Saturday, March 21, 2009

just read when you want control

On Ellary’s first night at home with us, she seemed so vulnerable and alone, way over there in her cradle. (In truth, I could have touched her without getting out of bed.) And I cried a little before falling asleep. The first few weeks, I kept thinking her newborn grimaces meant I was doing something wrong and that she could somehow be happier if I worked harder.

And then there were the books: one said to hold her until she was sleeping deeply, another said to put her in bed still awake so that she could learn to soothe herself. One focused on bonding, another on training. One book was so specific about what to do when, that I started getting neurotic about Ellary’s schedule. Why wouldn’t she nap for longer than 20 minutes? Should I make her eat more? Does she need a baby massage perhaps?

I was desperate for control, and the books gave me a script to follow. While a few wise women told me to simply follow my instincts, I didn’t want that kind of flexibility. There was too much room to screw up. I thought I could force Ellary to fit inside my new mother parameters, and then I would know for sure that she was going to be alright. But alas, she was three weeks old or whatever; she didn’t exactly know how to make it work.

Now that Ellary is so obviously a “satisfied customer,” as my mom likes to say, I’m relaxing and realizing that the books are just anthologies of skills mothers have been learning for centuries. Instead of allowing myself the space to learn these things at my own pace and with Ellary’s particular phase of development, I was anxious and frustrated when the advice of others didn’t match my experience. For example, she never took naps during the first two months. One of my books instructed me on how to put a baby down for a nap, with five different steps. I tried them early on with no success, so I gave up. Lately Ellary's been taking great naps during the day, and I’ve noticed that all five of those steps are apart of the naptime ritual we’ve developed over the last month. Did the author instruct me on how to help my baby sleep? I don’t really think so. She just confirmed what I learned independently through the time I’ve had with Ellary.

I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. Heh heh. I’ve learned some invaluable information from the many books I’ve read, and the best results arise when I’m gleaning helpful hints from a variety of sources and using what works. But it must never be about control. It can’t be the result of fear. Babies are amazingly resilient and flexible--at least mine is. She’s learning just as much as I am, and we’re growing together. I’m thanking God that we’re doing just fine, and all is right in Ellary’s world. He’s given me an incredible gift in my ability to care for my child. I don’t have the books to thank for that.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

belated lenten internet fast

I've decided to take a fast from the internet, with the exception of email, TV shows (Lost, Office, House & Friday Night Lights), and my blogs. There are many things I look forward to doing with the time this will create: reading real books and a magazine or two, watching the Netflix movie that's been sitting here for days, actually writing on this blog, cleaning the house, praying, and most sorely neglected, reading the Bible.

I realized that God was asking me to do this last night while I was feeding Ellary and listening to a podcast. Typically, I use our nursing time as my main internet time, and it adds up pretty quickly. I happened to look down at my baby and remember how intensely I love her; it's unlike any other feeling in the world. Perhaps I could use this as an opportunity to pray over her, instead of just passing the time.

It's a strange sacrifice. I'm not sure how I got so addicted to my Google reader, Twitter, and Facebook, but I have the sense that this fast is going to dramatically change my life for the better. I'm going to have numerous opportunities to stop and listen, to reflect in a deeper place, without the distraction and noise of a thousand cyber voices.

So the question is: will the fast last until Easter? Or will I keep it up for longer? Will I be motivated to establish more boundaries for myself? I'm interested to see where this goes.