Instinctive nurturing, truth or myth?

I hear the saying “Just follow your instincts; you’re the mother so you know best”.  An implication that a mother instinctually knows what is best, deep down in her heart.  Um.. is this really true?  Or am I just a freak of nature?

When Elena was born I had zero instincts.  My mom was helping me out at first, and I peppered her with questions that first week.

“Should I wake her up to feed her?  Should I just let her sleep? Does it spoil her if I rush to her side every time she cries?  Do the cartoon characters go on the front or back? (Yup my first diaper change I got it backwards)  How do I get her to eat?”

Really, it was bad.  Looking back I am astonished I didn’t somehow damage Elena for life with my limited knowledge of baby care.

I knew two things:  That I wanted to be a “good” mom. (Whatever that is) and I wanted to do things the “right” way. (Again, whatever that is)

I remember feeling overwhelmed at this little child I loved, but felt like I didn’t know her.  I felt guilty because I didn’t really feel bonded at birth like so many people seemed to feel.  And I was obsessively reading all this mothering material hoping it would help it come naturally.

That was six years ago.  Since then I have two more babies.   AND I am pleased to announce that I finally, finally, have a maternal instinct.  Woot woot!

I was sick the week Brandt was born.  Dog-sick, throwing up, and coughing..  Since my mental state was less than optimal, I couldn’t tell if I was in labor or not, and didn’t even tell Gene until it was way too late.  We made it to the hospital, the mid-wife freaked out because I was fully dilated and ready to go.  A couple of pushes later Brandt was born, and I felt nothing.  Physically yes, but emotionally I felt nothing.  I remember thinking “I should hold him because that’s what good mothers do, but really I just want to sleep”.

The next day my mother-in-law came to visit us at the hospital, and she made the remark “Well it’s all worth the pain now, isn’t it?”  I distinctly remember thinking “No, it’s not worth the pain at all” but instead I said “I guess so”.

Then came the year of a fussy baby, and bonding with Brandt came v.e.r.y. slowly.  Now, he is such a sweet kind-hearted kid and I wish I would have better memories of him being born.

When Madelyn was born, it was the polar opposite of Brandt.  I wanted to hold her, and loving her wasn’t a choice I had to make, but it came naturally.

Instinctive nurturing did not happen for me like I thought it would.  I guess I would say I learned how to nurture.  I found my “instinct” through practice, and choosing to do what good mothers do even when it feels goofy and like I’m pretending.

Sarah Hrdy is an author who claims:  “Mothers do not automatically and unconditionally respond to giving birth in a nurturing way.”

She says later: “A woman who is committed to being a mother will learn to love any baby, whether it’s her own or not.”

I found this quote to be consistent with my own experience, and I’m wondering what all your experiences have been.

***Since it’s been forever since I updated, here is a family update that’s kind of like a Christmas Card.  And I even forgot to do a paragraph on Gene.  Oh well, he deserves a post all of his own. 

Elena has started Kindergarten.  She loves it. She does hate the bus drive though, and puts me on a guilt trip for not picking her up at school. I got to say I love having a school girl.  I love the schedule, the new school books, the learning stuff, and the new friends.  I’m hard pressed to find something I don’t like about it.  Plus, now she is full of wisdom like:  “Mom, I’m learning new things like don’t eat stuff that falls onto the floor.”  Oops, I guess I missed that one, Thanks Miss Peterson for picking up the slack.

                Brandt does not love Elena’s school days.  He has no clue how to entertain himself without his big sister to show him what to do.   He follows me around and whines a lot of the day when she is gone.

Also, he is Brandt.  That means he is kind of a mystery package that I am trying to unravel. (That sounds creepy, please don’t worry)  I did a little self-diagnosis, (don’t write me off) and came up with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Basically his sense of touch is very screwy and hypo-sensitive.  And his hearing and smell are just. a little. odd. It also means he lives a hard life.  So unless I get him evaluated by a professional, the diagnosis stands the same.

For us that means getting him dressed and going away is hard work.  He constantly says: “It doesn’t feel good” and “My pants are going to fall down,” even if the elastic is pulled so tight it leaves marks.  It usually takes about half an hour to get suitable clothes on him, and then we have to pack back-up clothes so we can give him the option of changing, when we go away.  The clothes he likes to wear are basketball shorts and t-shirts.
When we finally have him dressed, he is usually tired and has a little whipped puppy look about him.  I usually let Gene get him ready because he does a way better job of it.  I get frustrated, and feel like the time is ticking, and we need to leave, and just GOSHDANGDARNIT wear these clothes. (See how clean I cuss?)  Gene rolls in the room all fun and games, and basically makes a puppet show out of all the articles of clothing and Ta-da! A boy dressed for church.

Brandt  also likes to rough-house with Madelyn. Grabbing her neck, shaking her like a puppy and making her scream.  She yells and then whops him back.  Such loving offspring I have.

Sometimes I feel like I give so much of my energy to Brandt I don’t have much left over. Sometimes I feel like I’m closer to him because he takes so much of my time.  Funny how that works huh? Enter Mady.

She is sweet and spunky.  She knows that if she wants any attention she needs to demand it.  And demand she does.  She is great. She is super-huggable.  We all love her a lot. And we spoil her a lot.  Do you want to know a secret? She sleeps with us, in our bed. Shh don’t tell.  The goal is to get her into her own bed, we’ve tried, but it hasn’t lasted.  What can I say?  My ideals have dropped significantly the past five years.

Oh yes, and she likes to nibble on puppy biscuits.  Give her one and try to wrench it from her fist. It’s much easier to let her snack on it.

There you have it, a little of the Esh happenings. Here are some pictures, I am incapable of interspersing pictures throughout my post like some others can.  So I’ll have them all at the end.

Endless Summer playtime has come to an end


Excited for Day 1 of School


Classic: The kids are bathed, squeaky clean with hair washed. I send them outside for a tiny bit so I can finish cleaning up the house. The next time I look outside they are all climbing around on Gene’s dump-trailor of dirt. I need to  give them all baths again.


I spent way to long trying to get a good one year picture of her. Still don’t have it.

The other weekend in Ohio I got this picture of Dad with Madi and her cousin Ava. Love it!

My family in all our glory.


Have a good weekend everybody!