As a new mother, I had a knack for giving the impression that I didn’t need help.
My village lives on the other side of the globe, so it was borne out of necessity, but I wonder if it was more than that. As new (or not so new) mothers, I wonder if we feel as though we’re letting ourselves down if we show that we’re vulnerable. Are we falling short if we admit that we simply can’t do this alone?
That we have one hairy leg because our survival strategies have devolved into shaving one leg one day, and the other the next. And we forgot the second leg…for a week. That we eat breakfast for dinner on a semi-regular basis. And that if one more well-meaning person tells us (as if we’ve forgotten) that we really need to take care of ourselves, we’ll scream.
Because, before becoming mothers we were used to feeling productive. To meeting deadlines. To getting the job done and feeling like a valued team member.
But motherhood shatters that reality. And although it’s bittersweet, thank goodness it does. It softens us. Slows us down. Stops the treadmill of a results driven society, forcing us to reassess what we truly value in this one short life of ours. As parents, we need to redefine success in the context of a journey, with a destination we will never see.
If you’re questioning the rightness of your desire to pick up your baby when he cries, or lie beside him as he falls to sleep, read this.
“He’s got you wrapped around his little finger.” “She’ll never learn if you do whatever she demands.” “He needs to learn to self-settle.”
These are phrases every new parent is inundated with by well-meaning strangers. Despite the journey to becoming parents being one filled with much anticipation and joyful excitement, we live in a world that seemingly undervalues normal physiological behaviour in babies, and places way too much emphasis on the quest for them to be independent in their own entities. We are warned of creating “bad habits” with our children by being there for them when they need us, and we are chastised for wanting our babies in our beds near us at night time or for feeding overnight.
“How old is your baby?” asked a woman not much older than me as I tossed four bars of chocolate into my grocery cart, two of which would be my reward for getting the baby to sleep that afternoon.
“Almost 3 months,” I responded, blinking in the harsh light and quickly rubbing my eyes to check for crust, after remembering I hadn’t looked in the mirror before leaving the house—again. It wasn’t until someone spoke to me in public that I realized that in rushing around like a lunatic getting the baby ready, I didn’t even give myself a once-over.
The woman nodded sagely and said, “Ah, you’re still in the 100 Days of Darkness,” before commenting on how cute my baby is.
One Hundred Days of Darkness—I’ve thought about it often since.
“Why will my baby only sleep in my arms, what am I doing wrong?”. A question so frequently asked by exhausted new parents.
The first three months of parenting are often the hardest. A quarter of all babies in this age group are diagnosed as suffering from colic, a diagnosis given when doctors don’t know why a baby is so unhappy and parents are unable to stop their tears.
There is hope though, understanding the enormous transition that babies make from ‘womb to world’, a concept commonly referred to as ‘The Fourth Trimester’, can prove ground-breaking for sleep deprived new parents. When babies are born they are incredibly ill prepared for life outside of the uterus. There are theories that due to our large head size human babies are born prematurely development wise, else they would be too large to be born naturally. While this is good news for mothers, it’s not such good news for the babies who could really do with another three months gestation. Understanding this and treating newborns as if they were still ‘in utero’ for their first three months of life can make life much easier for new families.
(click link at the top to read on huffingtonpost.co.uk)
A new study offers more reason not to practice “crying it out” with babies.
Researchers at the University of North Texas monitored the cortisol levels of crying babies and their mothers over five nights when the infants were undergoing sleep training in order to learn to “self-settle.”
The researchers found high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in both the mothers and the babies during the times the babies were crying. After several days, the babies learned to go to sleep without crying.Researchers found that during these quiet nights, the mothers no longer had high cortisol levels but the babies’ cortisol levels remained high. They had merely learned to remain quiet while distressed. (click link above to read the article)
“I did a ridiculous amount of reading when I was pregnant. I read natural parenting books and baby scheduling books and how to make your baby happy with no crying and eating is good for everyone led by the spirit of “your baby, yourself” books. If there was a book to read, rest assured, I gave it a go.
I thought I knew everything I’d need to know.
How much of that information did I actually use? Some. A little. The best bits of this, a quick trick from that, but no single book was spot-on accurate, and nothing was anywhere near as easy as all my reading had led me to believe. Fable was just herself, and apparently, she hadn’t been reading the same stuff I’d been bingeing on. All that reading was mostly a waste of time.*
These are the words I wish I’d read instead, before jumping headlong into the mommyhood with my books and my charts and my ideals and my high horses. They’re flawed, and they aren’t all pretty, but they’re hard-won and honest and as true as I can get ’em.”