Finding parenthood perspective (aka: on releasing expectations)

Last week I was all fired up about getting! the baby! on a schedule! so we can sleep more than a few hours at a time! These people say you can, even at this age, so I paid the money and watched the slide show and then existentially freaked the f*ck out.

Freaked the existential f*cking out? Freaked the f*ck out existentially? Whatever. I freaked out and it was existential.

Short version: what is my job as the mother of a newborn?

I keep wanting to do things (or not do things) now for the benefit of later. (If I was a Writer, I’d somehow work in a reference to those hard candies you have to drool all over to be able to chew well enough to swallow, each time risking death-by-choking.) I worry about carrying Jav around now so we don’t have to break him of the habit later. We have now begun using every single thing I hoped to avoid lest we be miserably trying to wean him of sleep dependencies later: a swing, bouncer, white noise machine, swaddle, and walking-around-while-bouncing-frantically-and-praying-to-the-gods-of-sleep that this cute kid of mine would go the f*ck to sleep. Or at the very least, STOP CRYING PLEASE YOU’RE MAKING ME CRAZY BECAUSE I FEEL BAD FOR YOU IN YOUR MISERY.

That’s the thing about parenthood so far: I just feel so bad for the poor little guy that we can’t figure out what he’s trying to tell us.

Food? Here, have more food! You must be hungry! <he pukes> Okay, not hungry. Too full? Keep puking! Whatever you need to feel better. <still cries>

Hmmm. Diaper change? Diaper change! Maybe you have diaper rash, even though your tukus isn’t red? And a pee diaper makes it burn? We will change you and lube you up with b*tt paste! <calms down> <then loses his shit again>

Sleepy? <yawn> Oh, yay, I saw you yawn! Here, I will rock you! No? How about swaddled and rocked? <loses shit as he has never lost his shit before… well, this morning> Okay, no swaddle? Crap, now you’re flailing. How about a swaddle, sush, pacifier, and laying on your side? Damn you, Dr. Karp, IT’S NOT WORKING. How about this $200 swing? ARGH. Maybe I’ll climb into the swing. Do we have booze? ARGH!

My husband and I hand him off to each other like we’re relay partners and he’s the baton, the hand-er leaving the nursery with head in hands trying to keep it together, the hand-ee taking deep breaths and looking deep within for a positive attitude and some hope.

Where was I? Ah, yes, finding perspective. After a very long weekend The Sleep Nazi, I’ve come to realize the only way to survive is to stop thinking ahead. Much like we got through his Birthday Eve by living three minutes at a time (two and a half minute contractions plus a 30 second break), we’re going to get through the next few weeks a day or hour or minute at a time. What else can we do?

I spent half of my free time reading Sara’s posts about parenthood, finally cluing in that what works now might not be necessary later as the kiddo grows up (!), then perusing the Dr. Sears website (attachment parenting) and the rest writing this post to remind myself that I am being paid to do what my newborn needs, and if I don’t know what he needs, I can be watching closely so I can learn more about him. I’m fighting the anxiety that comes with not being able to do X and get Y and knowing every day will bring new challenges. I’m just doing what needs to be done when it appears it’s necessary and trying not to think about how tired I am or hopeless I might be feeling.

We just get through the day. We’re doing pretty well, actually, something I tend to forget as I find myself wishing we were more textbook, but of course, one can’t expect that with a baby. I’m going to need to focus more on finding a solution now and leave dealing with later to… later.

This post brought to you by swaddling blankets, Boudreux’s Butt Paste, Moby wrap, Fisher Price’s Snugabunny swing, my husband, the dog, Dr. Karp’s Five S’s, and the glider my mom sent us. None of them sponsored the post or anything, but all were helpful at some point today.

Baby J is one month and two days old/ four weeks and five days old.

