Dr. Sears, pediatrician and acclaimed author of books about Attachment Parenting, has written that he believes that God gives a baby with the explicit goal of helping you overcome your flaws. I'm completely paraphrasing and might be quite off, as I haven't slept in about 3 weeks.
For example, if you love schedules and routines, you might be granted a baby who refuses such order and wants his own way. If you're easy-going and free-spirited, you might give birth to a girl who requires a 7pm bedtime preceded by an evening bath preceded by a completely regimented dinner.
You get the idea.
I firmly agree with Dr. Sears. On the one hand, Stella is a gift far beyond any merit I have, and I am grateful for her every day. She is delightful, sweet, hilarious, brilliant, adorable and everything I ever hoped and prayed for the minute my biological clock began ticking.
On the other hand, she tests the parts of myself that I have always known to be shortcomings. Parts of myself that have jeopardized relationships, made certain jobs difficult, created unnecessary drama and paid the salary of many a therapist.
So, for your consideration, a rundown of my faults as a human being and how Stella Rae Serchuk, the light of my life, the sweetest child in creation, is working to test, taunt, poke, prod, and ultimately destroy each and every one of them.
Patience -- the biggy. I was born without this particular trait. I used to cry in line at Disney World (especially when I'd finally make it into the building only to find that the line snaked around even more inside than out). I get pissy when the older woman in front of me at CVS pays in pennies and questions the price of her toilet paper. I almost sued my ovaries when it took 8 months to conceive Stella.
Well, it's pretty obvious that Stella was heaven-sent to insure that I developed some patience. When she screams and fights the entire time I try to put her in her snowsuit, when she throws a fit when I put her in her exersaucer for 45 seconds so I can pee, when she's woken up for the 15th time in a night and can't decide if she wants to nurse, pinch me, toss and turn, or all three -- I'm having to exhibit patience.
Letting Go of Expectations -- I can't tell you how many times my mother told me, "don't get your hopes up." Not because she wanted me to have low expectations, mind you, but because I was always so devastated when things didn't go my way. I've always concocted a plan in my mind of how things should go -- a cake I'm baking, a dinner I'm hosting, a trip I'm getting ready to embark upon. Not only do I make a plan, I envision the event, down to the smallest detail. I really live it out before it even happens. And when something goes awry, as it's wont to do, I don't handle it well. If the cake doesn't rise, if our guests cancel last minute, if I miss a flight, I've been known to, er, let's just say I don't take it well.
Enter Stella. I might be looking forward to a quiet dinner with Dave or a fun playdate with one of my mommy friends. Stella may have other plans. She might want to scream and cry all night, meaning Dave and I eat in shifts to the soothing sounds of "NEE NEE NEE NEE!" Stella might crash and take a beautiful nap -- at the precise moment that I was due to meet a friend to hang out.
This doesn't stop me from making plans. It's just that now I find myself making backup plans, like "Ideally Stella will go down and I can start the rice and hopefully finish dinner before Dave gets home. However, if she doesn't go down, I'll start the rice when he gets home and can take her, and then we'll just be eating 45 minutes later than usual..."
Look, it's a step in the right direction, alright?
The Obsessive Need for Schedules -- I've already touched upon this a bit, but there's more to add. As a kid, I hated summer. I mean HATED summer. Why? Because there was no structure to my day. Meaning most days were wasted in an eddy of sloth and gluttony and boredom.
Now that I'm a teacher, I still hate summer. I don't schedule myself well, and yet I require a schedule to feel like a human being. Dave would start to notice the change in me around July 15th and I'd watch him stalk the calendar, waiting for that beautiful day in late August when I'd return to teaching and stop hounding him at work, asking him what he wanted for dinner or if he heard the news about Brittany Spears or why he didn't answer my previous 4 phone calls.
Well, Stella doesn't like the schedules so much. I still try -- I must! I must! We have a general flow to our day that revolves around non-boob meals, naps (or the hope for naps), walks, and play. I even have a bedtime routine that would make the authors of all the baby sleep books drool -- quiet dinner, calm "naked play time" (to air out her sensitive bottom) in a darkened room set to classical music, a soothing bath, a baby massage with the same sweet lullaby, the same bedtime story every night, nursing, and bed in her room with a lovey and a white noise machine to drown out the sounds from any baby-hating upstairs neighbors who obsess over crappy techno music and move furniture at 10pm at night.
Some days, Stella loves the schedule and abides by it enthusiastically. Other days, she decides she wants a nap 30 minutes after waking, doesn't want to eat any non-boob meals, then psychs me out by acting sleepy at her usual bedtime but then staying up an extra 4 hours before finally drifting off.
Am I learning to go with the flow? Yeah. But, jeez, it's stresses me out.
My Bizarre Need to Sleep More than 2 Hours at Night -- I guess someone up there is trying to get back at me for routinely crashing until 2pm in college, forcing my roomate to wake me up to see if I was alive. If sleep had a bank, I would have had a nice little bird's nest from which to draw. Sadly, it doesn't. So now I'm sleep bankrupt.
So, I will try to look at our more challenging days as life's way of helping me become a more well-rounded, wonderful, incredible person worthy of the blessings I have received.
I only have one teensy problem with this philosophy: what are the lucky parents who receive babies who sleep through the night early on and are totally independent and easy-going during the day being taught? That they're already awesome anyway?