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What my four-month-old niece taught me about life

I’m never having a baby. 
—Me, when I was five

I have a long history of making my intentions clear on this topic, and true to form, so far I’ve stuck with them. I’m insufferably awkward with babies and never considered that there might someday be something I could do to fix that. Then my sister, the baby of the family herself, got married and had a baby.

Charlotte is four months old and I like to say, she’s a real person now—no longer just a very literal waving bundle of nerves. She found her feet and pulls them to her mouth every chance she gets. She likes to pull herself to a sitting position when you hold her arms up. She loves her doggies and gets visibly excited when one of them is near. She puts—or at least tries to put—everything in her mouth. Facial recognition has set in, too. She becomes giddy with excitement over a certain Disney character—an accident and a surprise—and recognizes the character every time, whether she’s on TV, a plush toy or a book. 

As I watched my mother give Charlotte a bath in the sink the other night, watched her notice and fixate on the stream of water coming from the faucet with wonder, watched her wide, deep blue eyes survey the situation with some mixture of surprise, awe and delight, it dawned on me that through my own observation I’ve learned a lot from this little person who has only been alive for four months. Here is what I’ve learned.

The world is a wonderful place
There is no better way to learn this lesson than through the jolly, wondering eyes of an infant. Hardships come and go, but life is a blessing not to be taken for granted.

Vulnerability isn’t always a bad thing
When we are surrounded by people who love us, we should trust them to take care of us. As an adult, being “taken care of” by someone who loves us may show up as something as small as a hug exactly when we need it, a helping hand when we’re struggling, being taught something we didn’t know before, or simply having another near us when we feel alone. Allowing those who love us to be there for us and teach us is never a bad thing.

I could be a good mother
Yes, I said it. I looked into Charlotte’s deep blue eyes—tiny little pools of joy—and realized, I could do this. I held her for the first time, which was literally the first time I’ve ever held a baby, kissed her cheek, touched her little nose, held her little hands, looked into her smiling eyes and watched her gleeful reaction to my own smile, and I appreciated her untainted joy.

So then, maybe the biggest lesson I learned from my four-month-old niece is this:

I have a lot to give. I have a lot to teach. And I still have a lot to learn, even from a tiny new human. Motherhood is a blessing, not something to fear or feel awkward about. Maybe I should never say "never."

Alyssa YeagerComment