I have approached the daunting task of parenting and raising a human being from infant to adulthood without somehow irrevocably damaging their physical, emotional, or psycho-social development like I approach everything in my life, which is to say, with a lot of research and reading and crowd-sourcing of opinions and experiences.
I have been meaning to write a big post on all of it, but instead I will be lazy and compile it into a bullet-point list.
BEHOLD, the various things that I found interesting/have kept me sane/I find useful:
- Your baby is not manipulating you when he cries to be picked up. Researchers have determined that infants have an innate physiological calming response to being picked up – it lowers heart rates and physically soothes them – it’s not a choice or a preference, it’s a physical fact. Babies cry to be picked up because it calms them down, they aren’t sneaky little demons who cry just for the pleasure of seeing you do their bidding. Trust.
- Parenting: You’re doing it wrong. At least that’s what I learned reading this amazing book, How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: and other adventures in parenting around the world (from Argentine to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood. Seriously, this book was fantastic because it taught me that there is no universal standard of what makes a “good” parent. Argentinian kids go to bed at 10pm, some Italian parents think we are cruel to make our children sleep in seperate beds or even separate rooms, in Mongolia it’s common to breastfeed until children are seven or eight and breastmilk is seen as somewhat of a delicacy.
Whatever you are doing – extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, free range kids, disposable diapers, baby led weaning whatever, there is probably a culture that has done this since day one, and also one that thinks you are cruel and unusual for doing so. You can’t win! But you also always win! Because there is no “right” and “wrong”! DO YOU FEEL THAT? IT’S THE YOKE OF JUDGEMENT BEING LIFTED FROM YOUR WEARY SHOULDERS!
This book really helped me when I was struggling with whether or not I was crazy for nursing Olive to sleep, and not letting her cry by herself in her crib.
- Get yourself some mom friends. Whether they’re in an online birth club (usually organized around babies all born in the same month), an organized get together of other moms in your town through a local health unit, or even just a smattering of similarly sleep-deprived ladies you see blearily sipping coffee at the park. GET YOURSELF SOME MOM FRIENDS. Otherwise your views on parenting and babies will be severely distorted by all of the “experts”…you know, the books that say your baby should be doing x by now, or the tv shows that say you should be doing y…by talking to other moms you gain some much needed perspective.
You will notice that little Kaden is still waking up every hour, and Marissa’s mom feeds her food from a jar and it’s not even organic (GASP!), and The Steve showed up in pajamas because his mom just couldn’t be bothered to wrestle him into an outfit with five different parts today (” A onesie, pants, socks, jacket AND hat? Eff that!” she said with devil-may-care abandon)
Other moms, who are right there in the trenches with you, are absolutely invaluable. They won’t judge you for anything, and will confess, in a voice half-scared, half-jubilant, “I broke down and had two glasses of wine last night and then she slept for eight hours straight…is that bad? Or genius?”
- You don’t stop being a parent at night. I have been repeating this to myself lately because Olive’s sleep has kind of gone for shit. Sleep training is tempting (I mean seriously, how awesome would it be to just be able to put her in a crib and walk away, and have her fall asleep?!), but I just feel deep in my bones that it’s not okay to let a baby cry by herself. For any length of time. I know this is a personal choice, but I really think we have gone off the rails as a society with this one. I don’t think she would understand why, I do think it causes damage, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone into her room in response to her cries only to find that she has a huge burp, or her leg is caught in the crib, or she’s soaking wet. Babies need their mamas (or Papas. Whatever.) Olive has gone through these periods of crappy sleep before and it usually reflects a growth spurt, or mastering new skills, or a shift in shedule, and she gets over it on her own and in the meantime, as she wakes up for the umpteenth time between 4-8am I remind myself that I don’t stop being a parent at night. I wouldn’t let her cry alone during the day, I would go to her and pick her up and comfort her, why wouldn’t I do that at night, too?
