Four months into parenthood, and I feel like a different person. Not only have I gone through immense physical changes over the past year – going from pregnant to childbirth to maintaining a child on the outside – there has been amazing emotional growth. I’m incredibly thankful for the chance to go deeper and learn more about myself, my husband, my child, my friends, my family, and my community.
Childbirth and, subsequently, parenting has allowed me to see a greater potential in my ability to love. I am certainly not saying that parenting is the only way to learn a deeper love. Far from it. The world presents us with amazing situations in which we can all learn something more about ourselves and others. We are not shackled by our pasts or by our biology or by what we are “supposed” to be. Everyday, I see new examples of the human spirit that make me grateful for the people that fill my life.
It’s just so happens that childbirth is what jumpstarted my growth. I live in a pretty woo-woo place and have done lots of meditation classes and integrated lots of “natural” and holistic aspects. My husband is someone I both love and respect. My viewpoint on love has evolved tremendously, but nothing prepared me for the total renovation of my spirit that Little Buddy has provided. He loves without fear. He loves without judgment. He loves wholly and completely. I can easily say that he is my role model in the kind of person I want to be. This is both inspirational and sad.
There is a vast emptiness in modern American emotion. Shufs would say in the Western World in general, but I can only speak to my experience as an American. True, we are afforded lots of freedoms in our country. I can create a blog about my life and talk about my beliefs without too much fear of government reprisal. I have the ability to provide my family with pretty much anything and everything they need. That being said, and without othering or fetishising other cultures and countries, I do believe that our culture prevents us from trusting and loving fully. We crave independence and individualism, which is lovely, but it’s manifested in isolation. I’m often encouraged by my parents and in-laws to start distancing myself from Little Buddy so he can learn independence, so he can learn to be alone. Learning how to be alone is an important lesson, but I don’t believe it’s one that needs to be learned at 4 months. Right now, the important thing is learning trust and love. We want to reinforce to Little Buddy that we are here for him and that we love him without question. That doesn’t mean free reign to do whatever whenever. It means letting him know that affection and care exist within boundaries. He can grow, experiment, learn, and fail without worrying that his parents will absent emotionally.
That doesn’t mean this all comes easily. Right after his birth, I was deeply depressed. I bemoaned the loss of my former life, terrified that I would never get to leave the house again. Everything about parenting terrified me. He was in constant need of me and, to be honest, I resented him for it. I was raised with great affection by my parents, but with a large amount of independence. Both my parents struggle with depression and required a lot of personal space to cope. So when my post-partum depression and anxiety started, I was at a loss on what to do. Typically, I retreated. I closed myself off until I was able to function again. This was a luxury I no longer had. There was this person who depended on me. He needed me to be present. So, I took the steps that were best for me and started being available.
Initially, Shufs and I were going to room-share with Little Buddy. We were very selfish sleepers, needing a lot of our own space. So, we set up the co-sleeper and study pillows for the both of us. When it was time for Little Buddy to eat, we started the process of getting him out, setting up the right positions, getting him to latch, unlatching when he struggled, relatching, having him drift off, putting him down, and then sleeping for about thirty minutes before he woke up and the whole process started again. One night, Little Buddy was having a hard time. He was still healing from being suctioned out and he was a little jaundiced. All of this resulted in a sluggish, uncomfortable baby who needed lots of reassurance. Every time we put him in the co-sleeper, he would fuss and wail. Rocking, singing, burping, swaddling only worked a little. Finally, Cam put him between us and we watched as he nuzzled ever closer to me and drifted off to slept without complaint. We haven’t looked back since. We learned that night that it was important to hear Little Buddy’s needs. We both lowered our walls and let him in. It works for us. He is a loving, emotional snuggler who likes to observe the world with us close by. He will reach for things, make loud noises, chew on toys, roll over, kick and squeal with joy. He’ll turn to us and smile, as if to ask, “Like this?”, and we reach back, smiling so big it hurts, and proclaim, “Yes! Try again! You are doing so well! We love you!”
And he does. Without fear and with complete trust. That is something I’ve never known until now, and each day I’m grateful to love even more.