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I know I talk a lot about how motherhood is hard. And I know that when we are in the middle of it, we don’t always see the good moments. So I am giving you a snapshot of motherhood and its tender moments

Where has the feeling gone?

It’s late, dad has sung one last song. My little man is lying in his big-boy bed, but he is clearly still having trouble letting go of the day. He urgently needs to tell me again all the events of the day. And then put it all together in a song of his own devising. The Cars next to his bed are also allowed to race across the pillow one more time. While I am lying on my usual spot on the floor next to the bed, my thoughts wander. Often, when I am lying next to Stormy*, I am tired myself or still in a hurry from the day, but now my thoughts go back to how I could watch my son sleeping with a loving gaze for hours on end. And I wonder where the tender moments from the beginning have gone.

Child sleeping peacefully - a moment of tenderness

This soft love, the warm feeling in my heart – that is tenderness. The dictionary gives as one of its example sentences how to use the word: “Every mother feels tenderness for her newborn child.” I think that’s quite a big sentence and I’m trying to remember what it was like for me.

What is it that I am feeling, exactly?

When I was pregnant, I certainly already felt a kind of attachment to my round belly. I already loved the little life that was growing in it. I talked to it and even gave it a name for the outside world, so that I could let people share in Stormy’s development. But tenderness? That certainly wasn’t there yet.

Flashback to our first night home alone with the three of us. We spent 3 more nights in hospital after the birth and had become used to the help around us. Now we had to manage on our own and Stormy would not or could not sleep. We sang, rocked, carried. I tried to feed, but that didn’t work either. I remember well how I went into crisis mode: you carry, I pump. With brief instructions to my husband, a head constantly running through a checklist and hands trying not to shake, we managed to finger-feed that first night. Eventually we were able to calm Stormy down and all three of us fell asleep, but that night I was far from “having a tender feeling”, as the dictionary describes it. Tenderness? Call it “survival instinct”.

The first sign of tenderness came to me when I held my little baby in my arms after a feeding: his little body limp, his mouth still pouting from drinking, his face calm and content. This is the posture that I henceforth lovingly called his “milk-coma” and sent a photo with a loving “awwww” to his father or grandmother almost every time he fell asleep on me like this.

Plenty of tender moments

Fast forward two years. My tiny, cuddly baby has grown into an adventurous toddler. The daily moments of tenderness, the moments of baby smell, of a warm baby body against you, have been gone for a while.
But this morning, I am surprised in a special way by my sweet little man: when I wanted to say goodbye to go to work, he turned his face to me and pressed big (very moist) kiss on my lips. I hardly heard him say “Bye, Mommy” afterwards. I was already walking to the car with a big smile and a warm feeling in my stomach.

Fast forward another year and a half. Stormy has grown up and I have a lot of feelings every day when I am with him. I laugh when he says or does something funny, I am happy when he learns something new. Sometimes I get angry when our plans contradict each other, or I get tired of watching “Cars” for the fifth time.

What I miss sometimes are the “milk comas”, the moments when Stormy does not realise that I am looking at him with love. The closest is when he has just fallen asleep and I can take some time to look at him calmly. Then he still looks so much like the little baby I held in my arms then, with a peaceful and relaxed facial expression.

Motherhood at its best

Zoom in on last night. I am lying in my usual spot on the floor next to the bed, waiting for my little man to fall asleep. In between, I offer to hold his hand like we used to, but my offer is rejected. After all, he is already so big that he no longer needs to hold mommy’s hand. Slowly, the words become less and the tossing and turning also decrease. When I think Stormy has already fallen asleep, I hear softly above my head: “Mama, hand”. And my heart overflows with tenderness.

Missing the tender moments?

I can help you find these snapshots in your life. Let’s talk and see where you are missing out on joy and ease in your motherhood.

*My child has a right to privacy. Stormy is not their real name. But when he was just a blip on an ultrasound, we called him Stormageddon, so that’s Stormy for you.

This article was first published in Dutch on happymoms.nl in August 2020.