Like many others, when I was pregnant, I received a myriad of advice. I was told to breastfeed. I was told not to breastfeed because it was too hard. I was told to co-sleep. I was told to NEVER co-sleep. I was told to put Aisley on a tight strict schedule. I was told to not put her on a schedule at all. I was told to never give rice cereal, and I was also told to mix rice in bottles starting at a couple weeks old. Car seats are of utmost importance, but our generation made it through with seats that were much less safe. Put her to sleep however you can. But don't rock her to sleep. Or nurse her to sleep. Or give her a pacifier. Give her a pacifier so she'll be happy. Vaccinate. Don't ever vaccinate. Vaccinate sometimes.
What's a first time mom supposed to do? Before Aisley was born, I thought I had decided what kind of mom I was going to be. I'd trudged my way through all the decisions and made them one by one, because everyone had told me that I needed to know what to do. No one told me it was okay to wait. But then I came out of the hospital with a sick baby.
Aisley has severe reflux, and for the longest time, we didn't know. The "schedule" I planned on putting her on became doing anything at any time to make her stop crying. Instead of waiting 4 weeks to introduce a pacifier, we made it about 24 hours. I had to rub my nipples with flavored vitamin drops just to get her to eat. And she was still tiny. I let her sleep ON my boob. If she went to bed in her Pack N Play, great. If not, I just brought her into bed with me. We started out vaccinating and quickly realized that there's something in the vaccines that my daughter just CANNOT tolerate. Every time I went back on a decision that I had previously made, I wanted to cry. Even with everyone's conflicting advice, everyone had told me to make my decisions and stick to them.
Why couldn't anyone have come up to me and said "Relax. Everything will be okay. Your baby will trust you to know what's best for her. You'll know her better than anyone and what SHE needs will just come naturally."? Why? Everyone knows babies are far from cookie-cutter. They each come with their own little bodies and big personalities.
My daughter is 4.5 months old, and I've just had the epiphany that I'm doing OK. When Aisley was 3 months old we started her on reflux medication. I'm truly happy that I did anything to keep her happy before we knew. I'm glad I comforted her through the pain. I'm glad I never let her cry it out or kept her on a schedule instead of cuddling her when she was choking and sputtering. And now? I still do the same things, but with a MUCH happier baby. I take cues from her as to how she's feeling, and she takes my guidance. She doesn't have a "nap time" but I know that she'll get tired and rub her eyes sometime mid-morning, and she knows I'll give her a pacifier and rock her to sleep at my desk. We both know she'll sleep alone in her swing in the afternoon, whether it be for 2 hours or 45 minutes. She trusts me to not let her cry it out, and I know she isn't capable of falling asleep alone. We both know that she'll happily sleep alone until 4 am, at which point she might stay in my bed, or she might go back to her own. I know that some nights she'll sleep 7 hours straight, and some only 2, but she rarely wakes without needing me, and I won't deny her that. And most importantly, we both know it's not always like this. She knows at the first sign of a growth spurt or a fever, I'll let her be clingy. I'll let her be a baby. Because soon a day will come where she doesn't WANT me to cuddle her.
So new moms and soon-to-be new moms, I want to tell you all what no one told me. You can't make a plan and expect to follow it. You can't expect something to work for your baby because it did for someone else's. And while all of us moms think we're being helpful with our advice, a lot of it will be useless for you and your baby. When you hold your baby, you will know them. You will love them. And you will have enough insight from all that advice to know which things your baby will like. That's all that matters.
Everyone wants to know what its like being a first time mom. Third trimester preggos cling to the advice of "what you learned" as a first time mom. Honestly, I've learned next to nothing about being a first time mom. All I've learned is how to by the best mother to MY baby.
Ignoring all the advice, ignoring my own decisions, and trusting my baby has led me here:
A not-so-skinny baby who I know is happy, well-fed, and when she looks up at me, I know she loves me and trusts me to do what's best for her.