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.
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?
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.