10 thoughts on “Finding parenthood perspective (aka: on releasing expectations)

  1. My advice is to not worry about sleep schedules and the like for at least another month. My little one is 12 weeks so i’ve just recently come from the place where you are now. I can honestly tell you that things will get better soon. From my experience and what i hear from my mommy friends, 11 pounds is a magical number…. once they hit that weight they can start to sleep longer stretches. All of a sudden he will sleep 4, 5 or 6 hours one night. At first you might freak out and think he’s dead (totally happened to me)… but then you will be so psyched when you realize that he’s totally fine and just still sleeping!! Those 4+ hour stretches make a HUGE difference on your sanity. And once you have improved sanity it’s much easier to start thinking about bedtimes, nap schedules, etc.

    I was also cautious about using props like swings that i’d have to break my daughter of later on. and like you i caved when i grew exhausted of trying to make her sleep. My daughter loves the swing and it is a magical sleep machine for her. This past week i just successfully taught her to sleep in the crib. by herself. and IT WASN’T THAT BAD. it just took a few days of focused effort to get her to nap in the crib. So my advice is to use the shit out of the swing or whatever else works for you right now. it will totally keep you from going crazy and the habit-breaking down the line isn’t that bad. totally a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion.

    Final piece of advice. BOUNCY BALL. Do you have one of those big exercise balls that people use for ab workouts and whatnot? if not, get one. now. Sit your butt on the ball while you are holding Jav and bounce up and down. vigorously. IT’S MAGICAL! For our daughter it almost instantly calms her down when she’s screaming and will put her into a dead sleep in 5-10 minutes. it works like nothing else – way better than any rocker or glider.

    GOOD LUCK – YOU CAN DO IT!

  2. I know that Moms on Call is the new hotness among mom-bloggers, but truthfully, it scares me. But then again, I am NOT a schedule person. Babies are all different, and they will tell you what they need when they need it. Have you given Jav some gas drops? My Lily (10 months old) had some horrible gas the first few weeks, so we spent a lot of time cycling her legs and rubbing her tummy. At night we’d give her Mylicon just to help relieve the pressure and she started sleeping better almost immediately and we haven’t had any sleep issues since (well… then teething came along).

    Good luck with this – remember, he’s still brand new and doesn’t know how his body works! I’ve been in your shoes and it’s not fun when you can’t get your new baby to stop crying… but all of a sudden you’ll have a 10 month old who is so close to walking it hurts and you’ll wish a tiny bit for these days :-) Good luck!!!

  3. I second the exercise ball – magical. Also, my daughter slept in her swing until her third month of life. She would have 9 hour stretches in that thing. When I finally decided to move her to the crib, we had a week of rough nights (back to 2-3 hr stretches). It didn’t last long. My advice, do what works! The books will make you crazy. My hubs finally MADE me put them down. At four months our doc let us know if was okay if she fussed/cried while going to sleep. Now, at almost 5 months she usually does this combo fuss and talk thing for about 15 min before falling to sleep. The same newborn that HAD to be bounced to sleep and the same baby that would ONLY sleep in her swing. Start working on a long term plan around 3-4 months. Good luck!

  4. This moms on call does sound crazy. They aren’t advocating cry it out or controlled crying for under 6 months are they? That is just dangerous, sleep professionals don’t advise that. I really do think there is a fourth trimester, I’d be pretty pissed off if I’d been all cosy/all needs met immediately for 9 months and then out in a world where the only way you can tell people what you want is through crying and then the poor parents having to work out what you mean. Poor babies/poor parents, but leaving them on their own is not the answer. And like you have said it goes against all instinct surely that’s telling us something. Survival is the name of the game, passing baby when sanity is going. My baby screamed for four months non stop, I know how insane that can drive you and it still has had a lasting effect on me 18 months later. If you do just go day by day suddenly you realise that it’s getting better by itself. They start working it out, getting themselves into routines. Ok they shift and change but the patterns emerge and things just sort themselves out. Honestly. Hang in there, taking each day as it comes is definitely the thing to do.

