Friday, March 28, 2008

1979 Called, It Wants It's Parenting Style Back

Isn't this the exact image you have in mind of the first glimpse you'll have of your new baby as a first-time mom? Who knew there'd be all that slime and goop involved? I grudgingly admit that I was a little relieved when they wiped him off a little before I held him. Granted it was a c-section, so I'll just have to get over myself next time...

When it comes time for a woman to bear and raise children there is no end to the advice they'll receive, the majority of which is unsolicited. 'Don't blow your breath in the baby's face, they'll suffocate.' 'Put a little rice cereal in the bottle, they'll sleep like a dream!' 'Well, I (left you alone/didn't use a carseat/layed you on your stomach/etc and you turned out just fine!' These and other anecdotes are passed around like a hot potato, although I wonder if they sometimes don't end up more like a game of telephone.

When I was pregnant with H, there were several other women in my office who were also expecting babies. For some, it was not their first child, and they were more than willing to share all the gorey details of labor, delivery and motherhood in general. I'm sure our male co-workers really appreciated it.

I was prompted to discuss what about pregnancy, labor or motherhood I wished I'd known beforehand, and Iwas a little stumped at first. (If you'd like to skip the long explanation, feel free to skip ahead to the asterisk at the bottom). Well, there really isn't anything to truly prepare you for labor or delivery, so that's a wash. Here's a few that I could think of off the top of my head; You need to rely on your friends and family to get you through those days when the night before was SOOOOO long, you think you'll die. You need to enjoy your baby, because the baby-ness is gone quickly, and then enjoy your toddler, because that will leave too. Let your husband help you out...it's his kid too! Map out every Starbucks within a 5 mile radius from your house, go there daily and feel free to nurse your baby while you nurse a latte (and it doesn't have to be decaf!) Enjoy taking your baby out to share them with others. It's okay to cry (both of you). You really don't need 500 outfits, there are 4-5 that they'll REALLY wear, so keep that valuable storage space for diapers and wipes. Make social connections with moms of babies the same age as fast as you can! They will be up on the same research and will be where you are, so won't be relying on their vague memories of sleepless nights to advise you.

But above all that, I'd like to have known that you make decisions based one what works, and feels most comfortable, for your family as long as they are safe, and made after educating yourself about the options. You make the best decision you can, given what you know, and the current needs and make-up of your family...and you don't have to justify them to anybody!

Despite adamantly reporting to all who would listen that I would never co-sleep, it was only the second night at the hospital when I discovered that H slept the longest and best when he was sprawled across my chest. I apologized to the nurse when she came in, feeling ashamed that I'd been 'caught' co-sleeping. She stifled a laugh and said 'I co-slept with all my kids. It's how they always slept best.' I felt like I'd just been given permission, and it was great. After reading more about it, and implementing the recommended safety measures, it ended up being a mostly positive experience for our family during the first few months of H's life. I already have a co-sleeper ready for when Baby C comes.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about parenting is that the safety guidelines and philosophies change so much from generation to generation. The balancing act that results from following the current advice of 'professionals' while explaining the reasoning for not following the advice of your parents or parents-in-law is quite exhausting. It's really tricky to explain that current evidence and understandings conflict with past practices, while at the same time being sensitive to the fact that it will inevitably be translated as 'you did it wrong.' Ahh, the joys of parenting live on.

*In short, I'll use the words of the famous Isley Brothers; 'It's your thing, do whatcha wanna do.'

This post was inspired by the Blog Blast prompt from the Parent Bloggers Network, in conjunction with their promotion of the new Discovery Health docu-drama Deliver Me, which follows three female OB-Gyn's who are attempting the delicate dance of balancing family, work and friends. For more information, and a chance to win a fabulous prize, click here .

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