"I think maybe I wasn't meant to be a mom," I said out loud to myself on a run in the park, giving voice to all the insecurities that made what little sleep I got those days a shallow, paranoid slumber where every creak in my apartment and every ruffling of sheets sounded like a baby crying. My mom was home watching my newborn twin boys, Nate and Theo, while I got some exercise for the first time since giving birth. The park was swarming with strollers helmed by confidence-beaming mothers, and though I'd wanted to be in their club for so long, I didn't feel like I was now that I had kids of my own. I had a bad case of postnatal I'm-a-totally-crappy-mom syndrome and it seemed like motherhood was something that came naturally to all women except for me.
Fourteen months later, I know that it doesn't come naturally for everyone and I also know that I'm a pretty decent mom. My boys seem to love me, and my wife, Emily, thinks I'm an amazing parent (she is, too!). And I stroll in the park with Nate and Theo with a reasonable amount of confidence on most days. It didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. Here's how I learned to trust myself:
#1 Spend time alone with your baby.
"Get as much help as you can," everyone warned me when I was pregnant. Terrified, I did just that. I lined up help for the first two months of the boys' life. After Emily and I brought Nate and Theo, 5 pounds and change each, home, we also welcomed a live-in baby nurse into our apartment for the first week (a generous gift from Emily's parents). When she left, my mom came from Denver and slept on our couch for a full month (another incredibly generous gift -- thanks, Mom!), followed by my sister Karen for one week, and then my sister Beth for another. After all the family had gone, Emily took two weeks off of work to be home with me and the kids. The result: They were 9 weeks old and I hadn't been alone with my sons for more than an hour since I came home from the hospital, and I was beginning to wonder if I could ever handle them on my own. I dreaded the day Emily had to return to work and I cried at the prospect of feeding, changing, and caring for the boys alone. I didn't think I could do it. In fact, the day before she was due back at her office, we made frantic, last-minute calls to prospective babysitters who might be available to help me out. None were free.
But then it happened. Emily left for work and I was left with two little boys who were hungry for my attention. And it was incredible. For the first time, I was able to parent the way I wanted to parent, not the way that I thought the nurse or my mom or my sisters wanted me to. I could blast Prince and dance around with the babies without being embarrassed. I could stick the boys in their bouncy seats while I checked my email or read magazines without worrying that someone would judge me for doing so. I could cry as much as I wanted to. And I realized that not only could I absolutely take care of the twins by myself, I could actually enjoy it.