The first few months of motherhood are probably the roughest months of parenting. And while I'm sure they are plenty of non-verbal ways your baby tells you that you are doing amazing, somehow everything you do feels horrifically wrong. I had no idea what I was doing when I had my daughter. She was a difficult delivery that involved pushing for upwards of three hours and, in the end, herniating a disc in the process. When I came home from the hospital I was broken, exhausted, and petrified. I was completely out of my element, horrified at how unprepared I felt to take care of a newborn, and convinced I was failing.
My daughter didn't latch to me, either. After numerous attempts to get her to nurse, after tirelessly working with lactation consultants, and after struggling, hurting, and bleeding, I gave up trying to breastfeeding and started exclusively pumping. Pumping was, to me, one of the most difficult parts of those first few months of my life as a new mom. I was trying to adjust to caring for a newborn, but I couldn't get any rest because I was constantly attached to my pump. I was suffocated by pain and sadness and, well, it was rough.
My baby blues and fear prevented me from actually connecting with my daughter, too. I couldn't feel much, except for anxiety and sadness. I didn't feel love for this new human being, I felt tired because I had to take care of a new human. I looked down at my daughter as I gave her the bottle and felt empty. And, arguably, what made it all worse was the fact that I didn't know that these feelings were all typical feelings many moms experience. Instead, I just thought I was a terrible person. I mean, who doesn't love their baby the moment that baby graces their lives? Me, apparently. But then it all quickly started to change. I got used to the hectic life associated with caring for a newborn and I started noticing small ways my baby was thanking me. My precious daughter was growing, and eating, and looking at me like I was the best person in the universe. It was in those moments, and despite all the struggle, that I knew we were meant to be.
So with that in mind, and because us moms all need consistent reminders that we're doing wonderful jobs, here's how your baby is trying to tell you to keep up the good work:
The Way Your Baby Looks At You
You know the look I'm talking about, right? The one where it's just you and your baby and you two are staring into each other's eyes and it's the greatest feeling in the universe? Yeah, that's the look, my friends. When your baby first looks at you with recognition, you know you're doing something right. I used to love looking at my baby as I fed her and watching her study my face as I studied hers. It always felt like she was trying to memorize my features, and that was lovely.
The Way Your Baby Cries For You
Maybe my husband is my daughter's favorite parent now, but when she was a newborn she wanted me and only me. She'd cry for me and would not stop until I picked her up and held her in my arms. Sure, all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but to know she wanted me felt really nice at a time when I was feeling pretty blue.
The Way Your Baby Falls Asleep In Your Arms
Do you guys remember the milk mustache or the milk coma? Watching my daughter fall asleep after a satisfying bottle or as I rocked her made me feel like a damn rock star. She was telling me I was comforting enough for her to fall asleep in my arms, and that was the greatest feeling I could hope to experience in my very small, sleep-deprived world. I knew I was doing something right when she slid into dreamland while I held her close.
The Way Your Baby Burps
OMG, you guys. Am I the only person who loves when babies burp? Doesn't getting your baby to get rid of all that unnecessary air feel like a major accomplishment? I have two degrees and a great career, but getting that little belch out of my baby was more satisfying than anything I've ever done. I mean, I may be exaggerating, but honestly, a burp means a job well done.
The Way Your Baby Smiles At You
Remember when your newborn would smile in their sleep? My daughter would do it all of the time. It was the most adorable part of infant-hood, in my humble opinion. Then, one day, she looked at me and just smiled. She knew she was smiling, too, and it was completely voluntary. It wasn't a sweet dream, an involuntary smirk, or just some random weird poop face. She smiled at me. She smiled to let me know I'm doing all right.
The Way Your Baby Latches To You
What is it about infants who latch on to their parents' noses or cheeks? I used to love it when my daughter would try to put my nose in her mouth, it's as if she was rooting for the breast. You know, the same breast she absolutely refuse to latch on to when she was born. In any case, she's find my cheek and just slobber all over it and it was amazing. These days I have to politely ask for a kiss and be OK when she says "no."
The Way Your Baby Holds On To You
One of my favorite moments with my baby was when I'd feed her and she'd grab my finger or my arm. Then there were the moments when she'd gently touch my cheek or play with my hair. They seem like such small gestures, sure, but I think she was telling me I was doing a fantastic job at being her mom. I think she was trying to tell me that, yes, she loved me, too.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherlode, 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.