I believe there are three core emotions to parenthood – worry, guilt, and love.
From the moment you learn of your impending parenthood, you begin to worry – and worry knows no bounds or forms of parenthood. Adopting? worry. IVFing? worry. Just found out you are pregnant after trying for a year? worry. Just found out you are pregnant after trying not to get pregnant? worry. Then there is worry over what you eat, what they eat, what is normal, what is scary. You worry about worrying too much. You worry because of what you think and what everyone else is thinking and, well, everything. With all of the knowledge that is at my fingertips via the world-wide web, combined with my formal nursing education, you’d think I would worry less, but that is untrue. I worry MORE because I know there’s more to worry about. It’s silly really… I would have all the confidence in the world saying to a parent of a patient, “your baby is normal, everything looks good,” but turn around and worry over my own child’s normalness. Worry is maddening and unescapable, and from what I can tell, lasts forever.
Here’s a fun emotion… guilt. Guilt is heavy and sticky and tricky. You finally get a moment of silence to yourself, and instead of relaxing, you find guilt creeping in and disrupting your moment. Pretty soon you’re checking on your child or husband or babysitter… Guilt in parenthood comes from fear of making the wrong choices – whether it’s a decision to be a stay at home mom or to go back to work or formula feed or breastfeed or to let your baby cry it out or not. Guilt is an ugly sister of worry. You worry about a choice until you make it, and pretty soon you’re feeling guilty about not choosing something else. You worry because of the longstanding effects that could happen, you feel guilt because a longstanding effect might have happened after making a choice.
But after all of that maddening worry and guilt, there is love.
Love is so personal. Love is intense. Love is not hearts and flowers, but instead the weight of a little boy about to walk his way out of babyhood and into toddlerland, when at 3 am all he wants is his “maaaaa-ma-ma-maaaa,” and at first, all I want is sleep, but in a split second I am up picking up his warm, heavy body from the crib and heading for the rocking chair. Last night, as he nursed, I felt the brevity of his littleness… his hands aren’t quite so chubby and his legs are getting long. His blonde hair is filling in and has grown just past the tops of his ears. Love is in the details, in the quiet moments, as he falls back to sleep in my arms and I carry him back to bed.
Love gets us through the worry and the guilt. Love brings us past those feelings and makes every single moment precious and worth it.