Motherhood is so unpredictable, and rewarding, and frustrating. If I could go back to my pregnant self and tell her one thing, it’d be to talk to my husband more about our parenting style. Oh, we talked about it vaguely: “”You’ll help me out, right?” “Of course! I want to be involved in our daughter’s life.” But that doesn’t even brush the surface of the number of parenting decisions we have to make each day.
The biggest one we should have talked about: “cry it out” or not? I say not. I say that an infant has no concept of how to manipulate people; if she’s crying and we pick her up and soothe her, we’re fulfilling her basic, primal need for love and social interaction. Sure, this results in me carrying her around the house a lot, but to me, it’s a hell of a lot better than listening to her cry. I can’t even fathom how I could decide “I’m tired of taking care of my baby” and go put the baby in another room, close the door, and go about my daily life without her. It’s just not who I am. Yes, there have been times when she’s been crying so long and loud that all I want is for her to shut the hell up and go to sleep, but I also feel like, as her mother, it’s my responsibility to at least let her know that she’s being heard, and I’m not going to abandon her just because she’s upset. I know it works for some people, and that’s fine, that’s their thing. I know not everyone can handle listening to a baby cry. I know it can pierce your brain and make you think of doing things that you’d never actually do. And I know that in an apartment, where there’s not a lot of space and you can’t really have a quiet area to “escape” to for a break from the crying, it can be even worse. But this is something we should have talked about and hashed out a lot more, because it’s lead to some resentment on both of our parts.
Another big thing to talk about: co-sleeping. I’m okay with Maia not being in bed with us all night; it wasn’t something that I’d planned on doing anyhow, and when Chris and I discussed how having her in the bed was impacting our sleep (which was already impacted enough with the sheer fact that we have a newborn), I was alright with compromising and putting her in the bassinet for most of the night. I still am. And I still pull her into bed whenever she wakes up for the first time after 5am, so when I wake up for the day, she’s right there. I like to sleep with a comforter on no matter what the temperature is, and I like my comforter all the way up around my neck, so it can be a little scary for me because I worry about accidentally covering her with it. But honestly, waking up and having her right there is so, so perfect. I wonder what we’re going to do when she outgrows the bassinet (and at the rate she’s growing, it’s going to be sooner than expected). I hate the idea of her sleeping in another room. Maybe I’ll live in the nursery until she is sleeping through the night or only waking for one nighttime feeding.
Which leads me to a third thing: nighttime feedings. On weeks when Chris is off work, since we’re all in the same room together, I just feed her while sitting up next to him, but I feel kind of funny if she goes into loud suck mode because it could be disturbing his sleep. There’s been at least one time where he’s gotten up out of bed and went into the nursery to sleep because she was just too damned slurpy. Now, I’ve also pumped a few times and stored some milk in the freezer, but how on earth anyone feeds their baby that way is beyond me. By the time the milk has warmed to the proper temperature (even if it’s just been in the fridge), Maia’s so wound up about the fact that she isn’t being fed that there is no way she’ll take the bottle. I have to put her on my breast, let her calm down, then de-latch her and give her the bottle. And frankly, if she’s already nursing, I don’t really see a reason to de-latch, but then the milk in the bottle is being wasted (everything I’ve read suggests NOT reheating milk more than twice). But when I leave her with family to be watched, I have to leave a bottle; are they supposed to randomly heat it and try to feed her? She feeds on-demand.
Then there are the little decisions: how often to bathe her? who bathes her? how often to change her onesie? should she be wearing long sleeves or short? what about pants? socks? how full do we let the baby laundry get before we do it? do you powder her rump every time you change her or just randomly? should we hold her over our shoulder or in front of our chests? when she falls asleep being carried, do we set her in the swing, on the couch, in the crib, in the bassinet, or just continue to hold her? do we swaddle her? do we put a blanket over her? do we turn on the music on the swing? will she stay calm enough for me to do some dishes if I put her in her bouncy chair? should I turn on the music and lights display on the bouncy chair right away, or save it for when she gets a little fussy in the hopes that it’ll calm her down?
Gahhh. Ten thousand questions, and you can never have one set answer to them, you have to adapt on the spot. It’s exhausting!