What Having a Baby Taught Me to Appreciate About my Mom

I didn’t want her to leave. “Please stay,” I told her through tears, half naked on the couch fumbling to bring my baby to my breast. She squeezed my shoulders and told me I’m doing a great job. It sure didn’t feel like it. The week was a blur of late nights fading into early mornings filled with nipple pain, tiny cries and very little sleep. She was there through it all — bringing me food and water, washing my sheets, and holding my baby so I could take a shower. I needed her. My mom.

Growing up I had a typical relationship with my mom. We got along for the most part, but weren’t exceptionally close. I’m surprised by how much I need her now that I’m a mom myself. I always rolled my eyes as a kid when she told me I would “understand some day” — understand the love, understand the frustrations, and understand that she is only human.

I’m still very new to this motherhood thing, and I’m sure as my baby and I both grow and learn together I will have many aha! moments thinking about my childhood and what my siblings and I put my mother through. In addition to handy new skills, such as sleeping while sitting up and catching spit up before it hits the floor, becoming a mom has also given me a new appreciation for my mom in ways I didn’t expect.

Overcoming breastfeeding difficulties

Before there were lactation consultants in hospitals and online communities of support, my mom decided the best choice for her and for me was to breastfeed. She did it with very little support and guidance until she discovered La Leche League weeks after I was born. I struggled with breastfeeding, even with lactation consultants on speed dial, and many support groups to turn to. I now admire my mom even more for doing this for her children. Her support during the first few weeks of my son’s life is one of the biggest reasons I am still breastfeeding.

Her wisdom and advice

If you would have asked me as a teen how I receive my mother’s advice, I would have rolled my eyes and told you my mom has no idea what she is talking about. Ask me today, and I will swear by her wisdom and dub her the baby whisperer. When it’s 3 a.m. and the baby’s been crying since 11 p.m., it’s her phone number I dial. Not because she can do anything about it — she’s three hours away — but because it’s her voice I need to hear. When she tells me, “It gets better,” I actually believe her. After all, she went on to have two more kids after me. When I ask myself, “Is this normal?” a quick text to my mom puts my mind at ease. Her answers are always far less terrifying than Google’s. Speaking of which…

How she did this before the Internet

It blows my mind. How?! Sure, yes, people have been raising babies long before the Internet. Still, I’m impressed. The number of times a day I peruse the dozens of parenting websites at my fingertips, or consult other moms through social media is really embarrassing. It’s hard to imagine just how lonely and isolated I would feel without those outlets reminding me I’m doing at least an OK job. I don’t know how my mom survived without all these virtual cheerleaders or the ability to quickly message the nurses at the pediatrician’s office, but the fact that she did gives me a new level of respect for her perseverance.

How difficult it must have been for her to go back to work

I didn’t intend to be a stay-at-home-mom, but now that I’m here, it turns out to be the best decision right now for our family. At four months old, my baby is sleeping better and eating better, and I feel like we are finally in a relatively stable place…you know, for having just had our whole world turned upside down. But the relationship with my baby is still very new, he’s still very young, and most days I still feel like I’m barely hanging on. My mom went back to work full-time when I was eight weeks old, and until you’ve been there with a newborn, you can’t truly understand how hard that is. Not only do I have a whole new appreciation and admiration for working moms everywhere, but for my mom’s career as well.

The sacrifices she made for me

The transition to motherhood has been intense. I heard everyone when they told me things like “you’ll never sleep in again,” or “enjoy your time with your spouse before kids,” but I didn’t really understand everything I would be giving up. I’ve come to terms with not getting a full night’s rest for years and showering less regularly than I did before I had an infant, but I had no idea the transformation I would undergo in becoming a mom. It’s not just that I don’t have time for myself or that my husband and I never get to eat a meal together anymore, it’s that my baby needs me —  all of me —  constantly. All the things that made me who I am before I became a mom are such a small part of my life now.  It makes me wonder who my mom was before me and what parts of herself she abandoned to give me all of her.

How much she loves me

I’m not sure I fully understand this one just yet, as I feel my love for my son grow more every day, but I’m beginning to understand what my mom meant all those years when she vowed her love was unconditional.  I didn’t immediately fall in love with my newborn the way I thought I would or felt that I should, but I think that’s why the love between a parent and a child is so deep — because it is constantly growing. Meeting my son was like looking at a familiar stranger. A stranger that is kind of purple and squishy and covered in goo. I felt overwhelmed with the realization that my husband and I were responsible for keeping this tiny human alive and happy. The love came in the effort, in the act of parenting, as we awkwardly found our way through breastfeeding and swaddling and all those nights trying to get him to sleep. Eventually, one day, it hit me — the realization that I would do anything for him. That I would give my life for him. It’s truly unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Now I get it, mom. Now I get it.