Before the child was born, I was absolutely terrified about being a mother. Flashbacks of babysitting as a teenager haunted my late pregnancy dreams. I tossed and turned, fearing the hell that my child would go through because I had no idea what I was doing. Kind friends would assure me that there was nothing to fear. They told me of my mother’s intuition that would kick in and I would just know what she would need.
But that particular gift or talent or whatever you want to call it seemed to elude me. Billy and I were so lost and confused we even had to ask the nurses at the hospital how to hold her and if we would ever feel less awkward doing so. She would cry and I had no ideas of how to soothe her. Secretly I cursed those who had told me to rely on my intuition; because all my intuition was telling me was that she had a fever (which she didn’t) and that she was lethargic (which she wasn’t). It seemed instead of mother’s intuition I had simply been endowed with eyes that were so tired they would not stay open and endless fears that kept me checking on her all through the night.
As time slowly (and yet so quickly) passed, I started to get to know our little one. I started to hear the subtle differences in her cries, informing me when she was tired or hungry. I knew what position she liked best to sleep in; which toys she liked best to nibble on; which animal noises made her laugh; which foods made her gag. I learned her sleep patterns, her ticklish spots, and how she cries when she is lonely.
I guess I had naively imagined mother’s intuition as a sort of dust that kind little fairies would sprinkle on my head the night before my child would be born. Instead it was the product of time and energy and tears. Many, many tears. It was earned during sleepless nights and showerless days. It came only after loving her and cuddling her and getting to know her.
And then one night she was sick for the first time. As she threw up all over herself and her bed, I suddenly felt like that brand new mother who was at a complete loss as to what to do for her child. I cleaned her up and took her temperature. “She is fine” the thermometer assured me in soothing tones. So we laid her in her bed with her clean, fresh sheets, said a prayer with her and kissed her good night. Not 60 seconds later she was throwing up again. What had been small worries in the back of my head became great fears.
What if something was really wrong. Did I feed her baby food that had gone bad? Had she licked something that had germs on it? The fears quickly escalated to more terrible things, stories I had heard of children with health problems that only showed themselves months after the child was born.
Panic was taking over. Who should we call? What should I do?
After I dressed her in yet another pair of pajamas, I held her in my arms while Billy cleaned up her bed once again. I rocked her and touched her soft little nose and her rosy little cheeks. I said a little prayer in my head, begging for a calm to help me separate what was real and what was simply my fears running wild. I caressed her arms and held her tiny little fingers between mine. I was reminded that, though we are still learning, that we know our little miss Millie. We are her parents. And we can know when something is really wrong. I breathed in deep, smelling her baby smells. She was drifting into sleep again and I could feel that everything was alright.
I sat there and for the first time in my life, I believed in mother’s intuition. I believed in my ability to take care of my baby. It was not something that had come as naturally as I had hoped or been told. It had come with work and time and effort. But it was there and I could and would trust in it.