Like most new moms, I wanted to do things “right” when my first baby arrived. The hospital doesn’t give you a how-to manual when they send you home with your little one. But they do hand you a sheet designed to record ever single poop, pee, and feeding event baby has during those first two weeks of life. Being a newbie parent, Type A, and fearful that I wouldn’t know how to keep my little guy alive, I was diligent about filling out that chart. I wrote in tiny handwriting and kept meticulous notes.
That chart from the hospital traveled everywhere baby and I went. Around the house, from couch to dinner table. And outside the house, to the doctor’s appointments and out on walks in the neighborhood.
When the paper got filled up, I switched over to a little notebook with a black cover and a spiral binding. (Yes, I know we now have apps for this. I suppose 7 years ago was the dark ages!) I taught my husband my recording system, so he could keep it up in any of my limited absences. And that notebook had its home at the bedside table and in the diaper bag.
One day, our little family of three took our first-ever restaurant outing. After a successful trip to Buy Buy Baby in Rockville, MD, we walked across the parking lot to a delightful little place called Mosaic. Baby nursed and then snuggled in his red Moby wrap. Hubby and I ate a delicious meal. And we reveled in the glory of feeling half-human, sitting together at a restaurant out in the real world.
When we arrived home, the glow of having experienced a taste of our prior lives flashed away in an instant, the moment I felt its absence. “The notebook!” I screamed, as I fished around the diaper bag. “Where is it?!” Then came that familiar sinking feeling that accompanies the certainty of having left something behind. “It’s at the restaurant – on the table!” I exclaimed, quickly looking online for the restaurant’s phone number.
I was too upset to call, so Jason did it for me. “Oh, okay…well, if it turns up, can you give us a ring?” I heard him ask, knowing it was too late, and our table had been bussed long ago.
The lost-notebook-induced meltdown that followed wasn’t about the notebook, of course. It was about my attachment to the idea that somehow that book was keeping my baby alive. It had months’ worth of stats in there. Data I treasured as evidence that somehow, some way, I was doing the things I was supposed to do in motherhood, and that my baby was going to be okay.
That night, after I calmed down, I looked down at my baby. And of course he was completely and fabulously more than okay. He was chubby, giggling, adorable, and in love with his parents…even though his last feeding hadn’t been recorded on paper, and I didn’t exactly remember on which side I had last nursed.
Fast forward to this past weekend. My boys are now 5 and 7, and I spent a delicious three days on a retreat in West Virginia with some amazing members of my mama tribe. Knowing I would be going off the grid (indeed, my phone gets no signal at my friend’s house in the woods), I had a moment of panic. Over what? Breaking the string of consecutive days of meditation recorded in my stats page on the Insight Timer app.
I’ve written about Insight Timer and micro-self-care before. (Check out: My Boppy is My Zafu, and Other Musings on Starting a Meditation Practice While Having Little Kids. And Micro-Self-Care: A Necessity for New Mamas.) Back when my little ones were tiny, I managed to eek out a meditation session on about 34% of my days.
Now that life has evolved, I’m getting more sleep, and my boys are more independent, though, I get up a little bit earlier so I can do 10-15 minutes of yoga before breakfast. I use the music on Insight Timer, and it records my sessions. I’d gotten to a record-breaking (for me) string of 138 uninterrupted days of yoga and meditation. And now, without a connection to the internet, my Zen winning streak was about to end.
How ironic, right? Here I was, about to head to the woods for some serious yoga, meditation, and soul-filling girl talk, and somehow I was looking at the weekend through the lens of a failure to keep a log. The good news here is that by the time this new “loss” occurred, I had changed.
Unlike with the baby data notebook, whose disappearance I beat myself up over for a while, I was now able to hold compassion for myself. To celebrate the success of those 138 consecutive days as a sign that my own self-care practices are deeply-rooted. And to remember that taking time to nourish myself and my friendships was infinitely more restorative than spending 10 minutes on the floor of my house with an app.
Bit by bit, I’m learning to let go of my attachment to things that just don’t matter, and to hold tightly to those that do. I don’t think I kept a single note about my second baby’s food input or output after I left the hospital. We were both healthier for it.
In parenthood, for me, this letting go has come with time, trust, and an increasing confidence, as I have more years of being a mother under my belt. It’s also become more and more important to me to grow the letting go muscles, knowing the inevitable outcome of raising children who will (hopefully) grow to be self-sufficient.
I find it immensely reassuring both that we can be securely attached to people and rituals that matter, even if we don’t document them. And that we all have the capacity to grow into the calmer versions of ourselves that we aspire to be.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.