Sunday, April 18, 2010

Instinct: Better than a Handbook.

I, like the rest of the Internet, have become a big fan of The Pioneer Woman. I like her self-effacing humour and the beautiful pictures she posts of her seemingly idyllic life on a ranch in Oklahoma. Her recipes are drool-worthy, though I haven't made any of them because, Hello cheese, butter, cream and bacon, meet my gargantuan thighs.

Recently Pioneer Woman posted a lovely set of photos of a cow watching nervously while a cowboy roped a calf to stop it from wandering away. She wrote about how the cow's maternal instinct gave her the ability to find her calf in a herd of a hundred cows and how the cow's concern for her little calf trumped her fear of the cowboy who was roping it.

I know that concern and fear. I've known it from the day Bug was born. I couldn't stand to be more than a few feet away from her. The night before we were supposed to leave the hospital, a nurse came to take Bug for one of the many look-sees they give newborns. I don't question nurses. I know better. They have needles and catheters and they know how to use them. If you're nice, they'll make sure you're comfortable and get the best meds.

The nurse was gone about a milli-second longer than I thought she should be and I started to sweat. I wondered if I'd carefully scrutinized the nurse's ID badge before she took my baby away from me. My heart pounded. Grinch saw anxiety pulling color out of my face and said, "Go get your baby."

I could hear all the way down the hall. Her cry wasn't the cartoon "wah, wah, wah!" It was "Lllllaah! Lllllaah! Lllllaah!" The nurses tried to assure me that, yes, she was safe, she'll be done in a second but I couldn't hear them. All I could hear was "Lllllaah! Lllllaah!" I paced back and forth at the nursery door like a lioness. A nurse finally gave me the go-ahead to come in. I pushed past her, and zeroed in on my sweet bug, wailing and lah-ing like her life depended on it and as far as I was concerned? At that moment, my life depended on it.

I carried my sweet, snuffling bug back to the hospital room, wheeling her bassinet behind me. I closed the door and collapsed in a chair, holding her tight to my chest, nursing and crying. "She's ok. She's ok." Grinch soothed me. I nodded through tears.

I may not feel like the best mother. I certainly don't know everything about being a mother and, you know what? No one does. Not even close. Everyone has their own way of doing things. We all know the difference between right or wrong but if you'd rather bottle feed than breastfeed, that's not right or wrong, that's just none of my business. We don't watch TV in my house, but if you let your kids watch Backyardigans and Dora, well, ok for you.

Everyone seems to want to be the "best" mother. I want to be the best mother I can be and whether or not I achieve that is really my kids' judgment, not mine. I'm not going to kill myself to live up to someone's standards. They can be the "best" mother to their own kids.

My instinct tells me to protect my children from danger, to breastfeed them, feed them healthy foods when they're ready, teach them to use good manners and not pick their noses in public. My instinct tells me it's ok to skip over the scary parts of books when we read, to enroll them in Sunday school and to avoid the creepy guy at the park.

That's all we're really working on here, isn't it? Instinct? Good, old-fashioned, motherly instinct. It works for cows and lions and for me and my girls. Right now, my instinct is to go give them big, fat, sloppy kisses.

Excuse me.

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