What I Expected Was Wrong

sleep sack, swaddle, infantWhen I was pregnant with Hannah, I read about Motherhood all the time. I drove my husband crazy with reading books and trying to figure out how to be a Mom. Looking back, he probably thought it should have been more intuitive for me, but it really wasn’t at first. Like so many other mothers, I read the What to Expect series early on. It was a waste of my time. If I could do it all again, I would download the BabyBump app to get my updates on the baby’s size and developmental progress, then read a selection of books from Ina May Gaskin and Dr. Sears. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I am an Attachment Parent. I’m not the best at it and I certainly don’t know the most about the topic, but I get it. I love it. Most importantly, my girls are benefitting from it.

I don’t know why I held off for so long on fully embracing attachment parenting. It’s almost like I was so far detached that I could only open up to one topic at a time. The part of it that I screwed up the most with Hannah was sleeping.  Have you ever played the game Whisper Down the Lane? Someone starts out by sharing a simple phrase individually to members of a group and by the end the topic is hardly recognizable. I have a feeling that the same thing has happened with the original art of putting a baby to sleep. Long ago everyone spent their days doing nearly the same things and caring for babies the same way. Then they rocked babies to sleep in the same chairs and sang them the same songs for generations. That worked great until someone figured out that they could leave their baby in the room to fall asleep alone and another baby fell asleep in a car. Soon people were talking about babies sleeping everywhere. Then parents started putting all these sleep solutions in practice and babies stopped sleeping anywhere.

Every parent agrees that the person who coined the term, “slept like a baby” obviously never spent much time with one. Right now, I have an easy baby and even she puts me through the ringer at odd hours. It is clear that my babies require a near-perfect balance of food, activity, and relaxation throughout a day in order to have a good night’s sleep. When I factor in issues like teething, digestion, and nighttime peeing, it’s a wonder any of us ever sleeps. There is a lot for these kids to figure out in the first few years!

With Hannah, I struggled on the sleep topic. Not because she didn’t sleep through the night, but because she didn’t like going to bed. The first three months were a challenge for breastfeeding, but they weren’t an overall nightmare in the sleep department. That began just before the three month mark. I realized that the suggestions in the book I read simply weren’t built for a baby who was so aware of her surroundings. My mother made her cry more, my husband hid outside to avoid listening to the crying, and I didn’t have a network of friends that I could go to for support. So I read a book. I picked the Baby Whisperer and I really found her advice useful. The suggestions helped me get my daughter to sleep and create a consistent schedule that worked for us. Later down the road we encountered more pain points, so I read more. I still don’t feel like I’ve got it all figured out, so I’ve got another book to read. I am finally (yes, finally) reading the Dr. Sears parenting book.

What I’ve learned since having Audrey is to be more intuitive to the girls’ needs. I can be a guide for them, but now I trust that they know what is best. My daughters want to be near me, to eat enough food to feel satisfied, to learn throughout the day, and to wiggle and giggle enough to fill the time. I look at their needs as a circle filled with sleep, nourishment, and comfort. If they are lacking in one area, they need more of the other two to make up for it. Take the example of my teething toddler. When Hannah’s mouth hurts, she won’t eat as much solid food or sleep through the night. To make up for that and keep her mood balanced I offer more milk during the day and carve out time to hold her.

For a long time, I didn’t know what was best for my daughter, but I knew something was wrong. If I had known then what I know now, I probably would have had more success with babywearing. It works really well for Audrey and me. Since I hadn’t seen attachment parenting in action, it wasn’t easy to find the solution in public. It took a long time for me to settle into a ‘Mama Mantra’ and I struggle with feeling like I missed out on having this closeness with Hannah. I don’t know if I’m still missing a big part of the picture, but I feel like I’m finally getting into a groove with parenting. I’ve been playing catch up for a long time. The one thing that brightens my outlook is knowing that my girls won’t have to search for this path. They’ll know it from experience and I can’t wait to see that in action.

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