Monday, May 04, 2009

I find it so interesting how we, as parents, can have such little faith in ourselves when it comes to raising our kids.

We are born with a God given desire and instinct to love, nurture, and raise our children. So often, when working as a maternity nurse, new parents would say to me "But what if I do this or that wrong!?!?"

My response?

"As long as they are fed, loved, and kept somewhat clean, you are doing just fine. They don't know the "right way" to give a sponge bath because you know what? There really isn't one! Everyone does it a little differently and it's fine. You're his mom and you'll learn how to do this, and everything else, perfectly in your own way."

I remember being a new mom, home for a few nights with my firstborn, and I was beat. I was not prepared (who is?) for the exhaustion that comes with those first few nights, weeks, months, etc. I was desperate for rest, and the only way my son would sleep was next to me. I tried this and that to make his crib a more desirable place, but the bottom line was that he wanted to be next to me.

Yes, next to me.

In my bed.

I swore I would never be one of "those moms" who co-slept, and I was afraid that I would have him in my bed for the rest of my life.

So I started to ask around and one night I decided to follow the advice of a mother who had been there and done that. She told me to put him in his bed and let him cry. "They can really manipulate you, can't they? He'll be fine. Just put him in there and don't go in unless it's been at least two hours. The books say it's the best way to do it."

OK. If another mom AND a book had said that this was the way to do it, then it must be right, eh?

So night time came around, and David was not going to sleep in his crib. Thinking I was being manipulated, I tossed him in, turned on Baby Einstein, and shut the door. What happened next?

I wept in bed as I watched the clock and listened to my baby wail in the next room. I felt physically ill and everything inside of me was screaming "GO GET YOUR BABY!" but what did I know?

Finally, at 4 AM, my husband told me to get the baby and bring him in our bed. What a relief! A long nursing and then a wonderful, four hour stretch of sleep. David continued to sleep with us for six weeks until he moved to his crib without any problems.

After that night, I decided to listen to others and read when I wanted to, but if it didn't feel right, I wasn't going to do it.

Years ago I listened to a friend tell me how, at 6 weeks, they let their daughter cry it out. "She cried for 3 hours! Can you believe it? Talk about a stubborn little thing!"

"Ummmmm . . . . what did your wife do?"

"Well, she wanted to go get her but I said "No. It's time."

Time for what?

I once watched a friend pace with her hungry, crying baby until her watch alarm sounded, telling her three hours were up, and the baby was now allowed to nurse. "I know she acts like she's hungry, but this book says that she should go this long without eating".

What? A book that dictates when to feed your child? Do you not see that your child is hungry? Do you not trust yourself enough to know when your baby needs to eat? I just don't get it!

Today I listened to a mother encourage another mother about sleep training for her four week old baby.

4 weeks!

What sort of training does a four week old baby need?

Please understand that I'm not knocking parenting books. I read them, enjoy many of them, and have found certain ones to be helpful. Helpful, however, is different from becoming a rule book, a way of parenting that revolves around one person's ideas rather than a parent's heart.

Why are we becoming a society that is turning to books, websites, etc. in order to raise our children? What is causing mothers to doubt their ability to parent their children? I'd love your thoughts.


Amy said...

I remember before Martina, when people would tell me I could hold their babies, I just didn't know what to do--would I hurt them when I held them? I did tons of babysitting, but all for toddlers and preschoolers who wanted to be chased, rather than held like a baby. I was so afraid I would drop them, do something wrong, twist them the wrong way, etc. Even with my own niece (but she lives 1000 miles away, so as a baby, I didn't see her terribly often).

Then, after about 2 days with Martina, all that changed. Not only could I hold my own baby without fear, I could hold everyone else's too! Interesting how that happens...

We planned to cosleep because we'd read up on attachment in adoption. Martina immediately let us know that she was NOT interested. Funny, because, almost 4 years later, we wake up in the middle of the night several times a week with a surprise visitor sound asleep between us.

