Step Away from the Parenting Books, Mama. (You got this.)
Guest post: Parenting is one of the most rewarding yet difficult job I’ve ever walked into. It’s got ups and downs, pros and cons, trials and tribulations, but at the end of the day, I can look at the face of my little guy and be proud. I created life!
Two years ago, I got pregnant with my first (and to be only) child. Of course, there was the advice that came from the people we loved most in the world, our family and friends. That advice was helpful and welcomed. I had also chosen to read up on a bunch of expectant mother books and articles, all providing me with an overdose of information. I retrospect, I found the advice from my family and friends less intense and confusing than the books and articles I was reading.
Before my son’s birth, I read an article that stated that if I had a C-section, I wouldn’t be able to properly bond with my child because he wouldn’t be able to be placed on me immediately. Can you imagine telling that to someone? Can you imagine the feeling that sentence gives to a mother who needs to have a C-section? I had an emergency C-section because my child was physically unable to exit my body naturally as I wasn’t dilating. So how else is the baby going to come out?! And while it’s true that I couldn’t hold my son for twenty minutes after his birth because of the drugs in my body (I didn’t trust myself not to drop him), we bonded very well, thank you very much.
Fast forward to bringing home my son and trying to make it as a mom. I did my best to read up on every latest trend and fad about what I should be doing and how I should be parenting. But the information was conflicting. Some material was telling me to co-sleep if I want a healthy baby while others were telling me there’s a chance I’ll kill my baby if I do it. We chose not to co-sleep because we didn’t want to. To the articles that told us we are terrible parents for not doing it: my son is quite happy and healthy. We did try to get him to sleep in our bed during those desperate attempts to get him to sleep, but he never wanted to sleep with us.
When we felt it was time to sleep train, I would stay up and read through every website that gave me any information. “10 ways to get your child to sleep throughout the night”, “How to sleep train effectively”, and “The no tears method”. It was exhausting. The amount of information out there is overwhelming and conflicting. Who are these people who write these books and articles and why is everything is conflicting? We chose the cry-it-out method and again, our son is happy and healthy.
Eventually, after listening to my non-stop complaining, my mother had enough. One day I would tell her that I’m trying one thing and the next day it was another. “But the book said-” was my response. The frustration was heard in her voice when she said: “PUT DOWN THE BOOK!” It was enough. I lost my intuition and was unable to trust my gut. All the reading and experiments I was doing on my poor kid were starting to weigh on my husband, myself, and our son. The tension was there all the time. My husband and I forgot how to speak nicely to each other and my son cried all the time (or was that me?). We were switching things up trying to find our groove, forgetting that OUR groove was not in the books, but in ourselves. We just didn’t know what we were doing, like all the parents before us. No one knows how to parent! There’s no manual that comes with parenting… right? Well, that’s where you’re wrong. There are manuals that come with parenting. Thousands of “How to” and “10 ways” and “What to do when…” These books and articles are great, they really are. But we allowed them to overstep us and tell US how to parent OUR son. Every child is different and that is something you hear all the time. No one way works for two babies. What worked for one friend didn’t work for the other and that’s ok. Parents need to find their groove.
When it was time to start feeding my son solids, we of course looked up the famous “how to” and did what the articles said. I saw a doula and she reiterated what the articles said, explaining to me that I should give my child bland food so that they slowly build a tolerance and introduce spice slowly. My son hated bland food and I’m not surprised. Who wants to eat bland food? While I was pregnant and breastfeeding, I ate tons of delicious foods and now I’m giving him this crappy mush with no flavor. When we started adding spice to his food, he started eating like a superstar and that was the end of that. The books and the doula said one thing, but that way just wasn’t working.
That’s where we started listening to our son rather than the books. Our family could breathe once again. I won’t lie, I still look things up here and there, but I use the information I find as a guideline instead of something etched in stone. We’ve learned to do whatever works for us and our child. That’s the best way and he is a much happier boy. We’ve found our intuition again and have learned to trust our guts. What works for our son may not work for another baby and that’s OK. The books aren’t always right for everyone.
Remember, you’re doing great! Trust your gut and yourself.
This post is a guest post by Karen Szabo.
Karen Szabo is a part-time worker by day, toddler-mom by night, and blogger at www.theantsybutterfly.com any time in between. She’s doing her best to keep her sanity by writing about being an anxious mom. She’s a contributor for The Mighty and has written for Sunshine Spoils Milk, Sammiches & Psych Meds, and Mamapedia. Karen can be found on Twitter @AntsyButterfly and Facebook.
Photo Credit: Carol Tuttle of The Child Whisperer: www.thechildwhisperer.com