One of my best friends had her first baby one month ago.
He is the cutest little guy. There is something about a newborn: how they smell, their tiny toes, how they stretch, the little squealing noises they make, and how they mold into you when you hold them. He is so sweet and holding him takes me back to the first few days when my boys were born.
I stopped by last week and hung out with them both; soaking in this little guy, and listening to my friend share her ups and downs of the first few weeks of being a mother. I dished out a bit of advice here and there – but really every baby is so different so sometimes there is no advice to give.
It has not been an easy road for my friend, but she is doing great. One issue that is plaguing them right now is nursing. She has had an incredibly hard time with nursing and subsequently is having to supplement with formula. But formula causes the little guy gas. He is crying and cramping and his tummy is rumbling.
To my friend, this is a big concern. She has switched formulas, tried gripe water, tried to burp him frequently, plays around with his positions, does “bicycle legs” with him for hours, anything to help her little guy. But inevitably he has gas.
My advice to her? That’s life.
He has gas.
Get used to it.
Now I don’t mean that “meanly” at all.
My first son was a relatively good baby. I figured I was doing all the right things. My second son was a really challenging baby. I realized I could do all the right things and it really didn’t make a huge difference all the time.
Wanting to console your child, to protect them, to remove their pain and suffering is what any mother wants to do.
We want to take away their gas. We want to prevent their bruises and scars. We want to wipe their tears and stop them from even flowing. We want them never to feel the sting of rejection or failure. We want them to never have their feelings hurt, to never struggle with school, to never be teased or the target of bullying.
The hardest thing to learn as a mother is that we can’t do the things for our children that we would want most to do.
I felt for my friend, who feels for her little guy who is struggling with a natural baby challenge. She wants to take that pain away from him – but there is nothing she can really do. It’s the natural life of a baby!
It is the same feeling I now get when one of my kids comes home and tells me they didn’t make the team, or one of their friends is teasing them, or they are so anxious about an upcoming test. I wish I could take away their pain and protect them. Some of the experiences I know they need and it will help build their character and develop as people. But it is still hard to sit back and watch them endure the growing pains. Other experiences they go through I question the purpose of why they happen – but the only reason I can come up with is “that’s life”.
As my friend goes through her own growing pains of motherhood, she will begin to realize that she will always face “gas” in her children’s life and often there is not much she can do. She will try to get used to this lack of control but I don’t think you ever get “used to it”, you just get through it (reciting the mantra “This too shall pass”). You learn that you have to roll with the punches, and you begin to see life through a very different lense.
Motherhood completely changes everything about you and how you see life. It’s really hard to explain it until you experience it.
Motherhood changes the way I tell time. I used to look at a clock and think “Oh it’s noon”. Now, I look at it and think “Oh it’s noon, I guess they are having lunch now. I hope they like the sandwich. I hope they remember to drink enough since it is so hot outside”. When they were little and I was working, I would be racing to a client, glance at the clock, see it was 5 after two, think about how they boys were probably napping and hoping that Josh didn’t cry for me again. Then I would think about how I was 5 minutes late for the client, which subsequently meant I would be picking the boys up 5 minutes late that day. Darn it. Ten fifteen is really recess time, three thirty is end of school. Every time I look at the clock, I am thinking about what they are doing. Telling time is simply different.
Motherhood makes you think about everything differently. Seeing my friend start the journey reminded me of that great story my Mom sent me when I first became a mother:
MOTHERHOOD – – IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE . . .
We are sitting at lunch when my daughter casually mentions that she and
Her husband are thinking of “starting a family”. “We’re taking a survey,” she
says, half joking. “Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life,” I say carefully, keeping my tone neutral.
“I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on the weekend, no more
spontaneous vacations . . . ”
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to
decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in
childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of
childbearing heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an
emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never read a newspaper again without
asking “What if that had been MY child?” That every plane crash, every fire
will haunt her.
That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if
anything could be worse than watching your child die. I look at her
carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how
sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive
level of a bear protecting her cub.
That an urgent call of “Mom!” will cause her to drop a souffle or her best
crystal without a moment’s hesitation.
I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in
her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might
arrange for child care, but one day she will be going into an important
business meeting and she will think about her baby’s sweet smell. She
will have to use every ounce of her discipline to keep from running home,
just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that everyday decisions will no longer be
routine. That a five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather
than the women’s at McDonalds will become a major dilemma. That right there
in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of
independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that
a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.
However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself
constantly as a mother.
Looking at my daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed
the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about
herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her
once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save
her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years – not to
accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become
badges of honor.
My daughter’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the
ways she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a
man who is always careful to powder the baby or never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she’ll feel with women throughout
history who have tried desperately to stop war and prejudice and drunk
driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most
issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear
war to my children’s future. I want to describe to my daughter the
exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.
I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the
soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy
that is so real, it actually hurts.
My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my
eyes. “You’ll never regret it,” I say finally. Then I reach across the
table, squeeze my daughter’s hand, and offer a silent prayer for her, and
for me, and for all of the mere mortal women who stumble their way into
this most wonderful of callings. The blessed gift of being a Mother.”
I think that sums it up pretty nicely.
Gas is just the beginning of this beautiful journey.