Tag Archives: newborns

One year old

14 Jul

40 weeks.

Yesterday, Chris and I kept looking at the clock. “At this time last year, we were checking into the hospital.” “Now we’re deciding whether to take the Cervadil or not.” “Now we’re switching rooms.” “Now you’re going out for a beer and a sandwich.” (That one was Chris.) Abby was born at 3.37 in the morning on July 14th, and all I could feel was relief: it was over. According to books and movies, I was supposed to have a moment when everything changed. I was supposed to take one look at the tiny, screaming bundle lying on my chest and suddenly realize that the world was full of danger, that my life counted for nothing in comparison with this little life that I now had to keep safe, I was supposed to be blindsided by love for this stranger that I had just met. I felt none of those things. I felt relief, but I also felt recognition. When she was lying on my chest moving her head from side to side with those so-familiar jerky, stretching movements like she couldn’t figure out where she was and what had changed, I recognized her. I recognized the way she moved because that’s how she moved when she was inside of me. I knew her tiny limbs already. I didn’t need to meet her, because I already knew her.

About 7 hours old.

As those hours changed into days, I lost some of that feeling. She was a difficult baby at first, and when I was holding her at three in the morning as she screamed unconsolably, as I desperately, ineffectually tried to get to her nurse, I felt completely alien from the creature who needed me so intensely without even knowing it, who knew only that something was wrong. The first night we were home from the hospital, I wandered the downstairs with her all night as Chris slept upstairs to rest for an interview for a job that he didn’t get. She cried and cried, and I cried. I looked at our table filled with flowers and cards from our loving family and friends and I sobbed, because those cards and flowers were full of hope and congratulations, and I hadn’t slept in three days and I just knew, from the bottom of my heart, that I couldn’t do it. And I had to. I had never experienced that feeling so profoundly, that lethal “and” rather than “but”: I could not do it, and I had to.

Crying, as usual.

Little by little, of course, imperceptibly, it changed. We figured out how to get her arms through her onesies. Nursing became routine and comfortable. She started enjoying her baths. She smiled, and then laughed. She sat up, and then stood. She reached for toys, then learned to drop them, and bang them. She ate a banana, and then a mango, and then lentils, cheese, meatballs, crackers, strawberries, blueberries, hummus, and quesadillas. She figured out how to take things out, and then put them back in. She scooted and then crawled. She said “Dada” and “Dog.” She took a step and then a few more. She slept through the night. She waved when we said “Bye-bye.” She learned to hug her doll and then us. She gave kisses. And now when she nurses, she smiles and pats my face.

Before she was born, I resented a little that she would have Chris’s name, since after all the work of carrying and bearing her, I hated to think that she would take another name and lose her connection with me, in name becoming part of a different family. We even thought about giving her both our last names (I didn’t change my name), but decided in the end that she would just have Chris’s. I wanted her to have that connection with her father, of course, but I also realized that it was because I bore her that she didn’t need my name. Even now, she doesn’t like to be too far away from me; she doesn’t say “Mama” because, to her, she and I are still hardly two separate people. I look at her sometimes, when her face is very close to mine, and I recognize that I will never know another person as intimately as I know her. Next year will change that. She’ll grow up and away from me, from both of us, and while I can’t wait to see that happen and to see her day by day become even more herself, I am so grateful for this year. I grew her in my womb and on my breast; she is the child of my body and my heart. And this year, she was mine.

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Parenting Through the Debates: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

24 Apr

Title: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with your Baby
Author(s): Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau
Credentials: Tracy Hogg is a nurse and child-care specialist; Melinda Blau is a writer
Genre: Parenting handbook, moderate [between parent-centered and baby-centered]
Audience: Very new parents, primarily mothers

Happy meal version:

Tracy Hogg offers a structured routine for adjusting to a newborn. In a colloquial style, she advices parents to relax and listen to their babies, to slow down and give both themselves and the newborns time to adjust to their new lives. Her major offering to the world of parenting handbooks is the EASY routine: she advises following a routine of Eat, Activity, Sleep, and then grabbling some You time while the baby sleeps. Within the chapters, she offers practical advice and anecdotes (some of these anecdotes are composites).

Chapters:

Introduction. Here, Hogg describes her experience and her development of the EASY system.

I. Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To. According to Hogg, babies come in five temperament. She offers you a test to determine which temperament your baby is. Throughout the book she offers advice targeted at each temperament: Angel, Textbook, Touch, Spirited, and Grumpy.

