When I imagined being a mom, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect. Sure, I had some images floating through my mind of chasing after little ones on a summer day, cuddling sleepy children in front of the fireplace, and holding my peaceful baby while watching her sleep.
Granted, I knew these Hollywood versions of parenthood wouldn’t be the norm. From watching friends, I knew there would be tears and dirty diapers and less sleep than I was used to. But there was one thing I was sure of: I would always be able to soothe my baby and meet all her needs. After all, that’s what mothers do, right?
We had a good enough start. Livi came out crying but as soon as they put her in my arms, she calmed down. The nurses even commented how beautiful it was to witness. And I’m not going to lie, it felt amazing to be able to calm this tiny new person just by being there. Had I known what lay ahead, I would have savored that moment even more.
As a high need baby, Livi was miserable most of the time. She would cry no matter what we did. Nothing satisfied her and it was often impossible to soothe her.
After the initial hurdle of figuring out the whole breastfeeding business, it became the one and only thing that would calm her. But even that was short lived and soon enough her reflux would ruin even this last bit of calm and quiet we both were clinging to.
Already sleep deprived and exhausted, I almost gave up. But giving up was not really an option. We had to make it through, somehow. It didn’t matter that I was tired and didn’t know how to help her. What mattered was that I had to be there for my helpless little baby who felt even more miserable than me.
It was the hardest thing I ever did. It hurt to see my baby so unhappy and it hurt that I, her own mother, could not help her. I still haven’t recovered from that feeling of failure. I don’t know about you but for the longest time I thought an unhappy baby meant I was doing something wrong.
After all, all the other babies I had ever spent time with were much more content and calmed down easily. I didn’t know that some babies just have different temperaments and that sometimes no one could calm them down.
But I kept trying, every day looking for solutions, ways to calm her, stop the crying, make it all better.
Sometimes the things I tried made a difference and sometimes they didn’t. They would work one day but not the next. And so we moved on until she was 8 months old and things slowly started getting easier.
In the end, I didn’t make her better. She just needed longer than other babies to get used to this life. Even now as a toddler it is harder for her to be comfortable in many situations and to tolerate too much stimulation.
All I could do was to be there for her and give her my best. I tried everything I could think of to soothe her, I held her as much as she needed me to, I gave her my all. And I did it every day, even though it never seemed to be enough.
I still feel like I failed her. I still have days when I feel like I can’t give her what she needs.
But now, we also have hours of laughter and giggling. We go for walks and discover flowers and grass and leaves. We marvel over wild animals in her books and spent hours coloring with Crayons or building towns with Lego.
She now gives hugs and smiles and kisses. She comes running when she needs the comfort of our arms and in her eyes you can see her unconditional love and trust.
And at the end of the day, this is what makes it all worth it.