Having a baby is like riding an emotional rollercoaster designed to impact your self-esteem one way or another. Sometimes you feel like you're on top of it all, and others you feel completely incapable and lost. Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and insecure is par for the parenting course, but that doesn't make postpartum life easy. What makes the entire situation even more difficult is the fact that most of your efforts go unnoticed. Thankfully, there are more than a few moments when your baby is trying to tell you you're enough, you just have to pay attention.
I never felt like the World's Greatest Mom. To be honest, most days I don't even feel like I'm the World's OK-ist Mom. I'm nowhere near perfect, so I don't buy into any illusions about my capabilities. As a new mom, brand new to this whole parenting thing, it was painfully obvious that I had no clue what I was doing. As a result, I never felt like I was enough for my newborn daughter. Wouldn't she be better off with a woman who felt like motherhood was this innate capability? Wouldn't someone else, who felt more confident as a parent, be a better mom to her than I could be?
Turns out, the answer is a resounding no. In the end, the only person who can be the mom my daughter (and now my son) needs is me — flaws and all. And while it's sometimes hard to notice all the ways your baby is trying to tell you that you're everything they could ever require — especially when you're sleep deprived — those signs are there. When they can't actually say the words, they can show you in the following ways:
When They Coo At You
A coo might seem like a small gesture, but I think it's a sound that signals parenting success. My son, bless his heart, was incredibly fussy the first few months of his life due to his gastroesophageal reflux disease. He had the worst time keeping any food down, so he felt endlessly hungry. He hardly slept and was pretty cranky, so those coos were everything to me.
When They Smile Because Of Poop
Is your baby taking such a huge, gigantic number two that they're smiling? Well, that means you're doing it right, mom. The baby is eating enough to fill up a diaper, and the foods they're eating are keeping them regular. You're enough, and so is their diet.
When They Smile Just Because
You know what's even better than a poop smile? A "just because" smile. The moment you realize your baby's smile is just a genuine smile, and not the result of a bowel movement or gas, is the moment you realize that you're all your little one really needs.
When They Reach For You
When my son would reach for me my self-doubt would immediately disappear. It didn't mean I was perfect, or that I stopped making mistakes, but it did renew my faith in my own parenting abilities. Even when I felt I was subpar, my son reminded me I that I was enough when he made it clear who he wanted to hold him.
When They Stop Crying The Moment You Hold Them
For better or worse, I was the only one who could rock my son to sleep. And when I had this sweet gift of a human in my arms, I realized just how lucky I was and how great of a job I was doing. After all, he trusted me before he knew what trust even was. He loved me before he understood what love even meant. He gave me that special "feeling" of being enough, and, some days, that feeling saved me.
When They Sleep Through The Night
This is the holy grail of parenthood, my friends. The moment they actually slept through the night is the moment you remember that, as a parent, you're succeeding. The feeling might not last (hello sleep regressions, my evil nemesis), but a solid night's sleep is your baby cutting you some slack and giving you some well-deserved praise.
When They're Fascinated By Your Every Little Move
I'd like to think that even now, over six years after he was born, my son thinks I'm the funniest, most beautiful woman on the planet. When he was a baby, he was fascinated by every little thing I did. I could sneeze and he'd laugh for hours. I could make a ridiculous face and capture his undivided attention.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.