Big Birthday #21: You Asked for It (Notes for a New Mom)

JOSH AND CINDY IN MUIR WOODS 50pNOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from April 29, 2007.

That’s me with my older son, Josh, in Muir Woods outside San Francisco  — pretty many years ago.  I don’t know if you can tell but I’m pregnant with his brother.  Happy to join the virtual shower although despite my adoration of and respect for both Liz and Catherine, I’m from the generation that put their babies to sleep on their stomachs and so may sound a little old-fashioned*.

1. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right no matter whose advice it is.

2. Trust yourself.

3. Remember that everybody makes mistakes and anyway a child is not a product, she is a person. You’ve heard that kids are resilient. They are. Do your best with love and if you don’t dwell on your mistakes neither will they.

4. You can’t turn a child into someone. You can only help them become the best somebody they already are.

5. Don’t be afraid to say no. Parents who don’t set limits and help their kids learn self-discipline are selfish. It’s easier but it’s not right.

6. No experience is wasted on a child. Maybe they’re too young to remember, but if it happened, it had an impact. So share as much of what you love as you can – music, museums, trips to Timbuktu or Target — poetry, cooking, washing the car.

7. No child ever went to college in diapers.

8. Listen to experienced people you respect, preschool teachers, friends, even, God forbid, your mother.  Experience really is a great teacher.  Then, though, think it through and then do what you think is right.

9. Everything is not equally important. Pick your fights and win them. 10. Leave time to just be. Lessons are great but quiet time is where imagination and a sense of self emerges.

10. LISTEN to your kids. They are smart and interesting and wise and if you respect them you have a far better chance of having them respect you.

11. Did I say trust yourself?

With love, admiration and the joy that comes from knowing all you wonderful, poetic and caring, committed and in one case, very new mothers on the occasion of this lovely virtual baby shower.

*This post was part of a “baby shower” if pieces by friends of this about-to-be new BlogHer mom.

On the Arrival of a First Child

x Dan hospital picSix years ago I wrote this piece to honor the pending birth of a friend’s child.  It’s about the first days after the birth of a first child. Right now, each of my sons is expecting a child, so one more time, here’s the memory – with gratitude and love.

What an emotional shock it has been to write this.  I need to start with that; the feelings, years later, are still there. Since this baby shower is for one of my favorite bloggers, and friends, I’m grateful to be part of it.  Our task is to share those lovely early moments with our brand new children.  That’s why I’ve added this, which may be the most perfect photo I own, because it says just what we all know.

The connection of a mother and newborn is so complete that it’s almost
impossible – even with writers as remarkable as this community — to describe.
At least I can’t find words that say what I know this photo says.

This is actually my second son, very soon after he arrived.

He’s almost 33 now and more extraordinary than even I, proud mama, could have imagined
that cold November day in Roosevelt hospital in 1979.  He and his brother
both started off with beautiful souls though.  They are beautiful still.

When I think of those early days, it isn’t all the getting up at night (although it could be) and it isn’t that I had so much trouble nursing that I needed to supplement (although it could be) and it isn’t the absolutely perfect terror that I might do them harm that accompanied the first days of their lives (although it certainly, indubitably could be.)

Nope.  Here’s what I remember, and what I wish for the two of you and all you other moms and moms-in-waiting:  it’s a cold winter night, maybe after about a week as the new parent of son number 1.  It’s dark, but out the window you can see the boats going up and down the Hudson River (even though our windows leak so there’s ice on our windows, on the inside.)

You hear a cry and struggle out of bed, grab a robe, go retrieve this new little person from his crib, change him and move with him to the bentwood rocking chair (of course there’s a rocking chair) facing the window. And you hold him in your arms and you feed him.

The dark envelops you,  the dim skyline across the river in New Jersey is the only light you have, except for the tiny pinpoints of light on the tug boats and barges as they make their way.  And it’s silent.  Not a sound.  And, with this new life in your arms, you rock gently back and forth.  The gift of peace of those nights in the rocker was so intense that as I write this, I can feel it. If I let myself, I could cry.

I remember watching my mother with each infant – can still see her face as she responded to them,  thinking to myself then “Oh. This must be the way she was with me.  How beautiful.  How beautiful.”

And I remember this.  My parents came to us very soon after our first son was born, helped put the crib together, celebrated with us. Late one night, as I stood with our baby in my arms, my dad walked into the room. Looking at the two of us, in perfect peace, he said to me  “NOW do you understand?”  Of course I did.