I’ve been trying to pull this blog post together for 2 weeks now. When I started writing it, it was all about sleep (Gabe’s and ours) and some revelations I had about the subject. But I never could arrive at what I was trying to say. (Plus, with each passing day, not only was I not finishing my blog post, but our sleep-life was and is ever-changing!). So I’m scraping that post, at least for now. Instead, I decided to compile a list of what I have learned in my first 3 months of mothering…
(1) I know so much about laundry now it’s silly. The sun gets out poop stains. (If they are bad, Dawn gets out wicked poop stains — which is good, because it seems like nearly everything I own has been pooped on. You have to scrub hard and use cold water, but it works. And if you use Dawn on a cloth diaper, you have to rinse VERY well. Actually, I put them through the machine again). Free and clear detergents leave residue on my diapers. Using Tide is like the sin of sins amongst the organic crowd, but I’ve read multiple “crunchy mama confessionals” that they use Tide original powder cause it’s the only thing that works on their diapers. I’ve used it (well, the Tide pods cause we had them lying around). It was better than the free and clear stuff, but not as good as what I started with: Trader Joe’s powdered detergent. Maybe it’s our water, maybe it’s our wash routine. I don’t know. I do know that it works. And I know that I HATE leaking diapers and laundry mysteries. I’m so over this. Back to TJ’s until I have reason not to be.
(2) My baby’s laughter is THE most beautiful, hilarious, wonderful thing in the entire world. Simon and I will do all sorts of ridiculous things to make Gabe laugh. It is simply the best. (Makes every colicky hour so worth it!).
(3) Listening to your baby cry really, really sucks. But a couple weeks ago when I was emotionally DONE, we did let him cry for a few minutes (and he fell asleep after 5, which was as many as I told Simon I could handle). This experience taught us many things: (a) 5 minutes is not 5 hours (a stopwatch tells you this); (b) Gabe tends to release some tension (through fussing) for a short while before he goes to sleep — this article helped me be okay with this truth; (c) he is ABLE to fall asleep on his own! Amazing little man! (He is still so tiny, and we certainly don’t *make him* fall asleep on his own if he is upset and needs our help, but more and more frequently, we are able to put him down AWAKE and he goes TO SLEEP without crying at all!); and (d) We have needs as parents and those needs are legitimate too. Since then, we always give Gabe “opportunities” to fall asleep on his own, and a surprising amount of the time, he does it. But when he doesn’t, we always respond to his cries. We might take a few breaths first, but we go to him and help him when he needs help. We haven’t let him cry for 5 minutes in weeks. Simon says he doesn’t like hearing him cry either, although I know he has a thicker skin for it than I do. But what can I say? Gabe LIVED in me. I grew him, I nurtured him, I birthed him, I nurse him, I AM HIS LIFE SOURCE. I cannot NOT respond to him. And still, I know there will be more days when I need to put him down, go outside, and let him cry for 5 minutes or so when I am really going to lose it. Because as endless as my fierce love is for Gabe, I am human. And I need grace too. And that has to be okay.
(4) I love snuggling with Gabe (see picture above). But I don’t love sleeping with him, mostly because I don’t think HE likes sleeping with me. (I mean, we both enjoy being close to each other. But neither of us sleep well that way). For mamas who never considered having their babies sleep in their bed, this may not sound like any big deal. But it’s been really hard for me to reconcile. I always planned on having my baby sleep in my bed. It made sense with my personality and my ideals both. But…my easily-overstimulated-baby just can’t sleep well next to me (I’m a thrasher..), which in turn means that I don’t sleep well because I have to nurse Gabe back to sleep every time he wakes me up (which felt constant at times). So I moved him to his Rock n’ Play Sleeper right next to my bed. Sometimes he feels so far away. Other times I am so thankful I can sprawl out in bed and/or snuggle with my husband. But we both sleep more this way, and that’s basically the goal, right? I wonder where my next baby will like to sleep…
(5) Personally, I don’t understand why “sleeping through the night” is such a holy grail. Maybe it’s because *I* haven’t slept through the night since I was 4 weeks pregnant (#smallbladder) so I am just way too accustomed to this routine. Maybe it’s because Gabe’s bassinet is right next to my bed and I don’t have to move much. Maybe it’s because 11PM and 3AM are the only times during every 24-hr period that my baby is STILL and willing to be held as long as I care to hold him (granted, at 3AM, it’s generally only a few minutes past nursing, if that, but hey, its a precious moment that he’s not fidgeting!). Maybe it’s because I know that night-nursing will help keep my fertility away, and waking up at 3AM to nurse a baby sounds WAY better to me than being pregnant again right now! Whatever…ask me about this again in 3 more months 😉
(6) There is so much unfair pressure on mothers! Jeez! At times, I have felt like there’s a critic at every corner. Shame on me for letting him cry EVER, at ALL. Or, from another crowd, shame on me for not putting him on a schedule and letting him cry as long as it takes him to get with the program! You know, I enjoy perusing parenting forums from time to time. I especially enjoy mothering.com, as I find it often is chocked full of intelligent opinions on everything under the sun. Unfortunately, there is also a good amount of judgement present there at times (and I’m sure the same is true for Baby Center and others). I’ve gotten so SICK of the sanctimonious attitudes! (And if you’re like me, and had to look up “sanctimonious,” it means making a show of being morally superior to others, as in “Well, I would NEVER do ______ because I am a perfect mother!”). It makes me so angry and it makes me so sad. And it also makes me embarrassed, because I have been (and I’m sure will be) that holier-than-thou mother. Sigh…God is still working on me (Is that still cute to say? Whatever, it’s true. #philippians). Humility can be rough. I continue to be continually humbled…for my many preconceived (and wrong) notions. I keep learning, and keep learning, and keep learning…that I have limits, that all things do not work for all babies (or parents), and that I *must* seek the wisdom and community of other mothers to keep my head on straight. I really wish I could rewind my life to every pre-baby moment when I unfairly judged a mother — seriously, present Me would slap past Me right across the face. I read recently that new babies are celebrated and new mothers are lectured. Wow that’s so true — and it’s horrible. Let’s stop that!
