I think I was doing something completely mundane like brushing my teeth or putting on socks when suddenly it dawned on me that being a mother was making me a better person. It wasn't until I was trying to explain this thought to Joe that I realized just how true it was and in how many ways.
Everyone says that as soon as you hold your baby you fall completely and totally in love in a way that you have never felt before. That wasn't really true for me. Of course I felt awe and pride at the life that Joe and I created together and a fierce protectiveness of her as well, but it wasn't for a few weeks that I felt like I knew her as a unique little person and could truly say that I had fallen in love with her. The first moment I held her, though, I fell more in love with her father. Hearing and sensing Joe's anxiety and amazement as he encouraged me through labor, seeing the joy and pride and wonder in his eyes as she was born, hearing him yell through tears that we "had a Laine" to our anxious families in the hallway, watching him follow her around the room as she was passed from grandparent to aunt to friend, feeling the new depth of feeling he had for me in those first embraces and kisses as new parents... it was an entirely new experience for me as his wife to see him as a father. The first few days and weeks at home, he was constant and fervent in his encouragement and words of love and admiration. While he took some time learning how to love and interact with the tiny new girl in his life, he could not have done more to make me feel beautiful and strong (stretch marks and all) in the moments when I was feeling anything but that.
Having Laine has also brought me even closer to my family. Even though I already considered my immediate family to be very tight knit and loving, I feel that Laine has fostered an even deeper connection between all of us. Seeing my parents as grandparents and my sisters as aunts gives me yet another reason to love and admire them. Sharing the joys and fears and anxiety and thrill of motherhood with my own mother is a greater joy than I had even anticipated. Seeing my father and youngest sister joyfully capture her every moment in photographs and glow with pride and love whenever they hold her brings tears to my eyes. And having the blessing of my middle sister in the same town with us has been both helpful and special.
Personally, I find myself making better use of my time so that I can experience every moment with her to the fullest while still feeling like I am a priority in my own life. Now that she has settled into a more predictable schedule, I push myself not to always nap or veg out when she's sleeping, but to make time to work-out and eat regularly and to take daily showers (a real feat some days...), clean up the house, or prepare choreography for work. Even at the studio I feel more confident in myself as a teacher, remembering to really enjoy even my most stressful classes knowing that I have this brief time to work toward a different goal before I return home. And then when I get home, rejuvenated from a change of pace, nothing is better than seeing my husband holding my daughter on his lap as the dogs jump up to greet me.
So I guess what Laine has shown me is that I can be a better mother to her when I work to better myself. I know it won't be the last lesson she teaches me.