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Is It Nature or Nurture That Makes My Daughter Awesome?

It was almost 6:30 p.m. when Em started getting fussy. "You gonna get her stuff?" Michael asked me. I handed her over and ran upstairs to grab a diaper, the wipes, a pair of pajamas, and a SleepSack. Downstairs, Michael undressed Em and placed her in her whale-shaped tub. She sat there, bug-eyed with excitement, legs kicking, while Michael got the water nice and warm.

After her bath, Michael prepared a six-ounce bottle of formula, with one tablespoon of rice cereal mixed in. I dimmed the lights, grabbed Em's bib and burp cloth, and brought them over.

By the time she reached the end of the bottle, her eyes were drooping. Michael removed her bib and carried her upstairs, where the nightlight was already glowing. After placing her in her crib, he turned on the playlist of soothing sounds and slowly, slowly backed out of the room.

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And just like that, she was out for the next 12 hours.

When people ask how my daughter sleeps, I'm afraid to answer. Because I'm afraid they'll hate me. Even at the very beginning, it wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. And once she stopped waking up several times a night, our only challenge was getting her to go down before 11 p.m.

Once we started instituting a more strict bedtime routine, that problem was behind us.

Emily is such a good girl, I tell people. So easy. We are so lucky.

And it's true. We are.

But on top of feeling lucky, every time I peer into the monitor after we put Em to sleep, her limbs all floppy, her breath easy and even, I think to myself: Man. We are awesome parents.

If you've read any of my previous posts, you know that—excited as I was to become a mother—I was also terrified at the prospect of being responsible for another life. Two weeks before she was due, I binge-read "The Baby Owner's Manual" and "Eat, Sleep, Poop" and, once she was born, I felt utter panic every time I thought about the end of my husband's two-week paternity leave.

Are we doing all the right things? Or would she be this way even if I smoked crack and forgot to put on her winter hat and didn't take time out every day to read and do tummy time?

Now, though, I look at my daughter and marvel at how things have changed in such a natural-seeming way. How things are never as hard as I feared they would be. Are we just awesome parents, I ask myself, or is it all her? Are we doing all the right things? Or would she be this way even if I smoked crack and forgot to put on her winter hat and didn't take time out every day to read and do tummy time?

I think of how she took right to nursing from our very first day in the hospital together. Am I a natural at nursing holds, and at manhandling my own boobs? Or is Em just super smart?

I think of how Em never experienced nipple confusion when I started introducing the bottle. Did I buy the best bottle ever on my very first try because I took the time to read reviews and ratings? Or is Em just easy, willing to get her chow wherever and however she can?

I think of how, during New Mom's Circle, the other moms would complain about never being able to take their morning shower. I, on the other hand, plop Em into her Rock n' Play and make faces at her as I lather up my hair and shave my armpits. She thinks this is hilarious. Am I a parenting genius? Or does Em just have an easy temperament?

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I think of how Em is already strong enough to stand with a little help, even though she's only 5 months old. Is this because I bring her to Mommy and Me Yoga? (Buaaahahahahahahaha don't answer that.) Or is it just because she is the way she is?

When it comes to nature vs. nurture, what wins out? Will the rules and systems I put into place thanks to my various neuroses lead to the most perfect, well-adjusted child ever, or will she do whatever she damn well pleases as she grows and develops, good intentions be damned?

Whichever it is, I'm going to continue be the most neurotic mother ever, trying too hard, following the advice that resonates with me, discarding the rest.

And while I pat myself on the back, only Emily will know the truth.

Image via Thinkstock

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