Two days ago, my baby girl turned one year old. With her big eyes staring deeply into mine, a book in her extended hand, and “uh uh uh” sounds from her little lips, my guess was that she wanted me to read her the book. So, I opened the book, and she leaned in against me, smiled at the monster popping out, pushed my hand away so she could turn the page, and kept babbling. For a few seconds, she was mesmerized, and I savoured her smell for I knew she would not be still on me for long. Before I could take the second breath in, she sauntered off to the other corner of the living room to pick up her ball to throw at the dog….
I know many people look back at the first year and wonder how time had gone by so quickly. On the contrary, I felt like it was the longest year of my life, aside from the few years of clinical depression. The last 365 days since she was born was wrought with anxiety attacks, panics, and struggles to conserve my identity without letting the role of being a mother encroach upon me as an individual.
Perhaps I should remember that first moment when she smiled or giggled. However, my reflections were centered on the times I walked out of Mum’s support groups or playgrounds, unable to breathe, frozen at the stroller due to panic. Everyone else seemed to be on top of the best brands of bottles, shoes, clothes, diapers, rash creams, whereas I was keen on salvaging second-hand toys and books.
I was overwhelmed as I thought she was missing out on the best. I felt I was causing Riviane to miss out if I did not enroll her in swimming classes, acrobatics, kindergarten, music, baby yoga etc… I felt hugely incompetent when reading mummy groups’ conversations on social media about baby development milestones, how to deal with a heat rash, or how to travel with a baby – it seemed like there were so many strategies and tools involved of which I were ignorant.
Yet, what I came to learn, was that I was projecting onto Riviane, my fears of missing out (FOMO is a recognized abbreviation…) and thereby, not being good enough. It was about me, and what I thought would be others’ perceptions on me if I did not do those things. My baby would not know, probably would not care if she did, and most likely would not remember if her clothes were not matching at the age of 6 months once childhood amnesia kicks in.
I have said that multiple times on this blog, that I need to do what is right and appropriate for me. There was no point in comparing myself with others. Other mums are definitely good source of information and support. But, there is a limit to how much I can – or want – to do for my specific needs.
All these lessons I learnt in through musing and contemplation are now coming back to test me in practice and reality at lightning speed. I panicked, but welcome the challenge.
As she turns 1, she seems healthy and happy. She enjoys her toys and books even though they are second hand. I am more absorbed in teaching her to stick her tongue out to do a funny face, than for a regiment of motor skills development. So, I think that is enough.
I do remember her first random hysterical giggle — but I also will not forget those times when I was paranoid with fear, for these episodes continue to teach me an important life lesson:
I need to simply, be me.
Happy Birthday my little Riviane, may you always be cheeky and stubborn, and who you are…