My first pregnancy came pretty late because I spend half of my life chasing my dream of educating myself and settling with a steady income. We were ready for that baby and we read baby books, attended new mom classes, read every single leaflet the doctor handed me month after month, kept a pregnancy journal, painted the nursery with safe paint and the list goes on. Then arrived the day that he was ready to show up and I thought I was ready.
Then he arrived!! With mom and my very supportive husband right by my side, I came home with that new bundle of joy, except hubby figured changing diaper is not a job he really like to take over, despite his own promises he made that he would be the only one in the house who changes the baby any time he is home – that lasted about two days – pretty soon he got to “I’ll wash baby’s clothes but please can you change that dirty diaper?” And then came all those ‘firsts’ – the first smile, first time held my tiny finger, first doctor’s appointment. A week goes by and I was following everything as the books told me, take naps when baby sleeps, eat and drink enough water and feed the baby – only to find out that I was constantly tired and sad most of the time.
Here’s the bad news ladies, nothing actually goes according to the book. How is it that while other mothers talk about a baby that sleep for four, five hours at night and mine seems to be wide awake all night long? Was my baby sick? Should I take him to the doctor? Why is he not sleeping? Did I feed him long enough? Is my baby getting dehydrated? Was the house too cold? Was the house too hot? Was I experiencing post-partum depression? How will I ever go back to work with this baby? Millions of questions…
Then I found an old book from the library about how to put the baby on a schedule. I have read about baby schedules, I knew both pros and cons, but none actually told me how to do it. Some books supported the idea of going on a pre-written plan and some are against the idea of telling baby to do what you want him to do – let the baby lead the way – both sides are right.
From my own experience I can assure you that it is infect a good thing to get yourself and your baby on a schedule soon no matter how you go about doing it. A routine for everything make life so much easier. You know what to wake up to. You know what the first thing you’ll do and so will your baby, he will catch up very quickly. Find your balance – I would like to share with you how I found mine. You do not have to force-feed a two month old if he doesn’t seem to be hungry. Your baby will still lead the way. Always think about the baby first, not your comfort, but ultimately it was you who decide.
Wait a second, who said giving up myself and my self-care to take care of my new born baby is good for my baby? I took all the advice but went with my own gut feelings and followed this very old book. For the first couple days, my own mother complained that I am a mean mother and not picking up my baby the moment I hear the faintest cry. I wasn’t constantly holding him or feeding him. I wasn’t letting him use me for a comfort pillow or pacifier. I set a schedule, I woke up early, followed the clock to the point and fed and washed the baby according to this schedule. When it is time to feed the baby, I got myself ready for the ride, I made sure to follow every advice my midwife has given about how to feed my baby right, find a peaceful but bright place to help him eat without falling asleep half full. My focus was completely on feeding this baby. I did the same with washing and putting him to sleep. I worked around the clock. In less than a week, I was getting thing done around the house because I planned my day accordingly and the baby was happy. Of course I had to ask the rest of the family members to help me here.
Remember Instant gratification does no good to nobody. Today we are raising a generation of kids with instant gratification. They do not understand what it is like to wait three days for a mail to arrive, three days if you are lucky. It is ok to let the baby cry for a minute to see if can soothe himself back to sleep without your help. I promise you, when I first heard this from my pediatrician – remember I was a first time mom, I would do anything to make my baby happy – I was not very happy about that plan either. Trust me, I did let my baby cry for a little bit while I stayed close by. You won’t have to be this “mean mom” too long. Babies are great at learning what you teach them. After all, your baby will be walking and talking soon, where do you think they learned that from?
What are the benefits? Whether you are a working mother or not, your baby will be cared by many people at times of need. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, day care providers and teachers, remember it takes a village to raise a kid. If you only think of the baby’s comfort and be there constantly to help him in every small sound he makes, think of your ‘village’. Are they going to be able to care for him for couple hours? Remember you are the only one who ‘knows’ what your baby wants. No one else can figure it out and you can’t leave the baby to go take a peaceful shower let alone going back to work full time.
No wonder most new mothers feel like they are over worked, underpaid, comfort pillows. No wonder new moms end up feeling depressed even though we are supposed to be enjoying this little bundle of joy we just created. When my first son was born, I took a deep breath and looked at him. The feeling that he did not exist before this, the feeling that he just came out and now he has a name, a birthday, a family – all we created for him – that was a scary feeling at first. Enjoy this creation. You can be overly depressed while surrounded by many people – a high functioning depression and only you can avoid it.
Going back to work:
My first baby stayed home with my mom for one year before he hit the day care. My second stayed home with a sitter for two years and the third went to day care when he was six weeks old!!! All my three are different from each other. With all three, I went back to work after six weeks maternity leave!! It was great to be back at work – sense of purpose can do wonders to a new mom. Had I not made an executive decision to put him on a schedule, all our lives would have been a complete mess trying to figure out what he needs and trying to read his different types of ‘baby cry clues’. When I went back to work, my mom, my sitter and my day care provider all had a clear idea when and how he will sleep and what to do to get him to calm down. Things did go wrong of course, sometimes things don’t work out exactly according to your plan. But for the most part, we were all happy knowing the schedule and clearly written instructions.
Did I think I was going to put him on a schedule? Not at all. While pregnant if you asked me if I would let the baby cry for five minutes because he was hungry, I would have told you to don’t bother coming around me again. Look at me now, I had a six week old baby in day care, who survived only with my own breast milk, in freezer milk pouches, who I knew exactly how much milk he would need and when he would eat that. I would pump and freeze milk for the baby and did it on my schedule to my milk did not dry up. I love all three of my boys more than anything in the world, but I can sure tell you, a happy mom means happy kids, not the other way around.
So, ladies, whether you are a new mom, planning to be a mom or already on your third trimester, take care of yourself first, while keeping the baby’s needs a priority. I still advice new moms to read a lot of pregnancy books, subscribe to a monthly parenting magazine, don’t stick with just one, read as much as you can and learn what is out there. Pregnancy is a great time to catch up on all that reading. Learn from experts but ultimately, do what feels right for you.
Get out of the house often – with and without baby – just for a half an hour.
My son was just three weeks old. I was surrounded by people, visitors that came to see bay, my mother and hubby who were mostly home with me. Yet, I felt like I was stuck in the house. Remember, I used to be a world traveler and I used to get out of the house and go wherever I want to go whenever I want to go, I was an independent young woman with a stable income and a driver’s license. Now suddenly I am home, stuck without being able to get out of the house. It was scary to go out, it was very new to me, what if he gets hungry, what if he needs to be changed – I had million questions in my mind. I thought I prepared myself for this, I knew it will be different, but it was extremely harder than I expected. It was the three week mark, I had to get out of the house, I took my son to the shopping mall an hour away when he was just twenty days old. I stayed clear of too crowded times and places, I found the department stores that had the best women’s room with a designated area for new mothers, I invested in disposable mats to lay my baby down when I need to change him. It was a good break for all of us, including my hubby and mom, we all enjoyed spending little time among other adults. We took him on a fourteen-hour, five-day road trip to the Niagara Falls, we even rode the Maid of the Mist, just before he reached seven month milestone. My third son flew across the country when he was just two months old. I was a traveler already before the baby was born and I didn’t change my whole life for the baby, I wanted him to be a part of me, part of who I am.
Today my boys travel around the world at just ten years old. Schedules and routines made all our lives very manageable. More about traveling with the new born in my next article.
Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women – as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.