Monday, September 24, 2007

Finding My Mommy Groove

When Emma was first born, I had a hard time. The first two weeks, everything seemed to come pretty naturally. After all, she just ate, slept, and pooped. But once other elements started coming into play -- how often to feed her, thrush, nursing troubles, and lots of opinions -- I started to stress out. I had NO idea what kind of mother I wanted (or needed) to be.

Do I feed on demand? Do I let her cry it out? Do I try these sleep "patterns" I read about in books? How long should her naps be? Do I trust the nagging instincts about her tummy, or am I overreacting? Allergies -- do they exist in infants? Does she have reflux, or am I imagining it? And how about vaccinations? Are they causing huge problems like autism, or are they protecting my baby from getting really sick?

And then I did the worst thing I could have done. I read a million books, asked a million questions of people, and googled until I could no longer google. In other words, I overloaded myself with information...none of which gave me any sort of answers. Just more questions. And more doubts.

I felt guilty for not being 100 percent sold on "attachment parenting," yet I didn't want to let Emma cry it out either. I wanted to trust my doctor, who told me to space out her feedings no matter how much she indicated she was hungry, but I ended up getting sick to my stomach every two hours, when I KNEW she was hungry. Was I a horrible mom for giving her a pacifier? Should I stop nursing when she clearly isn't enjoying it and I'm wasting away on a very strict diet, or do I stick it out because someone tells me "it's the best thing for her?"

Every time I turned around, it was a new question, a new research finding, a new opinion on what "good" mommies do. Quite frankly, I was pretty darn lost. I was confused. At times, scared. Why didn't I just "know" like every other mom who seemed to naturally take care of their child? Why was I so insecure? Honestly, I would say I felt like this for the first year of Emma's life. That didn't make Mommyland very fun most of the time.

But as I prepare for this new child, I am so thankful for all of those questions and doubts. They made me search hard and deep about the kind of mom Emma needed, and even more so, the kind of mom I wanted to be for all of my children.

The largest lesson I have learned is that kids are not "one size fits all" and that each one requires special attention based on who they are. I also learned to trust those good old "mommy instincts" Jenny McCarthy talked about on Oprah the other day.

Emma was not a cuddly baby. At all. She loved her crib at 2 weeks, and NEVER wanted to be swaddled. She liked her space, and still does to this day, so babywearing probably wasn't the best option for her. And I definitely knew co-sleeping wasn't for her either, but I also learned it wasn't for me. Jeff and I enjoy our bed, and we cherish the small amount of alone time it gives us.

I also decided that I do not want my baby to cry it out. First of all, it went against every instinct I had in me. If my baby cries, I want to hold her, comfort her. Emma was so active, that she really just needed a longer soothing period to fall asleep. Some may have thought I spoiled her -- and still do -- but I know my baby, and I know what works.

I also really believe in schedules. I like schedules because of my personality, but I also learned it works for Emma too. Am I too strict? Maybe, but that's my Mommy style, and I can honestly say I'm okay with it. Emma doesn't skip naps EVER, and I work around her. To me, that's what I am supposed to do. Before I know it, naps will be gone, and my baby will be in school. I can handle staying at home for a few hours so she gets her much-needed rest. To me, that is more important than any errand.

I hate junk food. Emma doesn't get it. She gets all-natural most of the time, and sugar is avoided unless it is in fruit or once in a while, a milk-free cookie. Some may think I am somehow horrible for not giving her chips or fried food for pure enjoyment, but why in the world would I give her something that I know isn't good for her? Sure, it's hard and takes more work (and money), but it's worth it to me. Her allergy issues only make it that much more important.

TV is avoided at all costs, but I don't think it is "evil" either. Emma gets about 20-30 minutes a day (at most), and once in a while, a family movie at night if all 3 of us are home together. As long as it teaches her something, I can deal with a little bit every day.

Outside time is very important to our daily routine and so is physical activity. Unless she is sick or it is raining, we always find time to run around or at least go for a walk. Fresh air goes a long way!

Discipline is a must. I try to avoid "no" and give "creative directions," but hitting or other aggressive behavior gets a time-out on the naughty chair. Emma knows right from wrong, and she knows when she's been "naughty." When her time is up, we talk about it, and she usually tells me what she's done wrong before I can. She says she's sorry, we hug, and it's over. Until the next time of course! Either way, she needs consequences, and I am sticking to it. I'm not perfect -- I do yell more than I'd like -- but I am avoiding spanking for as long as I can. Emma is very physical, and I think it would only add to the problem instead of solve it.