(7) I’m convinced that nursing is the reward for having gone through pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum (all of those had their own amazing parts, but let’s not kid ourselves: ultimately, those stages were all really HARD, and I have no desire to repeat any of them any time soon). But nursing? It’s so wonderful. It started in a rather hellish way, but since I’m stubborn to a fault, and determined as all get-out, I stuck it out til it got good. We’ve reached GOOD. It’s convenient. It’s quick. It’s healthy. It’s soothing. It’s relationship-building. It’s empowering. It’s protective. It allows me to still be ONE with my baby who vacated my belly (praise Jesus) but is very much still living in my heart, and now flourishing at my breast. I hope Gabe nurses for a long time!
(8) It’s already going too fast. He can smile, laugh, hold objects in his hand. Grandma says she saw him roll over the other day! He can find my nipple in the dark and latch on with zero help from me. Sometimes at night he can go 5-6 hours without nursing! He can fall asleep with minimal help from me at times. He can support his body on his forearms during tummy time — heck, he can TOLERATE tummy time at all! His birth feels like a far-off dream a long time ago. I just want to freeze time and keep him a baby with fat cheeks forever.
(9) All babies are different. And why shouldn’t they be? Babies are PEOPLE, and people are different. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and babies are no different. A friend of mine powered through a crazy 86-hour labor — she went into early labor on Monday and didn’t give birth until the wee hours of Friday morning! (Talk about a “work week!”). Her little girl sure took her sweet time coming out, but guess what? She has slept through the night since the day she was born!!! Gabe sure gained (a lot of) weight quickly, but man alive my car seat is heavy! (And I have to carry it up 3 flights of stairs!) His night-sleeping pattern is awesome, but his naps are over in the blink of an eye! All babies have their “ying and yang.” Because my baby is a “good sleeper,” he has been deemed a “good baby.” Although I am grateful for his bedtime habits, I hate it when people say “Oh, he’s a good baby,” because that suggests that some babies are “bad babies.” What if my next baby doesn’t sleep well? Will that mean s/he is not a good baby? No! All babies are good babies!
(10) Last but absolutely not least: I have learned so much about WHO MY SWEET LITTLE BOY IS. I’d love to tell you about him. He loves to be held, but not too tightly, and not all the time. He loves diaper changes. He does not like Daddy’s facial hair. He prefers to be in an upright position almost always — his favorite is over your shoulder with his arms dangling over your back. He burps like a grown man (and not a polite one). The spit bubbles that come out of his mouth make him look rabid. The spit UP that shoots out of him goes from 0 to 60 in about a nanosecond. He is “all business” when it comes to nursing — when he’s done (which is in 5 minutes), he is DONE and he wants to be sit up ASAP! No lingering in Mommy’s lap! He loves it when Daddy tosses him gingerly in the air, and when we put him on our bed and bounce the mattress to make him “fly.” He’s not typically real crazy about being in the Moby or Ergo — I often have to force him to sleep in there to get him to tolerate it. But he loves the stroller where he is (relatively) unrestricted and can gaze up at Mommy’s face. He loves bouncing on the big ball when he is sad or overstimulated. He loves being naked! But he HATES baths! And he HATES his car seat! He loves chewing on his hands — it’s like crack to him, I swear. He doesn’t seem to mind noise much but is certainly sensitive to light. He cannot be awake for more than 90 minutes without tiring out and getting cranky. (And he almost never goes more than 90 minutes during the day without nursing either). The sound of the hair dryer will quickly lull him to sleep if he is tired. He decided all by his oh-so-smart self that he wants to go to bed every night at 6:30-7PM, and get up for the day at 6:30-7AM (with a few nursings over that time period). He is a “tension releaser.” He likes to have some space. Sometimes he fusses. If it escalates or goes on more than about 30 seconds (or a few minutes if I’m emotionally fried), I go to him, talk to him, give him his pacifier back that he has inevitably lost, rub his forehead and sort of manually close his eyes by sliding my hand down over the tops of his eyelids (works if I’m lucky). He is perfect how God made him. I am doing my best to meet his needs as best as I know them. Even when it’s hard. To me, this is love.
This post is dedicated to mothers everywhere. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can attend to your child’s. May you be supported in and loved through your parenting decisions. May your community recognize that you are human and that you have limitations. May you be encouraged both to take care of your baby and to take care of yourself. May you ignore critics. May you remember that *you* know your baby best. May you know that being a good mom means not following any certain style or practice, but giving both your child and yourself the deepest love and the kindest grace.