It’s like staring into a fire. Captivating. Mesmerizing. Like a meditation.
Looking into the face of a sleeping newborn is bewitching. I could do it for hours and feel completely content. Watching them breathe, their little mouths twitch, wondering if they’ll do a ‘sleeping smile’ that you can ooh and ahh about.
Hypnotized by their little eye lashes and round nose, pursed lips, chubby cheeks and double (or triple) chin. Even if they’re drooling or spitting up or have snot streaming from their nose or hobbit ears or are farting while they sleep you can’t help but smile and love them. Deeply. Unconditionally. Worshippingly.
Their precious superman stretches and laughable facial expressions with puckered up lips and scrunchy eyes.
They lay kicking and cooing, completely helpless to move, eat, without your help. They’ve done nothing to ‘deserve’ love, except cause pain (labor & birth), inconvenience (nightly feedings and sleeplessness) and constant demands.
And yet we love them anyway.
Laying on the bed days after giving birth, my body is tired, every muscle aches, the afternoon Costa Rican sunlight is shining through the windows and my newborn sleeps peacefully next to me.
Eyes closed, they flutter open occasionally to see dancing shadows made by trees as they sway gently in the breeze.
My husband spoons behind me and it seems as if I can touch heaven, its light illuminating this space. This is it, isn’t it? Here and now, in this moment, enveloped by love and enduring faithfulness, with a devout spouse and a just born angel.
Staring into her face, I think about how she was made. An egg, a sperm, a single cell grows and morphs and develops until it has lungs and a heart and ears and a cute little round nose, using nothing but the milk and fruits and vegetables I’ve ingested as building blocks.
Mind-boggling magical, that’s what it is.
Women have the power and privilege of creating life. Think about what that really means. If I said, “Go ahead, create a puppy. Make it cute, with fluffy hair and puppy breath. Come on. Make one already! Okay, try something easy and small like a fruit fly. Bring it to life. What? You can’t do it!!??”
Yet with barely any effort on our part our bodies miraculously and marvelously take the nutrients we eat and turn it into a perfectly formed ten-toed-and-fingered eye-lashed and adorable little creature. A person. A human being with a brain that grows up to think and love and create.
Having a baby brings you closer to the Divine. There’s a space there that’s sacred, and touches your soul, inspiring you to be better, more refined, and to reach for the greatness that lies within. What is my potential for being the best mother I can be and nurturing my children, like tender little plants, to grow into strong, capable oak trees? How can I reach it?
Yet before to long these feelings begin to wear off, and soon we’re searching for the baby ‘hack’ -- you know, those ‘tricks, skills or shortcuts that are meant to increase a person’s productivity or efficiency in their everyday lives.’  -- that will help her fall asleep without our help, sleep longer, nurse less frequently and need less time being held, all in the name of trying to ‘get more done’ and to be less ‘inconvenienced’ by this helpless, needy little person.
Yes, I understand that ultimately we’re searching for those ‘hacks’ so that we can reduce wasted time, invest more in ourselves, our families, our passions -- pursuits that are all worthwhile and commendable.
But this culture of ‘baby-whispering’ techniques and strategies seem to inherently disregard the paramount importance of the pilgrimage that is parenthood. Instead of allowing this ‘rite-of-passage’ to change us by submitting fully to the experience, we supersede it with an accelerated hurry to have our babies grow up so we can be more productive.
Why can’t we just take pleasure in the ‘detours’, accept babyhood for what it is, and realize that the digressions from our desired daily routine are in fact what it’s all about.
Babies love to be held and they want and need lots of it. They relish nursing and snuggling up close to mom, cradled safe and tight in her arms, even if they aren’t hungry. They have no agenda. They’ll eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, and be held all the time if they can, just because they like it. Learning to adjust our schedule accordingly instead of ‘kicking against the pricks’ will contribute significantly to our own personal sanity.
Why should we do this? Being ‘inconvenienced’ by a baby equals an opportunity for us to think about someone besides ourselves. It gives us the chance to serve unselfishly someone who is entirely vulnerable. “It’s the experience you should be seeking, not the short cut.” Serving our children helps us to love them more.
The truth is, we could spend much less time rocking our babies. The question is, should we? Why not aim to spend as much time as possibly loving our babies, because we all know they won’t be babies for long (I type this with one hand as my six week old nurses.)
Don’t misunderstand, I have big goals and I like working toward them. I love having a clean house and taking a shower when I get a chance. But our children will never be who they are after today. Tomorrow they will be one day older, one day closer to leaving the nest.
And then they’ll be gone and we’ll have time to ourselves to do all the things we try to do now. And we might find that it’s a little lonely. And empty. Especially if we spent years trying to ‘hack’ our children’s childhood.
So if you aspire to look back on these years with fondness and with as little regret as possible -- if you want to see how enjoyable motherhood really can be and what you’re really capable of as a parent -- forget the hacks and embrace the voyage.
Take pleasure those nightly feedings and the meditative silence you and your baby share. Practice being meticulously present in each moment. Embrace the chaos. Let go of perfection. Allow the deviation from routine. Welcome the obstacles. Ignore the mess.
I can’t promise that doing this will bring the results that society improperly deems as success. I can guarantee that you’ll become deeply acquainted with your children and with who you are as a mother. You’ll touch on the essence of nurturing, and heal yourself in the process.
How will you let parenthood change you today?
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