Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The First-Time-Mom Me and the Sixth-Time-Mom Me

It's hardly newsworthy to mention that, as the number of my children has increased, I have relaxed in any number of ways in my role as a mom.  We all do that, I think.  First-time moms are notoriously uptight about...oh...just about everything: what kind of diapers to use, when to start solid foods, whether to ever let Baby sleep in the parents' bed, when and how to wean, whether Baby's clothes match--you know, all the important issues.  ;-)  Understand that I'm not putting down first-time moms for being like this; I was certainly intense in my desire to do things the right way when I had my firstborn, so I get that, and I'm not being critical or making fun.  But inevitably, as life moves us along, we find that some of the issues that seemed so big are considerably smaller than we first thought.  :)

Since Benjamin was born, I've been reminded of how far I've come (or how far I've fallen, depending on what side of the Gotta Do Things Right fence you're standing on); but I've surprised even myself by how laid-back I've become in one certain area.  And that is the area of feeding my baby.

When Josiah was a newborn, I often felt like I had NO CLUE about how to meet the needs of the precious little one God had given me.  For the first time in my life, the hormones of the infamous Baby Blues rocked my world and eroded whatever confidence I might have previously had about my ability to successfully raise a child.  I was adrift, knowing that I loved my baby more than life itself but sometimes feeling like I didn't know what to do with him!

Enter Babywise.  

Recommended to me by several friends I respected immensely, the book became an anchor for me--a guide to the mysterious newborn I held in my arms.  At last, I could grasp an idea of how to confidently care for him; and as I followed the general principles in the book (especially the Feed-Wake-Sleep cycle), I found that both Josiah and I were settling into a joyful, peaceful routine.  I knew what to expect from Josiah, and he knew what to expect from me.  The hormonal waves that threatened to swamp me gradually stilled to a steady, flexible pattern of life with a baby.

Because Josiah was an only child, I could arrange much of the rest of life around his feeding schedule; and that worked great.  But things changed through the years.

With each child that was added to our family, I again revisited the ideas in Babywise--sometimes even re-reading the book before or just after the birth of my babies.  And with each of them, I have generally applied the principles found therein--with a large helping of flexibility--and so have established a feeding schedule for them and have taught them to fall asleep on their own, etc.  Worthwhile things to do!  The results have been positive: all of them (except Shav, who had a whole other set of sleep issues) began to sleep through the night between two and three months of age, all of them were breastfed for a year and gained weight appropriately, and none of them were particularly fussy babies.  I was pleased and very, very grateful.

As Benjamin's birth approached, I didn't think a whole lot about it; but when I did pause to ponder it, I assumed that I would basically go the Babywise route again this time--and why not?  It had worked well in the past, so it would make sense to repeat that, right?

But here I am, two and a half months after Benjamin's birth, and we are nowhere close to following Babywise.  As a matter of fact, I would have to admit that, for the first time, I am feeding my baby on demand and paying very little attention to the clock or to the idea of influencing his feeding times.  We're just going with the flow!

It makes me laugh a little as I look back on myself as a mom 13 years ago and then look at myself now.  Oh, how I have changed!  But here's the thing that I think is so important: it wasn't wrong for me to be guided by Babywise with my other babies.  I needed that direction, especially as a first-time mom; and my life was structured in such a way that I could pull it off.

But now, it's not wrong for me to be going in a different direction and ignoring the advice that I once found so helpful.  As a matter of fact, I can't even picture how I could, in my current situation, possibly pull off the kind of consistent feeding times I tried hard to have with my other kids.  As the sixth child, Benjamin has already had to learn that life is full, we're often on the go to this or that activity for one of the other children, and his meals don't come precisely at the same time every day.  He gets fed when he needs to be, but sometimes the feedings are squished in around other activities, that's for sure!

After he was born, it took me a little while to realize that, not only was I not following Babywise very well at that point, I probably was not going to even try to do so.  Jeff asked me a few times about Benjamin's schedule, and I would somewhat sheepishly push the question aside, thinking at first that one of these days I really should try to get him on a schedule.  But finally I admitted to myself--and then to Jeff--that for the first time, I wasn't even attempting to get my baby on a schedule.

I have enough experience as a mom to have a general idea of when Benjamin is likely to be hungry, and I've learned to differentiate some of his cries.  I am also aware when several hours have gone by during the day and know that it's likely to be feeding time soon.  I've learned that when Benjamin fusses and I get ready to nurse him, if he doesn't want to eat, he just doesn't nurse.  (The adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" comes to my mind frequently in such moments!)  :)  When we're getting ready to leave the house for an activity for the other kids, I try to nurse Benjamin right before we go; but I recognize that if he only gets half a feeding, it will be OK.  If he is having a fussy spell, often in the evenings, I surely don't mind nursing him at closer intervals than I normally would; after all, having a good excuse to sit down on the couch and cuddle with my baby is a wonderful thing.  :)  I feel fairly nonchalant about it all.  :)

I think the trick is, as we grow, whether in mothering or in any other area of life, to not look back and put down our previous selves.  Do I wish I hadn't used the Babywise method with my older kids?  Not at all!!  That was a sanity-saver for me at that phase of life!  But now that I'm finding myself in a different phase, I'm learning that it's more than OK to switch gears and adopt a different mothering style.  And looking back, I'm grateful that I got to experience mothering from both perspectives, especially because I now have a greater understanding and acceptance of those who mother from each perspective.  This transition in my own style of parenting has increased my humility!  :)

I'm not the same person as I was 13 years ago; but I can feel good about who I was then as a mother, as well as feeling good about who I am now as a mother.  In some areas of life, there is just one right way to do things; but these mothering issues aren't those areas!  :)

These boys are living proof of that!  :)
P.S. I had already planned to write about this, since this feed-on-demand thing is actually surprising to me.  :)  And then last night, I stumbled across this blog post ("stumbled" is an appropriate word, since I have no idea how I even got there) and found myself relating to and agreeing with what she wrote.  She says it better than I do!  :)

P.P.S. I have no idea why all the words I've typed above the photo in this post are centering on each line, rather than staying to the left.  I tried to switch the alignment to left, and this computer switches it back immediately to center.  Why, oh why?

1 comment:

sally said...

You give yourself so much grace, and I think that is wonderful! I loved reading about your transition.