered with sweat and spit-up, I hadn’t slept more than two hours at a time since she’d been home; I hadn’t made love in a week and a half, and I was wondering if the baby came with a return address. Then I hated myself for even entertaining that thought.
It didn’t go away. She would eat an ounce, fall asleep and then wake up an hour later screaming like I’d never fed her in her short life. She wouldn’t just poop; she would wait until I got her diaper off, then spray liquid feces eight inches across the room. I measured!
She would wait until I was almost asleep, then decide that now is the perfect time to projectile vomit all over her bassinet. I wondered when this kid’s mother was finally going to pick her up and give me my life back.
Oh …I’m her mother.
This isn’t what I was supposed to think. I was supposed to glow with maternal joy! I was supposed to grow this new Mommy ESP called “maternal instinct.” I was supposed to love this non-responsive poop machine with all my heart.
In my sleep-deprived brain, the enemy’s subtle attacks came: “Maybe I’m just not a good mother. A good mother wouldn’t dream of giving her baby back! Isn’t there some kind of overwhelming mother-infant love that I’m supposed to be feeling right now? Maybe I was never cut out to be a mother. Maybe I’m going to ruin my kid’s life because I don’t really love her enough!”
One night, after the millionth unsuccessful attempt at breast-feeding, I poured my heart out to my husband, Justin. I started sobbing and cried, “I’m afraid I don’t love my baby enough!” I even confessed that I just wasn’t cut out to be the mother of his child.
That’s when he reminded me: “You’ve only known her for a couple of weeks! Did you love me when we were dating as deeply as you do now?”
He had a point. After Justin and I got married, I was startled by the fact that staying in love was hard work. Planning the wedding was much easier than being married. The newlywed “eat-sleep-work-sex” routine got monotonous after a little while.
We both realized that we had goals to accomplish, and we couldn’t work towards those goals while we were gazing deeply into each other’s eyes. If I didn’t expect “love at first sight” to be the foundation of my marriage, why should I expect it to be the foundation of my relationship with my daughter?
The truth is that I do love my baby. I’ve just had more experience dreaming about her and shopping for her than actually caring for her. When I was buying those cute pink onesies, I didn’t imagine them smeared with poop up the back.
Whether it’s changing jobs, getting married, becoming a parent or taking a trip to Cancun, it’s always more fun to daydream than it is to actually do the thing I’ve set out to do. But after the novelty wears off in any relationship, there’s room for something new to grow in its place—commitment.
Warm fuzzy feelings will never sustain my husband and me through endless schedule conflicts and monotonous work days, nor will they keep me from being grossed out when my baby girl blows out her diaper in her bouncy chair.
Warm fuzzy feelings are not love. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is commitment. Love is changing the hundred-millionth stinky diaper. Love is feeding and snuggling the squealing kid.
When she was 9 weeks old, we found out that Lily had acid-reflux, which made her scream every time we laid her down flat—like during breast feeding attempts! Baby Zantac was a gift from God.
I’ll never forget the first time I was able to lay her down on the Baby Einstein Gym—she looked up in wonder at all the beautiful bright colors. She swung her little arms at the dangling, sweet-sounding chimes. Then she turned her beautiful, dark-tressed head, looked me in the eye, said “Ga-Ooo!” and smiled at me!
It was all worth it.