I’m sure every midnight since the first baby was born has seen the worried, wide-eyes of a mother who just knows she is doing something wrong, or inadequately, and will surely ruin her baby. And countless psychiatrist’s bills throughout the centuries have proven them right…right? The baby expert community shrugs. No one will give me a straight answer because no one knows. All I know is I am tired, as a woman and a mother, of being given three different kinds of advice and having three people tell me I’m doing it wrong no matter which “method” I choose.
I do a lot of research on babies: What’s best for attention-getting, bath time, colic, diapering, eating, feeding, gassiness, hiccups, indigestion, jostling, kicking, laughing, milestone-reaching, naps, over-stimulation, pooping, quieting, runny noses, stuffed noses, tummy time, up-all-night, vaccinations, water-drinking, yearly developments and zzzz’s. I could read for days, months, even a year straight without stopping (thank you, internet) and I would still be as flustered and confused as I was holding my 3-hour-old baby at 1 O’Clock in the morning.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be informed about infants, what they are, who they are and how they work. That is very important information and that research has greatly improved the lives of infants since the dark days. Back when the common belief was that newborns weren’t aware enough to experience pain, or fear, or any sensation/emotion, (thus the rough handling of doctors and nurses immediately following birth) and not understanding that skin-to-skin contact with the baby and mother, and nursing immediately following birth fosters a quicker connection between baby and parents and helps baby establish a nursing habit more easily. Today babies aren’t whisked away to a nursery unless medical necessity dictates, and mothers are allowed to forgo drugs/unnecessary medical interventions if they so choose. The community of thought surrounding birthing is much more liberating for women today than it was 50, 20 and even 10 years ago.
But what happens after you get your sweet baby home? You stand there, holding an enigma (“An enigma! What a terrible thing to call a… what’s an enigma?”) at 1, 2, 3 and 4 O’ Clock in the morning, feeling helpless and clueless. So, naturally, you turn to the “experts.”
I’ve read all the “big” books and theories. I’ve researched sleep-training methods and baby-wearing ideologies. And I picked my team! Dr. Sears makes the most sense to me. I love my baby, I want to help comfort and soothe her, and don’t want to teach her to not bother me. I’m a stay-at-home-mom currently, and I feel that it’s only right for me to dedicate myself to this new position, the same as I would approach a new job. Except with this job I’m not trying to make a good impression on a boss, I’m raising and nurturing a human being. I’m not saying you can’t nurture a baby if you do something other than the Sears method (although I am against the Baby Wise method, and feel that it imposes too strict of boundaries on a body so new and ever-changing, and a person so helpless). In the end you just have to go with what fits you; go with what your personality lends itself to. For me, it doesn’t bother me to wake up several times a night to hold and nurse Elliott. I love those sweet moments of cuddles and quiet. And I don’t mind walking my baby to sleep. I love watching her fall asleep in my arms, and she sleeps well afterwards. I know that infancy doesn’t last forever, and I believe in the evidence that shows children of co-sleeping, hands-on parents become independent, confident children. Even if it takes my baby longer-than a “normal” amount of time to learn to sleep in her own bed through the entire night, I’m ok with that. Because I’ll never have another Elliott, and when she’s grown up our relationship will be different. But at least right now I can rack up as many moments as I can of holding her in bed, talking quietly in the early morning, while she looks up at me and smiles and coos like the happiest baby in the world. That’s all I want: a happy me and a happy baby.
In general I feel confident with this approach, until I read something that insinuates that because I don’t have my baby on a strict schedule, and sleeping through the night in her own bed out of my room, what I’m doing is “accidental” parenting. That offends me, quite frankly. I’m a new mom, and more than half the time I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Women in my situation are very susceptible to believing they are crap moms and I honestly believe that is why so many women try to Ferberize their babies, even if it goes against their instincts and leaves them in tears. Because we have been told since the birth of our babies that we are too stupid to know how to do this without an “expert” on hand. We need a doctor, we need nurses telling us what to do, and then we need male scientist to tell us how best to raise and take care of our babies, because we’re incapable of doing it right without them, and our intuition is a result of our womanly irrationality. We have been lied to. I believe if you’re doing everything you can think of to make your baby happy, keep him or her healthy, and to foster a loving relationship with him or her, you can follow your instincts with what works for you and your family.
If I’m exhausted, if I’m emotionally drained, it’s because I’m giving everything I can to this new life I created. And if the only thing my baby learns in the first year of her life is that her parents love her, and will always be there for her to play with and comfort her, I’ll consider myself a successful parent. Because, in the end, her sleeping patterns aren’t the barometer measuring my success. This is: