Thursday, December 22, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

I wish I had more time to blog. So much is happening at our house, but I guess that's exactly the reason why none of it is being recorded here. Back in the days when only one funny thing happened each day I had plenty of time to share it with the world, but now, with diaper changes and feedings and rocking filling every spare moment, there's little time to preserve those memories here. My camera has had to do most of the memory preserving for now.

Elijah is gaining weight and growing up quickly. He's also becoming more demanding. He knows who his mother is and he's not about to lose her. But, strangely enough, his constant demands don't bother me quite so much with him. I waited a long time (well, it seemed long to me) to have another little bundle to carry around in a sling and rock to sleep, and I want to enjoy it this time. The other kids have also helped to ease the burden on me. Hannah stands guard over Elijah's bouncy seat most of the time, bouncing it whenever he fusses. Naomi has also taken turns bouncing the seat, although she usually has an "Encyclopedia Brown" book in the other hand. And, if the sisters are all occupied Toby is more than eager to take a turn bouncing the seat--the helpfulness of which is still to be determined.

I've been thinking more about the advice I'd like to give to a first-time mother, and feel the need to vent some of it here, that way if she doesn't want the advice she doesn't have to read it, but here it is, just in case she doesn't mind.

You wait so long for that little bundle, and for a few moments after he is born all is perfect and happy, then he wants to eat...and then he poops...and then he cries. You will repeat this cycle every half-hour for the next six months at least, and as much as you love the little darling it will get old and you will feel exhausted and frazzled at times, maybe most of the time. One night, when he cries for the 58th time, you will feel more like an angry grizzly bear awakened from winter hibernation than a loving mother eager to dote on her darling babe.

So here comes the advice part, and of course it is my opinion, and of course there will be thousands of loving mothers out there who have done it differently and who will disagree vehemently with me, but it's my there.

* I sleep with my babies beside me (gasp! horror of all horrors!) and they've all survived so far. In fact, I'm pretty sure our chances of team survival are greater this way, as it has preserved my health and sanity. If you have a FIRM queen sized mattress, you are not extremely obese, remove heavy blankets from your bed,  keep your pillow clear of the baby's face, keep your baby on the side of the bed between yourself and safety rail (not next to your husband), and don't drink alcohol or abuse drugs you are almost certain NOT to smother your baby. The vast majority of infant deaths due to co-sleeping break one of these rules. Mothers naturally sleep in a more light stage of sleep and are in-tune with their baby's every breath and movement. I don't have the time to list my sources to support this, but you can reference Dr. Sear's "The Baby Book" for some support. The point is that babies know when they are near you and when they're not, and if your babies (like mine) won't have anything to do with being put down alone in a crib, put them down near you! If your babies (like mine) want to nurse every hour or so, lay them down where they can nurse while you sleep!

* Nursing doesn't come naturally to most mothers. Sorry. Please read books, take classes, practice latch-on technique with a baby doll, and know where you will turn for support if you have trouble. Does your hospital have a certified lactation consultant available? Is there a La Leche League meeting near you? Otherwise, when you run into trouble as many mothers do, you will be tempted to "supplement" with formula (which will jeopardize breastfeeding altogether) or give up completely. What are you going to do when you experience pain during breastfeeding, the baby doesn't seem to be getting enough milk, or someone tells you that supplementing with formula would be better so you can get some sleep? Have answers, be prepared, because you'll be too tired to find answers at 2:00am when your baby is screaming. One awesome book to read is "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers." Buy it, read it, you'll be glad you did.

* To Buy:
--A boppy pillow: you're going to spend about 8 hours a day nursing for the first few months, get comfortable. Yes, it's worth the $20.

--Washable cotton nursing pads. If you have a generous milk supply, it will leak. The disposable kind are uncomfortable and trap moisture on already irritated skin.

--Large (30" X 40") cotton thermal (waffle weave) blankets for swaddling the baby in. Swaddling does not calm the baby down, but if you swaddle a screaming baby and then calm him down he will stay asleep or calm longer than if he were unswaddled. This keeps him feeling snug and keeps the startle reflex from flinging his hands into his face every time there is a loud noise. Oh, how I wish I had known this with Naomi! Learn how to really swaddle too: tight, tight, tight! There is a technique taught with pictures in "The Happiest Baby on the Block" that I love and it even impressed the nurses in the hospital when I showed them. This book is a good read anyway, I like the "Swaddle, Side, Swing, Shush, Suck" method of calming babies that it teaches.

--Buy two kinds of baby carriers: a sling, and a Baby Bjorn front carrier. Your baby will have times (or weeks) when he will scream like you placed him on a bed of nails every time he leaves your arms. You will lose your mind if you spend your day trying in futility to re-calm him and and lay him down again. Strap him to your body and continue your day. The sling allows the baby to ride in multiple positions, including all swaddled up and is easier to slip the baby out of when he's sleeping. I use a sling for quieter activities like going to church. The Baby Bjorn is ridiculously expensive, but it is indispensable to me. I don't like the cheap immitations. It allows baby to be so securely strapped in that you don't have to use one hand to steady him, like you should with a sling. I use this when trying to do real household chores like vacuum, laundry, dishwasher, walking outside, and other activities where the baby could conceivably slip out of the sling. This is also wonderfully stimulating to baby's growing brain. He will like to be close to you, feeling your every move, and listening to your words. He will grow up to be a child prodigy like my kids. Or at least you can hope.

--A bouncy seat that actually really bounces. I can't believe how many "bouncy seats" have toys and vibrators and easy-fold features, but don't actually freely bounce up and down. If it doesn't bounce easily when you apply light pressure with one finger, don't buy it, your baby will hate it. Get the plain old, ugly seat that can make your baby's head jiggle with the least effort on your part. When you're trying to eat dinner and bounce the fussy baby with your foot, you will be glad you did.

Above all, please remember that that little slobbering ball of discontented fury will only be so cute for a few weeks. Soon enough the fussing weeks will be replaced by the potty-training months and you will wish you had absorbed that soft baby smell a little deeper while you could. Count his toes, stroke his tiny little calves, kiss his downy hair, and repeat, "This too shall pass...all too soon."

I once saw this poem on the wall of a house filled with teenagers. I've always remembered the last line. Today I took the time to google it and was delighted to see that it was written for a fifth child. It really is a perspective that a mother of many babies has more so than most first-time mothers.

Song for a Fifth Child

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing
will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up,
as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby
and babies don’t keep.

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