Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nostalgic Day

I don't know if it's all my girls birthdays or if it's because my littlest (and last baby) is turning 1yr in a few days or because my brother and his wife just had their first. But the simple fact is that I have been thinking a lot about those early days of motherhood recently. Don't get me wrong - I don't want any more kids. I definitely feel our family is complete at this point. However I do look back on those first few weeks as "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times".

What do you seasoned moms remember about those early days?
The worst: Sleepless nights, being snippy with Hubby, feeling totally isolated from the world and friends and anyone who could possibly understand what I was going through, emotions going up and down and sideways every two minutes, feeling infuriated with pediatricians because I didn't feel they were listening to me nor did they have the same parenting ideals we did, and coming face-to-face with the humility and awe of caring for this tiny squealing thing.
I remember watching them check the car seat for us before we left the hospital with Matthew and thinking, "Are they REALLY letting me take him home? I don't know what to DO with him!" Rest assured, he let me know, under no uncertain terms, what to do with him. ;)

There's a new book out that I've skimmed (I haven't completely read it mainly because I know I'm past that newborn stage forever now) called The Happiest Baby On The Block. The author talks about the fact that newborn humans are some of the most helpless babies of all animals. And his theory is that our babies are born too early. That there should be a "4th trimester". Now, I've never *never* met a woman who would have been happy to go another trimester but I do see his point in a way. If you think about babies who are 3 months old versus newborns...3 month olds are much happier, able to hold their heads up, making eye contact, smiling, etc. Newborns are just HARD. They can only communicate with cries and studies have shown that nothing raises anyone's blood pressure and stress levels like that of a crying baby. And triple that when he/she is your own...and triple it again if he/she is your first baby. I remember the Mad About You episode. I'm sure you do too - everyone talked about it for weeks. It was 30 minutes of their newborn crying. She cried and cried and cried, all through the show. And at one point, Jaime was crying right along with her. I have to tell you, I watched it again in syndication after I'd had my son and I was exhausted by the end of that show. It took everything out of me.

The best parts of the early months: The smiles, looking at your baby knowing that your body has sustained that one for 9 months and now that baby is thriving on your milk, the smiles, the happily sleeping baby, the laughter in their eyes, the warm bundle of snuggle on your chest, the afternoon naps together, the smiles, the warm baths together, bonding with Hubby over this new amazing creature that is half him and half me. But mostly the smiles. The ones that let you know, "You're doing a good job, Mom", or "thanks, Mom". Those smiles around six weeks go such a long way to save your sanity, don't they? Truth be told, the smiles of childhood *always* go a very long way. I know it saved my life (and my brothers too) several times. ;) In the midst of the terrible two's, the trying three's, and the four's that are so bad NO one dares give them a name, smiles are what save you all. When Rose got into the Nesquik and I found her like this, it was the smiles that saved us both.

And when Matthew and Rose were four, it was definitely the smiles that made me not pack my bags and leave even though I really wanted to. (Coincidentally, I wonder if that's the reason kids are shipped off to school at that were many days when I considered it!) The smiles are no different when they're babies. You work so hard for weeks and finally you see the first genuine smile. It is that moment when you remember why you started the whole baby process to begin with.

Those of you with newborns, hang in there - the reward is on its way.

Those of you who are pregnant, you've read enough about birth. Read something about what happens after birth. I wish some wise person had told me that when I was pregnant with my first.
Grab a book on baby sleep patterns. I highly recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. HIGHLY. RECOMMEND. The best little gem I got from this book is "sleep begets sleep". You hear "let the baby cry for a while - so she's good and tired and she'll sleep better". That's wrong on so many levels. The more a baby sleeps, the more a baby will sleep. Overtired babies will not sleep...they'll get more tired and more tired until you throw them out the window (or at least want to). You can skip the sections on letting a four month old cry it out but the rest of his info is very useful and *really* helped us with Matthews sleep issues. To this day, I protect all of their sleep schedules voraciously. I see a huge *HUGE* difference on the odd day when I don't.
Read a good book on breastfeeding basics. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a hefty read but it's PACKED with great information and it's my first recommendation.
Read up on vaccine information ( is a great source for that and all things kid-related). Even if you're totally pro-vax, you should still read up on it and know what to expect.
Study what really constitutes 'sick' in a child.
Interview pediatricians. Ask them how supportive of breastfeeding they will be. Ask them if they will allow you to take a slower approach to vaccines - ask them about everything you feel strongly about. Even though the AAP says breastfeeding is best, not all doctors are bf supportive. Go to a La Leche League meeting. Yes, many pregnant moms go and I SOOO wish I'd gone when I was pregnant, in hind could have saved me sooo much worry.

[stepping off my box now]

I got carried away a little but I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. We have done a good job telling expectant moms to prepare for birth...but the ball is dropped there. What do they do after birth? No wonder so many new moms feel helpless and spend days crying alone and throw in the towel on breastfeeding so early. It's hard stuff and they're simply not prepared. And early motherhood should be more fun. Those first 6 weeks seemed to be endless while I was there but in hind sight, it was barely a blink of the eye. There is a reason they use sleep-deprivation as a torture method, people! ;)

So if you find yourself in the midst of it all (and I know several of my readers are), take a deep breath, tell yourself "Mama said there'd be days like this" and try to enjoy it. Remember every detail. Jot a few thoughts each day if you can spare a second. You'll treasure every helpless feeling and every exhausted word down the road.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done"


Jean 2 said...

I can totally relate. I remember feeling the same way you did when they sent J home with me. I was so scared to give her a bath. She was so tiny. Were they really going to trust me? Oh dear. Have they met me?
She has been my only birth child. If I had the chance to do it again, I would do so many things different. But she has turned out great despite her mother. lol

Jen E said...

yeah, I cried on the way home with Sara because I was so anxious! But look.... they've all turned out great! You've done a wonderful job, Mom!!! And very wonderful 1st B-Day to Linnae!!!