I have no wisdom actually, I’m just a new mom muddling through the days and nights…but there a few things I’ve learned lately or things that I try to remind myself when I’m trying to cling to a little island of sanity. Some of these little things have become mantras, muttered through tears or clenched teeth or with a sigh, just to help me get through the moment.
1. Crying is the only way that babies can communicate their needs. Sure, that little red face with furrowed brow looks pretty angry and if my husband spoke to me in that tone, I’d take it personally and have some choice words for him. Sometimes I have to take a step back from the crying (oh, the ear-piercing shrieks and breathless sobs can rip your heart out of your chest) and remind myself simply, “She needs something. I’ll just try to figure out what it is. And if I can’t figure it out…”
2. This too shall pass — everything passes, everything is just a phase. I am the first one to jump down the rabbit hole of thinking that this is it, she’ll never stop crying (waking up every 2 hours, refusing her bottle, refusing the breast, etc). But with babies EVERYTHING is a phase. You WILL sleep again, and so will your baby. I constantly remind myself that everyone in my freshman college class was potty trained, no longer slept in their parents’ beds, and didn’t scream for an hour every night before bed. So somehow, everything passes and works itself out eventually. It has to, right?
3. Cavemen did this. / Stupider people than me have done this successfully. All this baby stuff is incredibly overwhelming. First of all, you’re just trying to keep another human alive, who is completely dependent on you for EVERYTHING. That should be enough. But no, on top of that, there are dozens of “right” ways to do it, and if you do it the “wrong” way the wheels fall off and your baby will become hyperactive/sleep-deprived/psychopathic/bad at math/a Republican. There are dozens of theories and everyone has advice or admonishments for you, and even if you wanted to read a complicated book and how to do this you wouldn’t have time or you’d fall asleep by the end of the first paragraph. It’s so easy to question everything you do: should we wake baby up? Should we turn off the TV? Is her diaper too tight? Do I sing to her enough? It will drive you CRAZY. But stop and look around. Babies are somehow getting raised to adulthood all over the world. And have been for thousands of years. Neanderthals did it in caves with no electricity, running water, or iPads, and saber-toothed tigers knocking on their doors (did caves have doors? Hrm). So you too, can do this. With nearly everything challenging I’ve been faced with in life, I remind myself: Stupider people than me have done this.
4. Whatever works right now, for our family, is what works. Or as I recently heard, every mother does it differently and every mother does it right. Stop questioning and judging yourself. If somehow you your baby to sleep by playing GWAR, chanting in pig latin and dancing in a sequined leotard, its okay. It worked, end of story. It might not work tomorrow, or even later today, but it worked and that’s what works for you right now. Just go with it.
5. Begin as you wish to continue. This has been harder for me to follow in these early infant days, but it’s something I keep trying to remember and I’ve tried to apply to other areas of my life.