I feel like each baby comes to teach us something, and those lessons come in many different forms. Let me tell you about my daughter June.
In anticipation of our third baby, I kept thinking, I wonder what it’s going to be like? As if it were left up to chance whether the kids adjusted well (they are only two and three after all); if she was going to be a mild-tempered baby; or if three would push me to my breaking point. This time around, our midwives helped us focus on what we can do to adjust. Because of this, I learned to trust the process of adjusting to a new family member; it’s slow, but the work is important and worthwhile.
My midwife suggested fifteen minutes of one-on-one time a day with our toddlers. “It’s not hard to do, but it’s easy to miss,” she said. I’ll never forget that simple statement, and the fun times that followed— field trips to the pet store, a Target run to pick out nail polish, and plenty of kiddie ice cream cones.
“Kids don’t respond to negative reinforcement,” my midwife also suggested. This is another process that can be difficult to trust because it was my instinct to spout out anything that resembled, “stop” or “don’t,” especially when it came to protecting June. Brooks experimented by greeting his baby sister with a smack in the face, and we quickly noticed that reacting strongly only encouraged it. We did our best to calmly show him what to do with his hands again and again. We practiced approaching her gently. This is where the slow part comes in; I’m fascinated by behavior and how it evolves as our kids are given the safe space to process and apply the things we are trying to teach them. Without forcing that lesson on Brooks, he discovered how happy June was to see his brilliant smile and hear his sweet voice. And now, witnessing their bond is something special.
June is what dreams are made of. And it’s not because she never cries or she puts herself to sleep. She was my bright sun after a storm, and I could feel her cheering me on. During my pregnancy I was led to one helpful resource after another. And when people brought up the topic of how I was going to survive with three under four, I slowly turned my response from I don’t know how I’ll do it into it’s going to be hard, and it’s also going to be great. By the time she was in my arms, I was ready to embrace and enjoy her in a way I never even knew was possible. I’m so inspired by Mia, the creator of Snuggle Me, and this story she shared about her daughter.
“High needs babies. Do you have one? My daughter Layla screamed for one hour after birth to the point I could barely hold her. My husband had to walk her up and down the halls, the midwives calmly telling me everything would be ok. This was the preset to her babyhood.
Regardless of her temperament, I bonded deeply with her and this was our key. As she grew to a temper tantrum throwing toddler, which was just as extreme as her baby fits, I learned to disconnect from the emotions of her fits.
I didn’t leave, I didn’t ignore, I just sat there. I envisioned her emotions rolling over me. And not into me. This helped me not get angry. I just held space, waiting for it to pass. And it always did.
When she was done throwing a fit, she would crawl in my arms and we would move on. This was daily. I learned a lot about patience, expectations and forgiveness.
In the back of my mind, I would think, I am letting her stay whole to who she is. If I can let her feel accepted and we get through this, she will not be broken, she will stay that wild spirited girl and be content in who she is. If I react and get angry, it may lead her to believe she is bad and she may never grow out of this. I want her self confidence whole on the other end.
And at 5 years old, she finally grew out of it. She is now one of the sweetest and most caring children. She is very organized, sharp, funny and full spirited. She is confident and whole.”
Mia’s story impacted me deeply. Instead of trying to take control of every situation, I’m allowing the hard times to roll over me like clouds. I feel so connected to my babies, yet I am still a separate being with the life experience to know that any given moment isn’t forever. I can practice being slow, calm, noticing their energy, taking the time to hold and love them and then teach them as they grow. All these things have to do with me, their mother. Before I know it, I will have three toddlers and then three teenagers. And I’m sure I’ll refer back to this lesson again and again.
I’m here to remind you, it’s never too late to see the forest through the trees. I will be forever grateful to my sweet June for showing me how.
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