7 Lessons from an infant
When I tell you I wasn't ready to be a mother.. I mean I was more or less running in the opposite direction of starting a family. I wanted more time to myself... more time to focus on my career... more time to focus on my health... more time to explore creative hobbies. Then I found out I was pregnant and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I fell into a deep depression that I was fearful would turn into postpartum depression that would prevent me from bonding with my child. I was resentful that this pregnancy had arrived while I was busy trying to find purpose in my life.
Even when I was in the hospital preparing for the birth of my son, I wasn't interested in being a mother... right up until the moment my son was placed on my chest. Brand new, bright red, whimpering trying to find his voice... something changed... I melted at his touch. I was in complete and total awe of this miracle that had been placed on my chest and I was overwhelmed by how much I loved this little person that had interrupted my life.
While I was busy preaching about slowing down... mindfulness... minimalism... all those buzzwords... I really didn't understand the true depth of these concepts in my life until I met my son.
Here are the 7 greatest and most resounding lessons my son has taught me and reinforced in my life:
1. Slow Down.
His world moves slow. The clouds moving through the sky... the wagging of a dog's tail... the color of the grass around him. In the beginning, I was so busy worrying about meeting all his needs and doing everything else I thought needed to be done in that moment... I missed what he was seeing. In order to connect with him and appreciate his world and his development... I needed to slow down. Stop trying to be busy... get down on the floor with him and look around and see his little world. Be as mesmerized by it as he was.
2. Look around.
To go hand-in-hand with the first lesson, in addition to moving more slowly, it became necessary for me to actually SEE what was going on around me. The colors, the movement... seeing things through his eyes was like seeing the world for the first time. Everything around us has life and movement and vibrancy if we pause long enough to take it in.
This can mean so many things but in this instance, it simply means "less." The things that my son finds awe in are quite usually simple. The crinkling of a bag... the shape of a block... the feeling of the rug under his face. I never had an abundance of "baby gear" to downsize, but I can say with certainty that the colorful plastic whizzy toys are unnecessary. He is most enamored with the simple items around him. And space to move. In fact, I recently removed my coffee table from my living room so he would have room to roll around on his belly and take in the sights of his house and his family. Simple is better. Simple is so much more than we give credit.
Human beings, and most especially human infants, REQUIRE TOUCH. It's not a privilege or a fluffy extra but an absolute developmental need for an infant to be touched and cuddled and snuggled and kissed. I think there are even some studies that demonstrate this. (Don't quote me, though.) Touch is free and it's equally as important as nourishment to our little ones. On the days we make less time for snuggles, he has a tougher time with his emotions at daycare and is fussier overall. And as a mama, I feel a big void on days we don't get to snuggle as much, too. Touch is crucial in my marriage, too. Cuddles on the couch... shoulder rubs... hugs and kisses... touch releases oxytocin and helps us feel more calm and more peaceful. It strengthens our immunity and relieves stress.
5. Make eye contact.
Babies thrive on expressiveness. Babies recognize facial expressions from their parents as soon as their eyesight develops well enough to see them clearly. My son has taught me to LOOK AT HIM. Make eye contact. During times when I tried to nurse him and look at my phone, he wouldn't have it. He fussed and lost his latch until I brought my attention back to him. Neither one of us were getting what we needed from nursing until I brought my gaze back to him and focused on what was in front of me. I tell my husband all the time to "be present" but I was failing to follow my own advice during one of the most important bonding activities we have together.
6. Make space.
Actual, physical space. On the floor of the nursery... on the living room floor... in the bed. Make space for your bodies and then get down on the floor or in the bed and play. Give snuggles and belly rubs and read books and give kisses. Make space for play and for day dreaming and for just being. Make space to examine little hands and feet and ears... and give space for little hands and eyes to examine your hands and learn the contours of your face. Remove the unnecessary from your physical space and your mental space in order to focus on what's in front of you.
7. Be still.
When the little one sleeps, I must be still. I extend my hand to his back or chest (he rolls over on his own) and feel his body breathing in and out. Every parent reading this knows why. When my son cries and needs to be held, I must be still and hold him tight. He can sense my anxiety and it worsens his own. When I hold my sleeping son on my chest, I must be still. At times, I pray and thank God with my entire being for this most wonderful gift I have ever known in my life... I must be still.
Isn't it so ironic that I was so busy seeking purpose in my life and praying for some sign of what my purpose was supposed to be... that when I got pregnant I was so disgruntled that this little person was going to get in the way of me finding my path... and the whole time, God knew that this little human was what I had been praying for, even if I didn't know it. Even if God had told me that my purpose was in being a mother to my son, I never would have believed it. And yet, loving my little one has been the greatest joy I have ever known in my entire life. He fills me with so much purpose every day.