Ah, the joys of the first child. It’s almost like starting a new job since you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing and have that deer in the headlights look most of the time.
When I was 18, I was a waitress at The Black-Eyed Pea. For those not from Texas, it’s pretty much a down-home cookin’ kind of place, but you don’t go there to spend a lot of money, and you definitely don’t go there to overtip your waitress – no matter how smiley she may be. When I started there, I had no idea what I was doing. They had me shadow a lady for a day, then try some things out on my own, and then do everything while she watched me. It was rough. But as rough as waiting tables was, the sidework at Black-Eyed Pea was killer. What is sidework you who were never a server may ask? Sidework is all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that servers get paid the big bucks for ($2.13 an hour) such as filling up ketchup bottles, scooping little scoops of butter into those little paper cups for convenient serving, slicing up lemons, filling condiment trays, and my personal favorite – chopping parsley.
“I’m supposed to do what?” I said to my co-worker.
“You’re number 4 today right? That’s the parsley job,” she said unenthusiastically.
And this is how I found myself in the kitchen with a steel glove (what?!), a rather large knife, cutting board, and several big chunks of, you guessed it, parsley.
On a side note here, I do not know how to cook. Not only do I now know how to cook, I do not know how to chop things either.
So here I stand, with my giant made for a man steel glove and my giant knife, poised and ready to chop parsley. I have no idea what I’m doing.
This is what I’m comparing parenthood too. At least for the first child. I’m assuming that by the time you get to the second child you at least have some idea what you’re doing.
And so when Macy came out, as excited and thrilled as we both were to finally see her, I still didn’t know what to do next. Fortunately (or unfortunately I guess), I’d had the c-section so I pretty much stayed on my back for awhile and Jeff was stuck figuring some things out at first. And then, my parents were there for several more weeks, so I had mom to ask all of my inane questions to for a while. But once they left, I would pretty much just look at this little baby and think – hmm, so what do I do now? And then she would open her mouth and cry.
I read books. I read What to Expect, a little of a La Leche League book someone let me borrow, and the infamous Babywise.
Each of these books have saved my life at different points, but you can imagine when you are reading these 3 simultaneously, that you might just find some differing opinions.
“While holding and carrying the baby may comfort him, it may also elicit some stern advice from friends and relatives. The notion still persists that the baby who cries when put down, but is soothed when held, should be laid down gently but firmly to “cry it out”.
Sometimes a mother wonders if it really makes a difference if the baby cries in her arms or in a crib. It make a considerable difference. ‘If we were crying, wouldn’t we feel better if someone were around to reassure us? To care that we were upset? Don’t we want to be loved in times of stress as well as in times of happiness?’
Our suggestion to the mother of a fussy baby is: Don’t let your baby cry alone. The comfort and security extended by your loving arms is never wasted. Love begets love. Then, too, the next thing you try may be just the right thing to ease baby’s discomfort and restore peace and serenity to the house.”
– The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La Leche League International
“When settling for a nap, crying for 15 to 20 minutes is not going to hurt your baby physically or emotionally. Your baby will not lose brain cells, experience a drop in IQ, or have feelings of rejecting that will leave him manic-depressive at age thirty. You do not undo all the love and care of the waking hours with a few minutes of crying.”
– On Becoming Baby Wise, Gary Ezzo, MA and Robert Bucknam, MD
Now you can see where my confusion began. I wanted Macy to sleep, no I needed Macy to sleep, but I was so stuck of what I should be doing to get her to sleep. I’m sure every parent out there has this struggle. To spoil or not to spoil. According to some research, you can’t spoil your baby. According to others, the longer you hold them and help them go to sleep, the more of a fussy baby that you are creating. Whew.
At the very beginning, we did everything we could to help Macy fall asleep. We rocked her. We walked with her. We walked faster with her. We sang. We rocked some more. We swaddled. We changed rooms. We bought black-out curtains to keep out the light. We sang a different song.
But she still woke up. And she would stay asleep in our arms until we would put her down in her bed. Her swaddling would come undone and she would cry. It felt like all our efforts were for naught.
She grew up some and was able to sleep a little bit on her own. It was a glorious day being able to put her down for a nap without the 15 minutes of rocking time previously needed. But the night was a different story.
Sometime around 6 1/2 months, she started throwing up. Which is an entirely different blog for another day. At that point, we then began to worry that she was hungry. So I started feeding her again in the middle of the night. But then she was waking up not just once, but twice, and sometimes three times in the middle of the night and I was starting to feel like a walking zombie. I felt like the mother of a newborn again, not a 7 month old.
And so I decided that it was time to try out some not-spoiling tactics for a while. I read in What to Expect that if you go “cold turkey” i.e. letting your baby cry it out in the middle of the night, it only takes 3 nights for them to be able to sleep through the night. I was so sleep deprived I took on the challenge. I thought, surely I can do this for 3 nights.
Night 1 – Macy wakes up about midnight. Cries. Cries louder. It’s now 12:20. Still crying at full force. I lay in bed and think about what a terrible mother I am. I’m pretty sure Macy is standing in her bed and crying. Please, Macy, please go back to sleep. Please. About 12:30 the crying begins to lessen. And then increase. Lessens a little bit more. 12:45, she’s starting to calm herself down. But still crying. 1 am, still crying but much softer. I start to count the seconds in between the crying to give myself something else to think about. And sometime about 1:30 am, she goes back to sleep. I am a horrible mother, I think.
Night 2 – Macy wakes up sometime (now I’ve forgotten). Cries. Cries louder. Then, cries softer. After 10 minutes, isn’t really crying anymore. Sleeping. Several hours later, repeat. And then…blissful sleep.
Night 3 – Macy wakes up. Cries. Cries softer. Sleep. Whole process is about 10 minutes. Lots of sleep.
Night 4 – Sleep, sleep, sleep. Macy wakes up for maybe 5 minutes and then goes right back to sleep.
Verdict? For Macy, all it took was one night of terrible-ness and finally we could all get a good night’s sleep. I no longer feel (or look) like a walking zombie, and even she has been in a better mood. It’s amazing what some sleep will do for a person.
So I don’t know who is right – La Leche or Babywise. I’d like to think they each bring some good points to the table. La Leche knows their breastfeeding. I’ve gotten so much good advice and what to do in certain situations from them when it comes to nursing. And Babywise was really good in teaching us other things – like feeding schedules and how to make your baby a part of your family, not the center of your family.
I guess the trick is to read what you’ve got and balance it all out. And then just go with your gut. Easier said when you’re getting a full night’s sleep.