lies and myths about babies, plus a Mary reflection–Friday rant

First and foremost, it is a LIE that every mother bonds instantly with every baby and loves that baby more than life itself the minute it emerges from her womb. How do I know this? Because when my babies were born, instead of being overwhelmed by some sense of cosmic love and devotion, I just felt a sense of huge responsibility. It takes a while to get to know them–just like other people. I know some women don’t feel that way, but I think it’s totally normal. Right about now–in the last week or so–I’m getting pretty smitten with Wesley. He’s getting some personality and I’m getting a little less wiped out all the time. (It’s harder having two kids–when Mary was his age I was getting a good 8 hours of sleep every night and feeling like a million bucks. Last night I got two hours. I feel like…well, about five bucks.)

Anyway, I think it’s a big fat myth that you’re supposed to automatically feel like you know and love a person you just met. It makes sense, in my opinion, to expect it to take a little while.

Other myths about babies:
* A “good” baby sleeps all night early on and doesn’t cry.

That’s not a good baby; it’s an easy baby. Difficult babies are also good babies. (Mary was an easy baby; Wesley is less so. But he’s a good baby. What would a bad baby even consist of?)

* Once you have two kids, you’ll never go out again.

I will. I do. I have. I can’t stay in my house all the time.

* You need a double stroller.

Bleh. I don’t want a stroller at all. I put Wesley in a baby carrier (of which, I must admit, I have several) and Mary walks with me, rides in a cart at a store, or runs around the park. Strollers for infants weigh a ton and are hard to steer and don’t fit through anywhere. Who needs it?

* Anyone can breastfeed exclusively. Just nurse more often/see a lactation consultant/pump after nursing/don’t use a pacifier/sleep with your baby.

Some women genuinely don’t have enough milk to nurse exclusively. How about supporting their attempts and encouraging them to nurse as much as possible, instead of piling on more guilt and sense of inferiority? (This is apropos of a woman at Target today who actually lectured me about the fact that the formula I was giving Wesley would make him fat and give him diabetes. Come on! She has no idea how much time/energy/money/emotional investment I’ve put into breastfeeding both of my kids. Just when I was starting to feel okay about it, why make things worse? Would it be so hard to confine yourself to lecturing people you actually know, at least?)

* Co-sleeping will result in you smothering your baby.

Read research! It is at least as safe or safer than crib sleeping. For every story about a smothered baby, there are thousands of safe, happy, well-adjusted babies who don’t make the news–and who knows how many babies who die of SIDS in cribs. (SIDS is greatly decreased in babies who bed-share.)

* It is okay to interrogate new parents about their parenting choices.

New parents are in a fragile state. They are under-rested, overtaxed, and dazed by the complete readjustment of their family lives and daily routines. Do NOT say things like “You’re going to spoil that baby picking him up all the time,” “Why don’t you just let her wait her turn,” or “Try rice cereal–your baby is hungry.” (Trust me: if a baby is crying, the baby’s parents know it.)

There are only a few things that are acceptable to say to them:
“Can I bring you some dinner?”
“Here is a present for your OLDER child.”
“Your baby [or babies, if you have other kids] are beautiful and you are so lucky.”

Anyway, I am not as bitter as this sounds–I just think our culture encourages so much rudeness about parenting and so little actual support. Every parent makes individual choices. Unless they’re abusive, that’s fine. And if my choice includes picking up my baby instead of letting him cry, that’s my choice–even if you, a fellow shopper, think it’s silly.

In other news, Mary is my hero. Really. She is such a great kid. She has adjusted so well to Wesley being here. From her perspective, what’s happened in the last 7 weeks?

* Conor and I left her at Grandma’s and disappeared for two days. Conor then reappeared, brought her to the hospital–a scary and totally new place–for two days, where she got to see Wesley–a bundle of boring blobbiness–but also had to see me with an IV and monitor, which scared her.

* I suddenly refused to pick her up for two weeks and avoided it as much as possible for a month.

* Grandma Cal came to visit and stayed for two weeks, then disappeared.

* Wesley cries and I immediately take care of it; when Mary wants something, she usually has to wait.

* She has to sleep in her own room but Wesley gets to sleep in my bed.

And in response to all of this, what does she do? She has a few meltdowns, sure, mostly when she wants something and I’m nursing Wesley and she has to wait. But she is incredibly sweet, giving me hugs and kisses every day; very smart, and genuinely helpful, doing things like getting me a clean diaper for Wesley when he needs one (even, I’m pleased to note, differentiating between her mediums and larges and Wesley’s smalls); sharing her things with Wesley; rocking him when he cries (sometimes), petting his head to calm him down and getting my attention if she thinks he’s upset; and learning like crazy every day, getting new words, new skills, new interests. She’s amazing. Would you be that accepting of a change so complete that you didn’t understand? I wouldn’t.

And I think she’s a fantastic person.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cathy Frey on August 16, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Heather, You are right on the money with everything you said in this blog!!!!! You are doing a fantastic job with your children and looking at Mary’s beautiful, smiling face tells me she is a happy, contented child. Wesley is absolutely adorable!!!!! Your children will grow up knowing they are loved by very caring parents. Take care and we hope to see you all the next time you are in Michign. Your cousin Cathy

    Reply

  2. Posted by David on August 16, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Here’s what you say to the woman at Target: My nephew and daughter are stealing your rims right now. You might want to head to the parking lot while you still have a car. Oh, and go fuck yourself.

    Reply

  3. Posted by David on August 16, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Why is it always at Target?!? One morning, I dropped the kids off at daycare, and Riley’s teacher told me he was out of diapers. So I drove over to Target, which is only like a mile from daycare, to pick some up. Seeing that I was buying only diapers, the cashier struck up a conversation with me about kids and motherhood. She guessed from my work attire that I was a working mom, and said, “Well, I was lucky enough to stay home with my kids.” I bit my freakin’ tongue off trying not to say, “Well, I’m lucky enough to balance a successful career with my family life so that Target will not be my only option when I’m 50.” Who cares what people choose to do? Breast or bottle, work or not, just don’t judge! Everyone does what’s right for them, and they don’t need idiots telling them that they’re giving their kids diabetes or that they’re luckier because of their life circumstances.
    -Nina posting under David’s account because she’s too lazy to log back in under hers

    Reply

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