- People are lying liars. No one can remember the first six months of their kids lives accurately. It’s only been a few months and already that period is a thick fog for me. It goes by so quickly, and changes so fast that I often think I remember something, only to go back and find that wasn’t the case at all, or it only happened once, or I was dreaming it. Don’t trust anyone’s recollections, or “When so-and-so was two months he was…” BLAH.
No one remembers. It’s a guess, at best, so take everything mom’s say about the first six months with a large grain of salt. (And maybe a few glasses of wine?)
- Early potty training is not as crazy as it sounds. I am surprised at how well it is going, and how easy it is. Since Olive started rolling over back to front we have moved her changing pad to storage with the rest of her baby stuff, and do most of our diaper changes in the bathroom where her potty is.
She gets changed when she wakes up and before she goes to sleep (for both naps and bedtime) and we put her on the potty at the same time. She always goes first thing in the morning, and usually a few times throughout the day, too. In the beginning it felt like it was accidental – we would sit there until something happened – but lately she goes as soon as she sits there, which makes me think she is starting to get it. We also haven’t changed a poopy diaper in weeks, which is hella-awesome.
We have this potty, and it’s super comfortable for her and basically everything is A+.
- If you are planning on cloth diapering, do so from day 1. Many parents plan to start with disposables, then go to cloth when they have the hang of the whole trying-to-keep-baby-alive thing. I think this dooms people to fail, for several reasons, the most important being that if you never regularly use disposables, you won’t know what you’re missing.
I am a huge fan of cloth diapers and we use them 100% of the time when we are at home, but we have also used disposables when we visit places with no laundry facilities. Having used both, I can’t deny that cloth diapering is more work- you MUST do laundry at least every second day, plus you need to change baby more (no weird moisture absorbing gel)- and there can be a steep learning curve (choosing diapers, assembling them, figuring out how to wash and store and strip them). If you are used to disposables, this will all seem overwhelming and you’ll probably go back to disposables. BUT, if you have always used cloth, all of this will just be the norm and the times when you do use disposables will just seem like a nice little break.
Plus figuring them out and getting used to everything will be way easier if done in the newborn days, which seems counterintuitive until you realize that in those first few weeks you’ll probably be inundated with helpers in the form of moms and aunties and friends. Use them, people. USE THEM.
- This diaper bag is awesome. It’s probably only worth about half of what you pay, and the wet bag and change pad are a joke, but I love the look of it, and it once seemed gigantic but I often find it stuffed to the brim with diapers and blankets and toys and a change of clothing…it’s surprising how much of it I fill. I have gotten approximately ninety-seven compliments on it, and the little clutch it comes with has been awesome because I don’t have to lug around my purse PLUS a diaper bag. Thank you to my siblings and siblings-in-law for gifting me with this. I never would have bought it for myself but I absolutely adore it.
- The Ergo. THE ERGO. Adam and I agree that this was the best baby purchase we ever made (we searched high and low before buying it for $70 secondhand). I loved having Olive close to us and we used it exclusively for her first six months. We have a stroller now, but I still find myself reaching for the ergo, it’s convenient, comfortable and easier in many situations than maneuvering a stroller all over the place.
- Just when you think you’ve figured them out, they change. This is the truest thing ever said in the history of ever. I literally wrote a post last week being all “OMG Olive finally has a schedule I didn’t do anything she made it herself but it’s been consistent for a few weeks now my days are predictable I can plan my life everything is perfect!”. I ran out of time to finish writing it, saved it in my drafts and guess what? It is STILL THERE because I kid you not, THAT NIGHT Olive changed everything up.
Guys, it’s like she knew.
- This motherhood thing is the shit. Every cliche is true, every song is right- guys, sometimes I watch her sleep and cry a little.
Her smile is the best thing in the world, I could listen to her laugh for days. My whole world revolves around whether or not she is warm enough. I am a mom, guys. I AM A MOM.
And it’s unequivocally the best. thing. ever.