From the moment I brought her home, I was on the defensive.
A nervous new mother, I was overwhelmed with feelings of protectiveness in those first few days out of the hospital. Those in the know advised me to “sleep when the baby sleeps," but that’s kind of hard to do when you peek over the top of the bassinet every few minutes, using the visual of your newborn’s chest rising and falling as confirmation that she is, indeed, breathing. That would satisfy me for about 30 seconds, and then I would start debating in my head whether I should check again, finally giving up altogether and exchanging any chance of rest for the peace of mind only holding my baby in my arms could give. In my mind, I was simply doing my job.
I did eventually let my guard down enough to get at least some sleep, but the urge to anticipate potential dangers and eliminate any risk has never gone away. The mother of a baby instinctively makes sure their fragile heads get enough support, their cribs never have too many blankets, and their special rubber duckies signal when the bath water is too warm.
Toddlerhood brings independence — and new mommy fears. My eyes constantly scanned whatever room my daughter and I found ourselves in, making sure electrical outlets were properly covered and securing furniture that could topple down under the pressure of a baby learning to pull up.
As my child got older, I was able to put away the baby gates and the baby monitor, but in my heart, she was still my baby. Protecting her from harm and preventing her from feeling pain would always be my duty.
How, then, will I find a way to stand by and allow my daughter to get hurt, to watch her feel pain?
She’s getting to the age where she has to learn life’s lessons on her own. I know this, logically speaking, but logic doesn’t stand much of a chance when it comes to a mother’s instincts. And yet, I really have no choice in the matter — now is only the beginning of my child ignoring my warnings and doing what she wants to do. And this is as it should be — I know this. But still --- it is heartbreaking.
She’s growing up, and I have to learn to let go. When she soars, and when she falls, I will be here — waiting.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.