My own personal witching hour takes place each night during that long span between turning off the light and falling asleep. I’m not sure quite what it is about those last moments of the day – something about feeling utterly helpless just waiting around for sleep to come – but this is when the bad thoughts rise up and, at times, take over.
I’m not a good mom. I don’t do enough with her. She’s behind. She’s not very social. She’s too chubby. It’s my fault. I should still be giving her breastmilk. I’m too selfish. I lose my patience so easily. Poor baby that she has to have a crappy mom like me.
I’m not as pretty as I used to be. My face is falling. My boobs are falling. My body is disgusting. My belly jiggles. My butt is lumpy. My arms are wide. My legs are thick. I look old. I feel old. Why can’t I just make a diet and stick to it?
I have no friends. What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone like me? I can’t believe I said that thing. I’m so awkward. Let’s think about that awkward thing I said over and over and imagine all the other, better things I could have said instead. Everyone must think I’m such an idiot. Ugh, I barely function in society.
I haven’t finished my degree. I’m such a loser. The thought of finishing is too scary. The thought of dropping out is too scary. That degree could really help my career. Speaking of which, I’m not very good at my job, and I probably never will be.
It’s too bad that baby girl has to find all this out about me someday.
Of all the bad thoughts I can have about myself, that last one is by far the worst. The thought of my daughter knowing the depth of my insecurity is pretty scary, and it actually makes me feel sad.
There are a couple of issues here. First, when you’re a kid, you operate under the assumption that your parents are perfect and all-knowing, and it is really confusing to discover that they have any sort of weakness. I dread the day that my daughter realizes that I’m not as outgoing or as thin or maybe not as creative or patient as other parents. But the other issue is clearly that some of my thinking is really unnecessarily self-deprecating. In my rational moments, I know that I am too hard on myself and would hate to pass that tendency on to my baby when she gets bigger. (And then I feel worse about myself for being a terrible role model.)
So here’s the thing: I go to sleep thinking bad thoughts many nights, only to wake up in the morning to this bright, shining, perfect little face. Picture me: smudged makeup, matted hair, thick glasses, shiny forehead. But baby girl doesn’t care. She reacts the same whether I’m perfectly primped or a sweaty, disheveled mess. She loves my face unconditionally and is, almost without exception, elated to see me. She never thinks that I say the wrong thing. She is captivated by almost every word that comes out of my mouth. She doesn’t care that my body isn’t want it used to be. She only cares that I hold her with my arms and bounce her on my legs.
You know what’s great about babies? Every gesture, facial expression, laugh, cry, grunt is genuine. They don’t yet know how to lie or fake a smile or discriminate or judge. And they don’t hold back. I know exactly how baby is feeling at all times – for better and for worse. She might get bored sometimes or think that it’s taking me too long to warm her bottle or be mad that it’s time for a diaper change, but it is clear that her opinion of me is pretty high. Why, then, when the most important person in the world to me holds me in such high regard, do I have such a hard time holding myself in high regard?
Well, that’s a complicated one, and I know I’m not alone in this. All I can say is that so many things have changed since I had my baby, but my many insecurities are still firmly intact. Baby girl does help these to feelings to fall away at times. I strongly believe that positivity you put out into the world will come back to you, and my daughter – her beautiful smile, bubbly laugh, curious eyes – makes me feel like I must have done something right in my life. I am incredibly proud that she’s mine, and I do feel quite secure in the knowledge that she loves me just the way that I am.