I believe a laugh is contagious. I believe children can teach adults about pure unadulterated joy. I believe there is no greater love than the love given unconditionally. I believe in the power of a smile to change everything; my three month-old taught me this.
My first few months of parenthood were filled with feelings of inadequacy. My reality quickly became a medley of blow outs, spit-up, sleep deprivation, crying, mastitis, and discomfort in areas you don’t mention in polite conversation. The sleep deprivation is what got to me. I was easily frustrated and the more frustrated I became the worse I felt as a mother. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t find time to shower or because nursing wasn’t the blissful bonding time I was led to believe it should be. I felt guilty when I got up for the fourth time that night desperately wishing I would not have to nurse him again.
Don’t get me wrong, I unquestionably loved my son, but the parenting blogs and books were too much for me. I researched everything, only to find something else I should have been doing to make sure I was the perfect parent, as if there is such a thing.
Then one cold night as I drudged through the familiar two a.m. diaper routine, I looked down at my son and saw him beaming up at me. His warm toothless grin was accompanied by peals of laughter as he reached up and touched my face. It was all I could do to stop from smothering him with kisses right then and there, and I realized that he was always happy to see me regardless of my outward appearance or the time of day.
As the years go by, I will not remember that most of these days I couldn’t find the time to run a brush through my hair or that the laundry sat untended to for seemingly endless days. What I will remember is holding him close, bouncing him on my knees, endless laughter, and cuddling in the rocking chair while reading Winnie the Pooh.
My son’s smile teaches me optimism, patience, and joy in the journey. I still have a hard time getting enough sleep, and I still get drenched in spit-up from time to time while he eats, but now I smile through it. My situation is the same, but my smile changes everything.