Monday, June 2, 2008

New Motherhood: How to Freak Yourself Out in Three Easy Steps!

I decided early in my pregnancy that I was not going to read too much about being pregnant. I quickly discovered that it was way too easy for me to sit around reading books and articles about a 'normal' pregnancy and then to go berserk because my pregnancy wasn't 'normal' and surely my baby was going to be born with two heads and webbed fingers. I wasn't going to subject myself to that because the more I read, the more I began to think that the world was a dangerous place for a pregnant woman, a world full of alcohol and shellfish and deli meat and caffeine and contraction inducing herbs.

Sure, if I had a question I would look it up in a book or online. Of course I have a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting and of course I've read through it and of course I think the chapter about when things go wrong should be removed and burned. But as a general rule, I didn't sit around reading about being pregnant because I really didn't feel like driving myself crazy.

Oh if I had only remembered that wisdom when Norah was born.

We received two books when Norah was born. They are both good books, but give COMPLETELY opposite advice on how to parent your baby. So for the first two weeks or so I was sitting around reading these books for fun and suddenly, after being drenched in parenting advice from two COMPLETELY different perspectives I went a little crazy. I was stuck in some awful limbo. On the one hand I thought if I wasn't constantly holding Norah that I was losing her trust and she was failing to thrive. On the other hand I felt like I couldn't pick her up when she was crying unless I checked the book first, unless I went through a checklist of ok reasons to hold my baby. I was terrified that she wasn't eating enough, that she was eating too often, that she was never going to learn to latch on correctly since I was still using a nipple shield. I was afraid that her throwing up was a sign of a serious problem. I was afraid that I was going to raise an overly dependent child because she was still sleeping in my bed.

In short, I was driving myself nuts reading those books.

And then something beautiful happened. Norah started to figure out life in this world. She started eating about every three hours. She started sleeping between 5 and 7 hours a night. I started to be able to decipher what different sounding cries meant. She began nursing well whether I use the shield or not. I realized that it's ok to let her cry sometimes, and that she may cry a little when she goes to sleep (though I will not let her lay in her crib and scream until she falls asleep).

One day I got out of the shower and told myself to stop reading those stupid books. Yeah, I'll read them when looking for something specific, but I won't allow myself to sit around reading them for fun. Those books really came in handy when Norah's eye started gooping up (her tear duct is blocked, no big deal) and when I needed to know about how much she should be eating at 8 weeks. But I won't let a book parent my baby. And I will not allow some stuffy pediatrician who has never met me or Norah, some silly words on a page, make me feel like I am failing as a mother. Giving myself permission to trust myself was incredibly empowering.

So if I was going to give advice to new mamas (you know, since I am a wise old veteran of 8 weeks) it would be to trust yourself more. We mamas have instincts for a reason, and it is ok to listen to them, even if those instincts go against something published in a book.

2 comments:

Mario said...

Go Sadie! Dude, my mom had three boys in 4 years and we all turned out fine.(well the older two certainly did) I don't remember her having any help aside from her own mom. So, if you plan on pushing aside the contradicting literature I say go for it.

Emily said...

Sounds familiar, think I have heard some of those words somewhere before, I wonder.....trust yourself, you will do the right thing.