The first time I had to watch my son Tadashi* by myself, he was four weeks old. And I was terrified.
My husband Reggie had a tattoo appointment in San Francisco’s Mission District. The appointment had been on our calendars for nearly a year, and we had agreed that I’d make the necessary arrangements so I’d have some childcare help while Reggie was gone. This was a plan we had agreed upon months ago.
But, of course, in the midst of all the newborn chaos, I forgot to ask for some help.
I realized the unfortunate oversight the night before Reggie’s appointment, and I started to have a panic attack at around 11 p.m. Sensing my anxiety, Reggie offered to cancel his appointment — but I felt bad for making him walk away from something that he was planning for so long. The morning of his appointment, he even offered to call my mom or my sister on my behalf to see if they could come to our apartment last-minute — but I felt guilty for asking them to venture so far into the East Bay to keep me company.
You may ask: why was I so reluctant to accept some help when I so obviously needed it? Well, for starters, I hated the thought of inconveniencing someone so last-minute. And I didn’t want Reggie to give up something that he obviously wanted.
And, to be honest, I despised the fact that I was panicking so much about watching my own child.
I recognize that, as a new mom, I’m bound to have some nerves, since this is uncharted territory. But my nerves seemed to be on an entirely different level.
You see, up until this point, Reggie was managing the majority of the day-to-day childcare tasks: changing Tadashi’s diapers, rocking him to sleep, even simply picking him up from his bassinet and bringing Tadashi to me so I could nurse him.
Reggie wasn’t shouldering most of the responsibilities by choice: up until that point, I was still recovering from my C-section and some complications that had arisen during my hospital stay. Before the four-week mark, I could hardly walk, I could hardly lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, and I had difficulty even sitting down and getting up from the couch. All those physical challenges meant that I had very little opportunity to do even the simplest tasks when taking care of Tadashi — and that lack of experience led to a lack of confidence to take care of my son on my own.
It’s horrible, being a mother and feeling incapable of taking care of your own child.
So, how did I work up the courage to watch Tadashi that day? Well, there’s no secret formula or trick: I simply forced myself to do it. I recognized that this was a situation where I would only recognize I could do it simply by doing it.
That’s not to say I didn’t have an adequate support system: Reggie (and my mom via telephone) assured me that my maternal instincts would kick in and that I’d be more than capable of managing one day on my own. Plus, they told me that successfully taking care of Tadashi by myself could be a confidence boost. Which I sorely needed at this early stage of motherhood.
Now, Tadashi is two months old, and I’ve been watching him on my own during the week for the past two weeks or so. My confidence level has grown significantly, even though I undoubtedly would feel more comfortable — and less physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted — if I had someone else helping me day-to-day. (At the very least, I think my apartment would be a bit cleaner.)
Regardless, I’ve come quite a long way from the crippling anxiety I experienced five weeks ago, that evening before Reggie’s tattoo appointment. I’m not saying I feel like a parenting professional, but I’ve at least allowed myself to feel unsure, to embrace the days filled with fussiness and tears, and to cherish those bright moments when Tadashi and I get to bond one-on-one. Because those bright moments make it all worth it.