Apr 15, 2007

Parenting joys and challenges

In our longer than normal journey to have a baby, lots of people told us how this is going to be the best experience of our lives. I knew that I will love it, but I never realized what it really means. You hear: my baby started crawling at x months and walking at y months. It feels like precise milestones that you need to get to. Instead there's a long journey for each of these milestones. The baby doesn't just start walking. There are so many little steps, you can see a tiny bit of advance every day. Sometimes you think it's never going to happen, and then one day it does.

Last week we heard the baby say a word in the right context for the first time: hot, hot. What intense happiness and joy. It gets even better because he understands that we talk about him and that we are happy and he looks so proud of himself. He looks at us with the hugest smile ever.

And the challenges... I think I am a better mother because of my struggles with anxiety. I understand how he feels and I think I react appropriately and help him go through it. When he cries without any apparent reason, I usually feel and understand where his pain came from.

Two weeks ago the baby got sick, then I got sick, then his father got sick. We struggled for a while and finally a week ago we all were well. However in the struggle the baby felt neglected and we had a period of fussiness and clinging. Once again we had to let him cry himself to sleep because it felt like we never spent enough time with him. I had such a hard time deciding where the right line is between being there for him when he needs me and taking some much needed time for myself and letting him soothe himself.

When I was sick and staying in bed one morning, he first enjoyed his new found freedom and played around for five minutes or so, then he came over, looked at me in bed and started crying. I could not calm him no matter what. His babysitter came half an hour later and all of a sudden he was happy again. I think he was saying: "Now my mother is sick and there's no one to take care of me so what am I going to do?"

For the last two weekends I have been very close to him, almost always there when he wanted me, and finally this evening we won: he went to bed without crying. Did I find the right balance? I will never know, but my heart isn't shattered this evening after a long time.

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