  5. Coming from a family of babies that could keep beano baby a float thru any recession, have you seen if he’s gassy? Not the you forgot to burp me kind but the cranky my tummy is an explosive device kind. I have not already said this computer.

  6. I think you must be an amazing mom. I already worry about this – I think oh no, what if I get my baby on a sleep schedule while I’m on maternity leave and then daycare messes it up??? I am already freaking out about it, and here you are, actually DOING it. You know, with your own real baby human.

    I know my mom and sisters have done schedules and have not done schedules, and it seems like with each baby it’s different. Regardless, I am pretty sure that you’re a pretty darn good mom :)

  7. 1) I have no clue how I wasn’t already following your blog?!?

    2) I got so tired of reading and hearing about what you “should” do that we just went with what worked. We used the swing – it was a son of a bitch to get him to nap outside of it once he was growing out of the swing, but you know what? He finally did. One week of misery to get him to move to the crib was totally worth the 5 months of serenity we had from him taking nice naps in the swing.

    And I suspect this will be how it goes for the next few years. We just do what works and adjust accordingly.

    To me, half of what keeps the baby happy is having sane parents. So go with the flow, do what you think is right, keep yourself healthy and happy and that will reflect in your child tenfold.

    Those are my two cents, for what it’s worth!

  8. I just returned to work this week from maternity leave. He is 10 weeks. I have been panicking for weeks over his sleep issues because I knew I would no longer be able to nap with him during the day and be expected to function in a workplace. Also, my husband fails at putting him to bed, so I do ALL of the night feedings.
    Anyway, I don’t know all of your troubles with baby, but I have had my share. And I too want to be careful to not jinx anything, because as soona s I would tell someone he slept great for a night I would get punished with a 3 feeding night. I get it.
    My kid had painful gas. It took a while to figure that out. He had no problem actually pooping, but when he passed gas he would scream. We eventually figured out he has a milk protein allergy. Enter the world’s most expensive formula.
    We thought the formula change helped. We had 2 good days defined as I only had to use the hair dryer (our sleep prop) 2 times a day to get him to nap. And he also cried less. then the crying started again. he would scream and cry and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought he had colic. I knew he was overtired, but he fought me for sleep. I tried making sure we started putting him down by 75 minutes after he woke up. Didn’t matter. I posted a request for help on FB. So many people suggested reflux. But my child didn’t spit up, like ever. But we had just started with a new formula and he would spit up maybe once a day, but not a huge amount. I was told about silent reflux, but I didn’t think he had it. Then one day, I walked by him as he napped, noticed his eyes were open, he was arching his back, and turning purple. He was choking. After a trip to the ER, we found out he has severe reflux. he had the silent version for 7 weeks and the formula switch made it more obvious, but I didn’t pay attention because my friend’s kids spit up more and didnt seem bothered. He is now on meds, and a completely different baby.
    He still gets fussy, but he also sleeps now. He refuses to be put in any apparatus, much prefering to be held, but otherwise, he tends to only fuss when hungry or tired. We still have nights where the longest stretch is 5 hours, and a part of me still gets disappointed when I hear him on the monitor because I know babies only have one long stretch per night, so a 5 hour night means I will be up at least 2 times if not 3. But we are also blessed with more regular appearances of 7 hour stretches. The pediatrician told me that 5 hours is average for 2 months and kids should be averaging 7 hours by 4 months. I needed to hear that too as all my friends kids seemed to sleep 10 hours at 6 weeks.
    I have all the sleep books. I tried to follow each of them precisely for a long time. I ended up just taking a few notes from each. Kids don’t have a rule book. There are no magic pills. I laugh when moms tell me “this is what I did and it worked like a charm” Great, that was your kid, not mine. And I will laugh at you again when you have a second child who doesn’t follow the same rules!
    Check with the ped to make sure there isn’t anything medically wrong, if you haven’t done so already, and then go back and think about what parts of each thing you did seemed to help and see if you can’t mesh all of those together.
    Good luck.

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