While I was careful not to use words like never and always when I imagined what I’d do once my daughter was born, I still had ideas about how I wanted to parent. I read books and blogs, and talked with my coworkers, many of them with children of their own and degrees in early childhood education. My husband and I reflected on how we felt we were parented. I even begrudgingly listened to my mother and my mother-in-law talk about what it was like to raise children in
the Dark Ages the eighties.
But real parenting isn’t anything like what I read or even the messiest of scenarios described in conversations with some of 4C’s experts. It’s a baby squalling at three o’clock in the morning despite having a clean, dry bottom, a full belly and a mama singing “The Rainbow Connection” until she’s hoarse. It’s arriving at your baby’s first pediatric appointment without a diaper bag. It’s doing what feels right, even if someone you trust tells you it’s wrong. Because there’s a different right for every family.
When we gave our daughter a pacifier in the first few weeks of her life despite the recommendations of her pediatrician, my midwife and lactation consultants everywhere, I found myself humming that song from Annie Get Your Gun, “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.” The same when we rocked her to sleep, or I ignored the well-intentioned e-mail from a friend to get her on a schedule. It just felt better to nurse on demand and let her sleep when she was tired. It just seemed right.
During my prenatal care when my midwife told me she believed parenting to be incredibly humbling, I assumed she meant I’d be getting pooped on. But I don’t think that’s what she meant (though I’ve totally gotten pooped on). I think she was trying to tell me that parenting is about having a lot of big ideas and compromising on every single one for a very tiny person who has an agenda of her own, who isn’t patient when you have to be, who needs you. Because it’s not just about me anymore.
And I’m okay with that.