People ask a lot how old N will be when the baby is born. When I tell them, they say, almost without fail, “oh, that’s perfect. He’ll never remember life before her.” I don’t know why this is such a good thing. Continue reading
Can we talk, Other Moms? I know this is awkward; we’ve been in a fight for kind of a long time. People are calling it “The Mommy Wars;” not that it’s any of their business. I don’t even remember how it started– you looked at me funny, I rolled my eyes, you said something you didn’t mean, my response came out wrong, you told your friends in a restaurant bathroom, I dunno. Whatever it was, we’ve been glaring at each other across this line for a while now, and I want to make up. Continue reading
I am talking to Tough-Love Mommy (TLM) one day, asking her something or other about baby sleep, a topic that obsesses and terrifies me. She shrugs, looks anywhere but directly at me, and proceeds to tell me guiltily about her children’s insanely perfect sleep habits. When my chin hits the floor in awe of babies that sleep like frat boys, she says, “good baby sleep is like Fight Club: the first rule is you don’t talk about it.”
Baby sleep: the reason for all misery in the early months (or year, in our case). It’s nightmarish for every parent at some point or another –except, apparently, for ALL OF MY FRIENDS, whose babies sleep until 8:00 in the morning and take 3 hour naps. I hate everyone. Those bastards aside, though, MOST parents have to deal with the hardest stuff right when they are least equipped to handle it. How can anyone so sleep-deprived deal with sleep journals and controlled intervals and apps that track every minute your baby sleeps? Dick move, universe.
I read all the books. Back and forth on the spectrum that has nursing-until-age-five on one end, and approximating-Eastern-European-orphanage on the other. I just don’t know who (oh, fine: WHOM) to believe. They all claim to be experts, they all have people who swear by their methods, and they all say something different. Oh, and they all intimate that if you don’t do it their way, BAD THINGS will happen. And it will be your fault.
One of them says that you should never rock your baby, because it will always need to be rocked. You should hold your crying baby upright against your chest and stand perfectly still. Ummm…even someone who has never held a baby will rock; it’s instinct. For the first few weeks after I came home from the hospital, I rocked on my feet even when someone else was holding the baby. Another one said you should never pick your child up until he’s crying so hard he throws up, because then he’ll associate crying with being comforted. Which, as it turns out, is… bad? And one I will never forget: you shouldn’t develop a long bedtime routine, because then you’ll be stuck doing it every night. Isn’t that the best part of having a baby? Call me crazy, but if you don’t want to be stuck scrubbing a naked giggling baby, putting him into footie pajamas, reading him stories that require touching the fuzzy/furry/squishy page, and watching him fall asleep in your arms, perhaps what you are looking for is a ficus.
I get hung up on the fact that all mammals sleep curled up with their babies, and that sleep training asks us to ignore all our most basic maternal instincts. I hate it. On the other hand, there’s maternal instinct and then there’s SURVIVAL instinct. At some point, dude, you have to SLEEP. As TLM told me, “don’t worry– you’ll know when he’s fucking with you.” And I did. After months of feeling like N would never sleep if he wasn’t strapped to a human body, he learned how to do it. Hallelujah! Saints be praised! My baby can now fall asleep on his own! Without crying! He doesn’t need me to rock…wait. Hold on. Now I’m depressed.
Made you look.
I’ve always known I would breastfeed. My mom, as I’ve said, is way into all this natural stuff, so it just kind of seeps into my thinking from an early age. Once I get pregnant, this is confirmed for me by all the truly riveting fun facts I read about breast milk. Dude, that stuff is magical. Like sci-fi superpower magical. Like Gummiberry Juice and Fizzy Lifting Drink. Great! I’m going to give my baby this amazing gift which will come totally naturally to me because it’s a natural thing and we’re all mammals. Yay for me!
I am 100% positive that I have been judgy about people who say that they couldn’t nurse because it hurt too much. Whatever, dude. Lazy. How bad could it be, really? Look at the lovely pink Impressionist paintings of nursing mothers! Look how serene they look, with a baby at their breast and a ribbon in their hair! I have judged, and for that I am truly ashamed, because (to quote a once-popular movie that now everyone hates) OW OW FUCKETY OW. I mean, OW.
I feel lied to. NOBODY has been clear about just how truly excruciating this is going to be. It never occurs to me that having my nipples pulled into a tiny, hot tube approximately a BILLION TIMES A DAY will hurt. I don’t know why I don’t anticipate how uncomfortable it will be. I mean, I don’t know your life, but for most of us, that’s a LOT of nipple play all of a sudden.
The bitch of it is that in the hospital, everything is fine. I give birth in a place that is very pro-breastfeeding; not in a “you are a bad mother if you don’t do this” way, but in an encouraging “if you want to do this, we will make it happen” way. My teeny tiny baby with basically no physical strength in his jaw needs 10 drops of milk per feeding. The lactation consultant comes a few times and it all seems to be going smoothly. Fast forward a week, and I am sobbing big fat tears onto my newborn’s head and resenting him for needing to EAT. AGAIN. C is supportive and encouraging. He reminds me of all the benefits, and how important this was to me before I started. Every once in a while, though, he sees how miserable I am and says maybe I should just stop. Formula isn’t poison, he says, which is true. Babies thrive on formula all the time. Lots of moms can’t nurse, and it’s ok. All true.
But when I’m REALLY despairing, he knows what to do.
“It burns 500 calories a day, honey. Remember?” This is the fact I have asked him to remind me of when I can’t go on. Not that it reduces the baby’s risk of obesity, not that it’s full of amazing vitamins and minerals and magical fairy dust. Not that it reduces my risk of ovarian cancer. FIVE. HUNDRED. CALORIES. Sitting in a chair. So now that we’re 13 months in and I’m still nursing, I’m embarrassed to say that it was not the benefits to my son but the benefits to my ass that got me over the hump.