2. EASY does it. According to Hogg, the EASY routine offers a middle ground between scheduled and on-demand baby care, and between “parent-centered” and “baby-centered” parenting by focusing on the family. “Mindful parenting” is the alternative to “accidental parenting,” and you should “start as you mean to go on.” This chapter includes a very practical and helpful step-by-step guide to what to do when you come home with your baby.

3. SLOW Down (and Appreciate your Baby’s Language). Parents often make the mistake of responding to crying in a panic. Instead, Stop, Listen, Observe, and ask What’s up. It’s important to treat your baby like and individual and realize that he has needs and desires of his own. Head-to-toe, babies give of lots of signals to tell you what’s wrong. Hogg includes a chart to help you learn to read your baby.

4. Eat. Hogg argues that breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are both good choices and you should make the one that’s right for your family. After the first few days, babies should be on a feeding schedule and not eat on demand. This chapter also includes a timetable and chart on weaning. [Note: I found this chapter problematic. Although she claims to talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, she really only looks at the cons of breastfeeding, and she purveys some information that is inaccurate, such as the myth that babies will self-wean at 9 or 10 months. If you are nursing and want to continue past the first few weeks, ignore this chapter. It will reduce your confidence and possibly your milk supply.]

5. Activity. Babies should be given toys that are within their “learning triangle.” It’s important not to give your baby toys that she can’t handle and not to force her to do things, like roll over, before she’s ready. Here, she discusses childproofing, bathing, dressing the baby, and massaging the baby. This is an extremely helpful, practical chapter.

6. Sleep. This chapter discusses sleep patterns and habits. She presents herself as occupying the middle ground between Sears’ bed sharing and Ferber’s controlled crying. Hogg’s solution is to put the baby down sleepy and pat his back while he cries. She advises dream feeds and cluster feeding to help the baby sleep through the night. Her chart of average sleep seems optimistic. She advises parents that they can expect their baby to sleep up to 12 hours in a row by six months. [For alternate opinions on that, see Weissbluth and Sears; for similar opinions, see The Sleepeasy Solution.]

7. You. This chapter offers helpful, practical solutions for the new mom, including information on moodiness, PPD, relationships, sex, and work and childcare. She discusses different “types” of dads and offers information and tips. A very helpful tip is the suggestion to assign reluctant or nervous dads specific tasks, like bathing or reading. She is dismissive of a cult of motherhood and urges moms to get help and not think that only they can care for the baby. She is supportive of moms who choose to go back to work. This chapter is balanced and moderate.

8. Special Circumstances. In this chapter, Hogg talks about the peculiar challenges facing adoption, surrogacy, multiples, preemies, and those who may have had trouble getting pregnant. It seemed a little light on content.

9. Three-Day Magic: The ABC Cure for Accidental Parenting. This chapter offers a plan for parents who want to change some aspect of their baby’s behavior, like not wanting to be put down or resisting her crib. She advises figuring out the Antecedent–what caused the behavior?; the Behavior–what exactly is your baby doing?; and the Consequence–what pattern has been established? It contains a troubleshooting guide with common behaviors that cause parents anxiety. The “ABC” guidelines are catchy but forced. I can’t visualize how I might put them into action myself.

Verdict:

This is a comforting, reassuring book that offers lots of practical advice and tips. I particularly liked the sidebar explaining how to get a shirt on a baby (which is a lot harder than it sounds). Her EASY plan is sound advice and has entered collective knowledge. Her advice is dispensed in catchy phrases that are easy for new parents to remember. In fact, I wish I had read it before having my baby, especially the first three chapters.

However, chapters 4-6 and chapter 9 contain many, many opinions that are disguised as facts, particularly around eating and sleep. For example, she claims that no baby needs to eat every hour and a half. In fact, many breastfed newborns do need to eat every hour and a half, and on-demand nursing is extremely important not just for the first day, as she suggests, but for the first weeks in order to establish a good milk supply. Other experts will also point out that sleep patterns are quite variable throughout the first year. Her chapter on temperament doesn’t acknowledge that babies can change radically. At two weeks old, my baby would have been either grumpy or touchy; at nine months, she’s absolutely textbook. More troubling to some of her critics, she believes that babies should learn to be independent and self-soothing from the day they come home from the hospital–an opinion that many infant development experts will challenge.

Recommended for middle-of-the-road parents, but do read other books as well for a more rounded perspective.

Related books:

The Sleepeasy Solution
Heading Home with Your Newborn
Baby 411
The No-Cry Sleep Solution