When I was newly pregnant with my first child, I looked at every book on parenting I could find. I tucked Happiest Baby on the Block into my beach bag in Hawaii, I curled up into my comfy corner on our green couch with Baby Wise, and I made sure I was seen reading The Vaccine Book and Attachment Parenting in the lobby at doctor appointments, lest any of the staff should see me as an unfit new mother. And these books had good information, they did. As the months I had left of pregnancy dwindled down to weeks, I took comfort in thinking that I had a cure for colic, an improved vaccine schedule, and an eat-play-sleep method of parenting all tucked away in my back pocket.
But that, friends, is where they stayed. Because my baby girl came, and I held her for naps even though I knew I was supposed to put her down. I fed her every time she cried at night until she was eight months old, even though I knew it would just create bad habits. I did not modify the vaccine schedule our pediatrician recommended, even though I was aware of all the risks. And we did not co-sleep, even though the book said she would probably like me better when she is a teenager if we did.
I think I mostly did things wrong. If we are going by the books, that is.
But what the books don’t say is that being a mom is not really a matter of what you’ve read or have not read. Being a mom is about having a heart that can balloon with joy and love and gratitude but just as quickly deflate with frustration and exhaustion and defeat. Being a mom means feeling the happiest and most content you have ever felt and then sometimes just minutes later wanting to shut the bathroom door and cry. (Or put lipstick on. To each her own when it comes to coping mechanisms.) Being a mom is really about how deep you can go into your heart, both to find forgiveness and to ask for it. It’s losing all the pride you had in your former body, job, housekeeping, and social circles and finding instead two big blue eyes looking at you for all the answers. Which you mostly don’t have, but it’s pretty amazing to have a precious little face sitting on your lap who believes you anyway.
What the books never tell you is that the best way to be a mom is not to know it all, it’s to make a million mistakes and then fix them. Because that is always going to be what life is.
My books do look pretty nice on the shelf, and I’m glad I read them. Because knowledge is power, right? Well, it’s a little bit of power, but what’s even more powerful is love. The unconditional, relentless, spit-up-on, nursing at two a.m., first steps, good night kisses, beautiful, messy kind of love.
That’s mom love. Books don’t tell you much about that.
But those big blue eyes? They sure do.
Written by Katie Blackburn