Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for "Really, I can handle it."

I have to admit something, I get a little nervous when I think about the baby's arrival. (Oh my gosh, it's 5 months away. Just relax for now.) But it's not about the baby, necessarily. I'm beyond excited for that. But all the joys that come with a newborn are also accompanied by some outside stress. Not sure what I mean? Read on. 

Disagree if you like, but everyone, everyone is such an expert when it comes to parenting. Even those who aren't parents have strong opinions about what works and what doesn't. Whether or not they have had any experience in that particular issue, they already know the answer - and they are always ready to tell you.

Enjoying a moment
last fall
Don't get me wrong. I like when I bring up an issue among family and friends looking for help, "Why won't my baby eat anything besides toast and avocados?" and they offer their views: "Maybe try this," or "With my baby, this really helped." I'm still learning, and I really appreciate some great advice I've been given.

However, I always struggle with unasked-for advice, especially when it does not sit well with my personality or way of parenting. I also struggle with how to tell people, "No, thank you." For example, when Little Olive was brand new and she cried, I wanted her back right away. 

And clearly, this is because I was a horribly controlling mother who had a spazz attack every time my child made the slightest fuss.

Actually no. This is how it went: the sound of her crying tightened every muscle in my body. I could feel my blood pressure rise. I couldn't relax for anything. It's not that I was overreacting - instead, a fresh, necessary, motherly instinct was kicking in right on time. The sound of a baby crying is supposed to make you anxious, because otherwise we'd let our kids cry forever. As someone who has been around babies for almost my entire life, I understood what this felt like. When babies cried at the day care, I couldn't just block it out. When my nieces or nephews cried, we carried them right to their mommies.


But when I became a parent, this reaction was a million times stronger. I didn't just need her to stop crying; I needed her to be okay
 - pronto. But people would try to do it themselves and calm her down. They'd bounce and rock and shush and sing and walk and move farther away from me. Everyone wanted to be the hero! But in my mind, they all became little villains because they were not helping the situation. 

And little did they know that the sound of my baby crying was causing a physical reaction inside me that I couldn't just announce, "Hey everyone, just so you know - my milk is letting down now!" That's right - hearing the sound of a baby crying causes a mother to have a milk letdown, which essentially means fresh milk floods into the breasts, ready to be nursed away. It can be an uncomfortable feeling, especially when the mother is already anxious. I think moms who haven't breastfed in a while, or ever, do not realize this when they're keeping a crying baby away from the mom. (Just as I forgot until reminded by a friend. Thanks, Megan!) 

And I felt like I had to pretend to be okay with the fact that my child was not calming down. I was expected to look like the well-rounded, laid back mom who would brush it off saying, "She's fine. She just nursed...she shouldn't need anything."

But I was not that kind of mom. I just didn't know how to say it. How was I to be respectful of my elders, visitors, peers, and of relatives, but still do what I feel was right as a mother? A few times I had to just take the baby away from whoever was holding her...because apparently my pounding heartbeat and polite requests couldn't be heard by those around me. I felt uncomfortable even having to do it because 1) it made me look like a b*tch, 2) I was aggravated I even had to stand up and remove the child from their arms, and 3) I know they always meant well. They never intended to keep my baby crying; they wanted her to be fine too. After she was snuggled at the breast (whether she had just eaten or not), she was fine. 

I mean no disrespect to the many women who tried to calm Little Olive down. I know they just wanted to help. After all, from their perspective, I was a brand new mom who couldn't have possibly known what I was doing. Older moms especially want to know they "still have it". They wanted to show me the ropes. But unfortunately, when a baby is crying, it's not the time to shine a spotlight on your exceptional parenting skills. It's about doing what's best for the new baby, and if that means giving the baby back to her mother, so be it. Doing that simple thing shows you respect both the new mom and the baby the way you would want to be respected. 

So I'll admit, if I let myself worry about it, I get nervous at the thought of another round of polite "Can have her back for a minute?" requests. I have a feeling I'll have to be much more forward when it comes to this issue for Bambino Two. If other people are annoyed by what I do as a mom, I'm truly sorry, but they are adults and can deal with it. As my mom always said, "They raised their children, and I'm raising mine."

Thank you in advance for your understanding. :)


Theresa said...

Oh my goodness, I empathize with this post whole-heartedly. I won't go into personal stories because there are so many, but it's so very true (with my child) that there was no replacement for mommy. <3

i.ikeda said...

Yes! Thank you! I still struggle with this constantly, one way or another.....

Created2bholy said...

I get anxious every time my girls and I, especially as little babies, are around certain family members. The "hero" description is right on and it drives me crazy. "Didn't they just nurse?" SO WHAT! Sometimes it's not because they're hungry, it's for comfort! Ah!

Colleen McSheffrey said...

I think you are a wonderful mom! oh and I wrote on you wall before reading this..I wasn't bragging. As far as eating...i think it all depends on the child. Jerry will eat anything, but his cousin Anthony is a pretty picky eater.

Of course everyone always wants to hold a little adorable baby, but newborns need thier moms! and we need them! =)

Megan said...

I can relate to this so much! You said it so well. It can be so difficult, you look like this crazy controlling, coddling mom...when really it's the best thing for you and baby to be together! The crying and she's not being given to me or whatever even makes my milk let down! Thanks for a great post maggie!

Maggie said...

Megan, I forgot about the milk letting down!! Wow, it has been a long time since I felt that! I'm actually going to edit that in - thanks for a great reminder!