The first week of Hazel’s life, in 1000 words:
During my pregnancy I joked about the fact that I couldn’t remember anything about how to care for a newborn. As it turns out, I seriously don’t remember anything about how to care for a newborn. I feel just as clueless as I did with Moses, although I’m certainly less anxious about my cluelessness this time around. Some things are slowly coming back to me as the days go by – I keep having “Oh, YEAH!” moments, like, Oh, YEAH: I’d forgotten I was really bad at catching spew (throw me a phone, on the other hand…). I don’t think this is completely my fault; although Hazel is sweet and precious and not at all sinister, she does seem to wait until the one moment I’m looking away to aim a spew in the direction she’s figured out will hit the highest number of garments as it cascades floor-ward. Every time. Moses was exactly the same. I remember that, now.
(And, though I know she’s not really out to get me, I can spend half an hour trying to wake her up because she needs to eat, eat, eat and put on some weight – cooing at her and unwrapping her and covering her face with kisses and tickling her and putting her over my shoulder and holding her out again and passing her to others and stroking her cheek and waving her arms around like a conductor – and she’ll sleep through the whole thing. So I put her in bed, because that usually wakes her up almost straight away, but she remains dead to the world. So I go finish filling out the necessary forms to let the government know we’ve just had a baby and I check Facebook and I read an article and then I decide that if she’s sleeping, I should sleep too, so I wash my face and brush my teeth and change into my PJs and set up the pillows and water for night feeds and then I climb into bed, I stretch, I get myself comfy, I think, I plan, I reflect and pray, and then finally, I let myself relax and I release a long and exhausted [silent] sigh as I close my eyes.
And then she wakes up.)
And oh, YEAH: People think it’s okay to tell you how to parent when you have a newborn, even when it’s your second child (they don’t know I’ve forgotten everything). I certainly hadn’t remembered this.
You know what advice drives me the most crazy? Variations of, “You know, if you pick her up when she cries now, you’ll have an 18-month-old who won’t sleep through the night!”, with the implication that if your child doesn’t sleep through the night at 18 months (it’s always 18 months), your child will NEVER SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT EVER and you’ll be dozing in 2-hour blocks until the kid moves out in approximately 20 years’ time. To avoid this inevitable outcome, it seems you should leave your 2-week-old to cry and not rush to check on her when she grumbles and never – I repeat never – let her fall asleep on you, so that she learns early that a full night’s sleep is the most important thing in the world to you and you therefore won’t stand for her needy shenanigans.
It’s bollocks. I suspected it was bollocks even before I’d experimented on Moses (by doing everything “wrong”) and confirmed that it was, in fact, bollocks. My experiments aside, it seems illogical to say that the sleep patterns you set up in the early days last for all time, but when it comes to feeding, babies can continually adapt to new patterns over their first 18 months. I’m fairly confident Hazel won’t still be needing gallons of breast milk per day when she’s 18 months old; I weaned Moses at that age. AND, if lifetime patterns are being set up now, I’m totally okay with my baby learning early that she’s at the top of my priority list, and that I’ll always do my best to show up when she needs me. THAT won’t change over the next 18 months/20 years/ever. So here’s my advice to advice-givers: Back up what you say with statistics and studies rather than simply telling me to do things the way you chose to, or, better yet, hold your tongue.
And oh, YEAH: I’m extremely grumpy when sleep-deprived.