Now that I've been a mother for over seven years, I think it's safe to admit that I felt most inadequate as a mom when my firstborn was a baby. Not only did my husband and I have zero idea what we were doing, but every day I felt like I was going to royally screw something up. I worried about everything: how much I fed him, how much he slept, where he slept — even how much he pooped. And worse, I worried about how society felt I was handling this whole motherhood thing — something that shouldn't have even been on my mind at all.
Like many new moms, I constantly felt like I needed reassurance from others that I was doing the right thing and making the right choices. For starters, even before my babies were born, I was a research fanatic. I bought and read all of the pregnancy and newborn books, I watched the documentaries, and Google became my best freaking friend. And once my babies were born, I longed to hear that I was doing a good job from anyone. I remember my son's first checkup as a 1-week-old. On our way out of the office (when I was failing at nursing and my baby blues were out of control), the doctor said, "Don't worry! You're doing a great job!" I desperately needed that reassurance, because without it, I felt like a failure.
When my firstborn was a baby, I also took to the blogs for guidance. Those crowdsourced blogs helped me through every single parenting dilemma I had . . . like how to rub Vick's on the bottoms of baby feet when they have a cold; what hand, foot, and mouth disease looks like; and how to stay on a Babywise sleep schedule. You name it, I googled it. I also depended on my mom friends a lot. (Probably too much, honestly.) I'd call or text them from sunup until sundown about breastfeeding, how to make your own baby food, and more. Sure, they had great advice and I'm incredibly grateful for them, but in hindsight, I know now that I needed to start trusting my own motherly instincts. My children were my babies, after all. No one knew them better than me, so why did I always feel so inadequate as a new mom?
Another thing I was really great at doing when my children were babies was justifying my every move and decision. With my first baby, for example, if I had to feed him a bottle (gasp!) out in public, I'd give even a stranger my justification for why he was on formula. I desperately didn't want to feel judged. So instead of being the confident mother I am today, I second-guessed everything and overexplained the reasons for my choices.
But now that my children are older, I'm thankfully a much more confident mother. Time has prepared me to make all of the right decisions for my family unapologetically. I'm not sure when that confidence truly began to bloom, but I think it was some time after my second was born. Because with her, I popped that bottle into her little mouth without any shame. I knew what worked for me as a mother, and I didn't need anyone to tell me what a good job I was doing or that it was OK.
I think all moms feel at least a little inadequate at first. I mean, becoming a mother is pretty monumental, after all. But as with most things in life, time and experience helped me cure that. Looking back, however, I wish I had tuned out all of the outside noise — from society, from blogs, from books, from everything. Because now I know that all I needed to do was simply be still and listen to my gut. I believe we're all born with an innate motherly instinct, it's just that some of us are better at listening to it. But finally, I've learned that there is no parenting book to teach us how to do that — all we can do is trust the process.