Of all the things on my baby shower registry, the Baby Bjorn was what I wanted the most — more than the jogging stroller, more than the very expensive bedding, and more than the sleek white crib. I had visions of wearing it constantly with my snugly child nestled inside. I would cook, clean, shop, and exercise with my child pressed close to me.
I could not wait to be a mother. I would never leave him with a sitter. I would never put him down. We would be like Kang and little Roo every second of every day, at least that was my plan.
I gave birth at 2:32 in the morning, and after a long night of holding him and staring at him, I finally dozed off at 7:45, only to wake up at 8 and find him gone. I was almost frantic. My husband told me they just took him for some newborn screenings and he would be right back.
“Can you go get him, please?” I found myself saying after only five minutes. I had my hand on the button to page the nurse, I was about to press it. I couldn’t stand to be away from him. All I wanted was to get home, prance around, and do all the things with my baby attached to me a like a barnacle. This was the stuff my dreams had been made of for the last nine months. I was ready.
It only took me about six hours with him at home to realize something: I could not do the “attachment parenting” thing I had endlessly envisioned. I could not wear my child on my body all the time, and the guilt I felt was almost paralyzing. If I couldn’t do it when he weighed 8 pounds, I would never be able to do it; he was only going to get bigger and take up more of my personal space.
I loved him so damn much. But I learned very quickly, I needed space from all forms of human touch more than I had imagined.
I could not handle letting him nurse for hours and hours. I felt like I was going to freak out. My stomach would start to turn, my back would tense, and I would desperately need to move freely without another body attached to me. I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew I had to listen to what my body was telling me.
I would feed him on one side, then the other, and that was it. My mom commented once that I was “all business” when it came to nursing, and she was right — I was. It wasn’t the way I thought I was going to feel about it, and I was frustrated with myself.
When he would fall asleep, I had to put him down and go about my business. Yes, I felt guilty. Yes, I was torn. Yes, I kind of hated myself and wondered if I was unfit to be his mother. I would see some mothers nurse for hours and carry their babies around all day, and I would feel jealous and angry at myself because I wasn’t doing that for my child, that I literally couldn’t do it without losing my mind.
I loved holding him and would pepper him with a thousand kisses until he would squirm. I sometimes napped with him, and we spent many afternoons snuggling on the sofa as he would play with a soft book, snuggled in the nook of my arm. When he got older, we would sit for hours and read. I loved it, but after a time, I needed space. I couldn’t do it all the time.
And when he bit down on my nipple, and turned his head twice in a row while I tried to nurse him when he was 8 months old, I knew we were done. And I was relieved.
I would sometimes carry him in the Baby Bjorn or the backpack while we shopped. Sometimes he would tug at my hair or claw at my neck, and I was so excited when he was big enough to be strapped into a cart. I could look at him, kiss his cheeks, and feed him snacks, and he would smile back at me. I knew he was happy, confident, and thriving. He was developing just fine with me putting him down in his crib for naps, feeding him in a way that also worked for me, and letting him roll around on the floor and play instead of carrying him around all the time like I thought I would.
I clung to those moments. I had to, that is how my guilt faded away.
We all need to be true to ourselves in order to be the best mom we can. It doesn’t matter if the way we thought we were going to mother changes as we go. When we are doing what is best for us mentally and physically, that is the definition of being a good mom, and our children reap the benefits.