Early on in my motherhood, I was terrified to lay my baby down for a nap. All I could think about, as I lowered him into his crib, was my plan of accomplishments as he slept. “I’ll do the dishes, no, I’ll take a nap, no I need to mop, no I’ll read a book, I’ll watch a show, ok, I’ll quick put the show on while I throw the dishes in the dishwasher and mop up the kitchen, then I’ll grab my book, lie in bed, and fall asleep reading. But I seriously need some chocolate and coffee. I am so tired. I will never have a moment to myself. Please lie down, baby. Please, take a nap. Please, don’t wake up. Oh, Lord, please let him sleep. Please, please.”
I was a nervous, pleading wreck.
I am still a nervous wreck, but I don’t plead quite as much.
Sometime in that first summer with my baby, I remembered what the nurse called to me in the delivery room. “Be brave, Mama!” She kept chanting it. She was going in and out of the room quite a bit, but upon each entrance, she would call from the door, “Be brave, Mama!”
“Yes. That’s it. I will be brave through this pain. I want to be brave. I will be brave.”
I had taken Bradley Method birthing classes for 12 weeks in preparation for giving birth. I had nervous breakdowns, mild to some standards, but alarming to my husband, during the first four sessions of class. Our teacher declared me most-improved by the end of it all. On our last day of class, I was doing so well, she even confirmed I was in labor! Yes, I sat through a two hour birthing class for my first two hours of labor. It was perfect. Contractions were regular, relatively mild, and my husband rubbed my back through each of them. Plus, one of the other mom’s was in labor at the same time, right next to me. It was all so encouraging.
Four hours later, we were at the hospital and pushing. I was not as calm, but I was handling it. It wasn’t the extreme pain or the sterile hospital environment that made me nervous. It was the realization that I was exiting the dream. No more newlywed status. No more mama-to-be status. No more planning and dreaming. No more imagining my son, what he would look like, what his temperament would be. He was coming and he was coming fast. Reality was hitting me and I needed to be brave.
I heard his lusty borning cry. A sound I will never forget. I heard him while my eyes were still closed from the final push. It was the brightest, clearest sound I had ever heard. Better than any piece of music I had loved, more reassuring than any lullaby, more convincing and propelling than any speech. He cried like someone might run out onto an empty stage yelling stubbornly, “I’m here! I’m here! I came all this way. I’m here!”
I may have been a little intimidated.
Later I stood, hovering over my son’s crib, trying desperately not to wake him, and not to get too excited about the things I might be able to start accomplishing in 30 seconds. Maybe. Possibly. If he didn’t wake up.
“Be brave, Mama.”
Deep breath. Courage. Bravery. I should tap into that.
In that moment, I recognized that my bravery would have to include acceptance of any outcome. If he woke up, change course. If he fell asleep, great.
I had to stop planning and pleading and start loving and leading.
Love the snuggles. Lead him to the crib. Love the sleepies. Lead myself to the next task. Love the wakings. Lead us both to adjust to a new activity.
He is just another person to accept and work with. Even with his great cries reminding me of his presence and his needs, he is still just a boy, not a challenge to overcome.
It’s been over a year since I began telling myself to be brave as a mom, to simply make a choice and then make another one. I still struggle, but I’m growing. I don’t fight my emotions at the crib so much anymore; I often fight them in the chair as he’s wriggling into a comfy position. I’ve stopped planning so many things. I plan maybe two and try to hold them loosely.
Today, in a step toward a more anxiety free life, I decided that I wouldn’t be devastated if all I got done during nap time was a shower. Good thing, too, because that’s all I got done. No coffee break, no reading time, no cleaning. I took a shower and talked on the phone with my sister while trying to find something to wear. And he woke up. Because he hasn’t time for a nap, no ma’am.
I will have to learn to settle for less. Less of my lists and more of my love. Bravely, letting love out. Oh God, teach me how to be content in any and every situation. I can do everything through him who strengthens me. I can even survive on less cake, less chocolate, less coffee, and less sleep.