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Close of smiling Black woman and baby daughter

Source: JGI/Tom Grill / Getty

The biggest lesson I’ve learned when it comes to new motherhood thus far, is that when you surrender, amazing things start to happen. That’s the part of this puzzle that I had been missing since giving birth, but I get it now, and I have my baby girl to thank for that. All she did was smile at me for the first time, and I finally started to feel settled in my new identity as mom.

Let me explain. I felt love for my daughter when she was first born, but I didn’t really feel a connection. Fresh newborns don’t do anything but eat, sleep and cry around the clock. They’re hardwired for basic survival and don’t do much else so you can end up on a frustrating cycle of uncertainty that you obviously can’t control. However, some time after four weeks of age (she is 11 weeks at the time I’m writing this), it was like she woke up from a trance and got more present with the world as her tiny brain has started to make its first developmental leap. One day, she looked me in the eyes and smiled, and that was all I didn’t even know I needed in order to feel like I would be okay.

Before she started smiling intentionally, I often wondered when I would get a sign from her that she felt good about me being her mother. I drove myself crazy thinking that she wasn’t smiling fast enough and that maybe she wasn’t reaching her milestones on time, and that maybe I was doing everything wrong. Yet she smiled when she was ready, and when it happened, my heart melted and my need for controlling the unknown faded away. I’m finally starting to feel more confident and like I can do this motherhood thing.

Surrendering is a concept that I had heard from new moms in the past and it sounded simple enough, but I was too afraid to let that advice sink in, but now I get it, and I hope other new moms eventually get it too. When you surrender to the unpredictability of motherhood and realize that you and baby are both going through something new—baby is getting used to her new parents as well as life outside the womb, while you’re learning how to nurture this tiny little creature you created without instructions and adjust to an unselfish life—things start to feel less overwhelming and chaotic.

Babies and their parents go through a lot of change during the fist three months, but like everything, the rough patches pass. I don’t have it all figured out. I never will, but it’s satisfying to look back at myself even a month ago and laugh at how unsure I was then compared to now. I still have a lot more growing to do and that’s okay. This is my new life, and I’m ready to learn more lessons from my little one.

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