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.


Laurie said...

I'm right there with you, sister! I, like you, cried the first night home with both of my kids and they were in a co-sleeper attached to my bed! I had the EXACT same feelings as you thinking they were all alone and feeling abandoned...darn hormones make you crazy! Anyway, I still had slight anxiety when we finally moved them to the crib in their own rooms (around 6 months for us because I am a lazy nighttime nurser who refused to get out of bed three times a night).

I'm also a big reader and learned quickly, like you, after having Gabbie that you cannot subscribe to one method and expect it to answer all of your questions/problems. A mother's instinct is a very real thing and you usually know what's best for your baby. Unfortunately, I don't always take my own advice and still find myself Googling furiously in the middle of the night for the problem du jour. :)

I have no doubt you're a fabulous mommy with a fantastic little girl who loves you dearly. There's nothing like it in the world!

Linn said...

We moms so often do learn just by trial and error, and you know what -- it usually eventually works. Because not only are each of us moms different, so are each of our kids! Just take a look at my three -- all of them off-center, blessedly (and sometimes scarily) unique. Some things stayed the same in the bedtime routine, but each one needed a little bit different uniquely-you approach. Meg, you are onto something Big. Glad you discovered it so early -- smart as you are! and a great mom.

Carolyne said...

I lov the name of your blog...It's what we all need.

The first couple months were such a struggle for me after my baby was born. I felt like I was going to break my fragile, precious baby. I think I called my Mom a million times during the day to ask for advice about nursing. It was just a year ago, but I feel like I've learned so much.