I have learned to ignore the non-spoken, but obvious opinions others have about the way Jeff and I raise Emma. Before, it literally drove me crazy to think someone might think I was doing something "wrong" or that I was catering to her too much. But now, I can officially say I found my "mommy groove" with Emma, and that gives me so much peace. What's even better is that Jeff and I are in total agreement.

Of course, God -- in His awesome sense of humor -- is now giving me another child, which will probably throw all of this out of the window. Which is exactly why I wanted it down on "paper." I am curious to see how much my style changes as I juggle two very different kids.

I do want to say that I am still open to new things. Hoping for more cuddles this time, I plan to try out babywearing with this baby. Maybe not all the time, but much more often. I think it will be good bonding, but also more practical as I try to get stuff done. I also intend to try my hardest to nurse for at least a year (Emma was only 6 months), provided we don't have major stomach issues.

The real question is will I get lax on some of these issues, or will I stick to my guns? I am interested to see. But either way, I can confidently say I am excited about this new Mommyland adventure.

I figure that if God thinks I can handle another child, then I can. I just pray that I can have more fun and less worrying this time around.

Stay tuned... :)


Jen said...

Good for you Lisa! It is hard to figure out what kind of mom you are and what kind of mom is needed for your kid.

As a mom of 4 (gasp!) one tip. Don't think of changing as going "lax" on some issues. Things change. Kids change. Grown ups change. Life changes. Change with it. If Baby #2 is scarfing french fries at 18 months, not bad. Just different. :-) As I believe Jana once said, "It all comes out in the wash!"

And BTW, ain't you just the cutest pregger EVER!

Mama C-ta said...

There is no doubt you can handle two (and more!). I can also honestly say I can't see you getting lax, sure some of your ideas and plans may change but I know you, they won't change b/c you're getting lazy they will change because you decided it's best and it's working.

One thing, of many, I always admired about you is how you don't back down from what feels right to you.

I have a good friend who is probably one of the more AP people I know, with her first kid. Then along came #2 who screamed unless she was in a crib, did not want anything to do with slings, endless nursing strikes but was more than happy with a bottle. It was going against everything my friend "stood for" but that is what makes good parents good parents, adjusting to what works best for our kids, each individual kid. They always show us the way!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I can sense here that you are going to do just fine. Another child in the mix does change things up, but you already have a wonderful foundation and balance- you're going to love what awaits you!!


Life With All Boys said...

We all have our "groove" and what works for one doesn't work for another. But we are all moms, and that is what should unite us.

Carol said...

Well said! Love how you overcame the feeling of being "wrong". It's not about right vs wrong or good vs bad. It's about what is good for you, your family, your baby. Thank you God for your revelations to us! And life with all boys... Amen!

Glass Half Full said...

And you will realize this more after Baby B comes along. I thought Mark would just fall into place like Matt did, but he came with his own challenges and even some easiness.

You set patterns you want. Make rules you feel is right. Set boundaries that are necessary. The rest will fall into place.

Steph and I were just talking about reading too much. Two words: mommy's instincts




This was a great post. Very inspiring. I'm all for what works for each individual. I read and read and researched too. Sometimes too much info interferes with what you know is right inside.And with what God is trying to tell us. I may just copy and save this as a reminder when my next one is born. Amen sister!

one hot momma said...

grace, my friend, grace...

Jennie said...

Aww, well now you went and made me cry! I really need to take your last paragraph to heart.

Wonderful post and it sounds like you're doing a fantastic job with Emma. She's a lucky girl to have such a special Mom and this new baby will be too.

All the different theories and baby books drove me a little nuts too. Rose was very "high need" that first year, so I'm hoping for an easier time around with the new baby. We'll see. :P

Hey and I'm impressed that Emma never skips naps. Rose is actually napping right now - but it's been very hit and miss lately. Which is hard when she's been waking up at 6.30 - 7am and then doesn't nap and I'm worn out with pregnancy.

I look forward to hearing how things go with your new baby. Hope the babywearing and nursing work out for you. I got a sling when Rose was about 3 months old and it worked well when we were out & about. Got a new sling for the new baby, so here's hoping that he likes it!

Take care.