So, our preparation with babies didn't do much for us until we actually had one! And, funny how I didn't really need any books; you just get to know your baby.

The Ashworth family said...

This was really good - I remember feeling so guilty at times to listen to my mama instinct - I was afraid Trey would be spoiled if I let him "control" me by crying. I read "those" books - I found some interesting information but I agree with you - listen to that instinct. It has always guided me correctly.

ccw said...

I have never purchased or read a parenting book (with the exception of a potty training one I was given to review for the blog). This was not because I thought I knew it all but because I figured I would figure it out.

I slept with all three in the bed to nurse at some point when they were infants but Nonami is the only one where co-sleeping truly occurred. It just felt right so I did it and ignored my dr's warning about smothering him.

I think mother's have always second guessed their parenting but it is so much easier to do when everywhere you turn someone is telling you how to do it "right".

Very good post.

Kim said...

Excellent post! I co-slept with my babies and it was wonderful. I would try to put them in their crib and they cried but would immediately stop when I let them snuggle up with me. They had been snuggled up inside of me for 9 months so what was so wrong with them still wanting to snuggle up with mommy for a good cozy sleep? I LOVED it! And now miss it.
ps. I agree... great minds think alike, lol!

Kate said...

I remember crying as I dropped off my little man at daycare when he was 3 months old. The teachers asked when to feed him and I replied, "When he is hungry." How could a clock know more about my son's hunger?

I read a book and it said that the first 3 months after a baby is born is the 4th trimester. Things are still growing and working themselves out (e.g. digestive system, etc.). I agreed wholeheartedly and decided that if I wanted my baby to sleep with me, then I was going to. We moved him to his crib upstairs and have had no problems. He sleeps through the night...and in fact, we have to wake him up some mornings or else run really late.

I miss the days of him sleeping on my chest, or beside me in bed. It was so comforting to me.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I couldn't agree with you more. We're a fast food nation- we want the easy way around everything and most often that means our instincts are thrown out the window.


Chinamama4 said...

Amen and Amen!!! I received so much well-intentioned advice about our first daughter, but I quickly realized that parenting a child adopted from an institution at 12 months old was FAR different from parenting a 12-month-old you gave birth to. I chose to ignore what others (friends, family & books) told me was best for Hannah and did what I knew to be best for her, including sleeping on the floor next to her bed until she felt more secure.

Carolyn said...

You know this is my dissertation, right? Check back with me in about a year....

Christy said...

Since becoming a mom 11 years ago I've always found myself just following my instincts. I always thought that GOD managed to give women (the majority) sense enough to not only keep their babies safe, but raise some pretty amazing children at that, surely doing the same would be ok.

I've coslept, nursed, extended nursed, vax'd on time, and now delayed vax'd...there are right and wrong things to do, but listening to our instincts when we have our infants is often imo the right thing to do.

BTW I don't know how any mother in her right mind could in good conscience let her newborn cry because a book told her too. It's really one of those occasions that you want to tell a person to "think for yourself". If the same book said to throw the baby over a bridge they wouldn't do that, so why would you let your baby scream and only feed them at such and such time. Reminds me of the insane Ezzo method. There are just some things that are WRONG! IMO! LOL

Amanda Holm said...

Okay, wow. I am very supportive of parents and kids having their own beds and rooms if that is what they both want and need. Nobody in my house would've been helped by my never getting any sleep because I am too light a sleeper to share a bed with anybody but a spouse. Further, there were one or two times when we did let the kids learn to settle themselves -- when they were around 9 months old, I think it was, and they were of an age where you can tell the difference between a genuine upset cry and a sort of "fake fuss" that's meant to get attention. But man... when you are still measuring your baby's age in weeks? I don't think many of them are capable of manipulation at that point.

I dunno. I like Amy's point about how you get to know your own baby. They're all different, just like, y'know, people.