I saw it as plain as day. The new mother with the fake smile plastered on her face, as she watched someone, who was just an acquaintance of hers, but a friend of her sister’s, hold her newborn baby. Her smile growing tighter as she watched the woman let her two young sons assist her, until the sons began to hold too tight and the baby was passed back to his mother. We were at a park gathering for second son’s preschool class. The new mom is a sister of a fellow preschool mom who has four kids, and unlike her sister, she has always been a relaxed mother. If she was relaxed with with her first, you can imagine how she is with number four. The newborn’s mom, much to her sister’s chagrin, is the opposite of relaxed. From what her sister has told me, nothing has gone the way she planned, from childbirth to feeding, to having to give her child medicine for reflux. The woman is beside herself. Her sister wants her to get over it. I completely get them both.
Which is why, when I saw the other mother and her sons holding the newborn, I looked at the sister of this new mom, laughed, and said, “Is she dying right now?”
Her sister replied, “Oh, yea.”
I knew what she was thinking because I’ve been there. I was so crazy with first son. No one got their hands on him without a visit to the sink and some hand sanitizer. The year he was born there was a virulent strain of the flu going around, so I practically hid inside the house for the first few months of his life. I remember taking him to the mall, once, his stroller completely draped with a receiving blanket, as if even a glance from a sick person would kill him.
This is pretty much where he stayed for the first year of his life. It’s no wonder he didn’t nap on his own, sleep through the night, go in a pack and play, walk until he was one. Of course, that all eluded me at the time.Now I can laugh about it, but I assure you, at the time, a stranger touching or holding my son, even someone I knew, if they had the sniffles, could bring me close to tears. Kids touching first son? Absolutely out of the snotty, germy question. No one, or virus was going to mess with my man. I was not a relaxed mother. I was ready and waiting for danger at every turn.
So, I understood both the frustration of the relaxed sister with four kids and the uptight, read every baby manual sister of the newborn. This was the first time I had ever met the new mother and was not about to give her advice, even though I knew a lot of her issues from talking to her sister, the baby hardly sleeps, he cries a lot, he doesn’t want to be put down… All issues that plague the attachment parenting crowd, and readers of how to care for your baby books, everywhere. Once you have more than one child, you will come to realize that most of those books are evil, encouraging you to ignore common sense, sage advice and probably your own intuition, which is the most important tool you need as a new mother. I wanted to say to the new mom, put the baby down, let him cry a little. He’s probably exhausted, newborns need more sleep than you realize. If he’s fussy, take him outside, every day if you can, and for goodness’ sake, stop worrying about germs!
Except, like I said, I would never give unsolicited advice to her, or any new mom. And as a neurotic first time mother myself, I know she wouldn’t have listened, or been very happy to be given advice from what
I she would have perceived as some free wheeling, uneducated, throw caution to the wind, can’t mind her own business….(you get the picture), mom in the first place. Some people have to find their own way, and that’s ok, because it’s every mom’s right to treat their first born, second born, whatever, as they see fit, not as someone else sees fit. As long as a child isn’t being harmed, and no, for all you first time mothers out there, letting a baby settle themselves by crying (once they are fed and changed and provided for) is not harming a baby, then the mother has to do what she thinks is best. You know the old saying, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, well, there’s more than one way to raise a healthy, happy child, and both neurotic and laid back mothers can achieve the same goal. But take it from someone whose first son is still a crappy sleeper, but who’s third child rocks when it comes to sleeping, or adapting to any situation for that matter, it’s just easier, and much more enjoyable if you’re the latter.
But there’s another reason why I would never dispense that type of advice to a new mother, and that’s because the part of the me that was an overprotective, germaphobic crazy lady still lives inside me (and unfortunately, still rears her head from time to time). My brain is the way it is, and though I can assure you that little lady is not subjected to any of my first time mom craziness (just look at that germy kid holding her during her first few days of life), if I gave someone unsolicited advice I would be too worried that something bad would happen. Like, what if I told that mother to just put her baby to sleep on his stomach and then something happened? Or, what if I told her put her newborn in the crib from the first night on, and the child stopped breathing one night?
You see how demented I can be? It’s probably not very healthy. Which is why, just this morning, when little lady came in from outside after helping her daddy pick up lawn toys before the landscapers came (and no, they haven’t gotten to that spring clean up yet), with a badminton birdie in her mouth, and my husband started yelling, “Yucky! Get that out of your mouth!” I said, “Stop saying that, you’re going to hurt her feelings.” If that was first son, I probably would have phoned the doctor, convinced he had been poisoned by the fertilizer that he licked off the birdie. So you see, even though the brain fights back from time to time, I have changed, and little lady is thriving, but then again, so are the boys (just with a lot less sleep), because there is more than one way to skin a cat. So, to all you new moms out there, relax, even if you can’t relax, and know that babies and children are, for the most part (see, there’s my qualifier), a hardy breed. My little girl is the proof in the pudding. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself and for your child is put down the baby books, talk to a mom who has been there a few times over, and then, step away from the baby, she probably just needs to cry it out. You’ll thank me for it later.