Ellis was a very happy baby, but looking back, he wasn’t an easy baby. Or more accurately, I wasn’t an easy parent with our first.
Our second go round is so much different. And sure our baby is different, but mostly I have changed.
I gave up. And I am so much better for it.
I struggled against everything with Ellis.
Was he nursing the right way? No.
Let’s see lactation consultants and read books on the “womanly art of nursing” and cry about it for good measure.
Was he eating enough? No.
Let’s consult a nutritionist and try to make tastier homemade baby food. Let’s course correct and try baby-led weaning and let’s lose sleep worrying that he isn’t gaining weight or inches in the correct proportion.
Did he have a good nap schedule? No.
Let’s let napping rule our day. The baby is sleeping. Don’t move. Don’t. Wake. The. Baby.
Were we creating a good sleeper? No.
Buy some more books about sleeping (and here is a tip, if I need to read a book about creating good sleep habits, I am obviously too sleep deprived for a 200 page method—can someone just make a sleep pamphlet already?).
A million more questions like these plagued me with my first kid. There was no going with the flow, because I had no idea which way the flow was going. So we fretted and saw specialists and we read millions of baby books and we made sleep plans and kept food diaries. We barely “solved” one problem before moving on to the next.
And that is the trouble with the worry train. There was no destination you could count on arriving at. There was just an endless loop of anxiety and the only way out was to get off the train completely.
And in the end (three years later) Ellis grew and slept and it all turned out fine. But I am pretty sure it ended up ok in spite of all our swirling around him, not because of it.
So with Calvin we just gave up. We stopped struggling against all of the things we should do for our baby. And we stopped worrying about it. Does my 6 month old sleep through the night? No. Am I worried about it? Nope. Does he still sleep in our bed and nurse every 90 minutes. Yes. Is it working for us? Yes. Is it crazy that it is working for us? Maybe.
But this time I know that it won’t last forever, so I don’t feel compelled to force the issue. By sleep deprivation alone I should be miserable, but I am not. Because I am not stressing about his “poor sleep patterns” or a “suitable food introduction schedule” I am happier all around. Stress begets stress. It has a way of seeping in and spilling over, so even though it is hard to not sleep well at night it isn’t stressful because I am not letting it worry me, which makes coping with the lack of sleep infinitely easier. Turns out it was the worry, not the restlessness that did the most damage.
I used to live or die by nap. And as a stay-at-home mom, if I couldn’t get my kid to nap wasn’t I failing at one of my basic assignments for the day? I used to think so, and since I really needed the break (to work, because I was also a part-time work-from-home parent when my eldest was little) I would sometimes take two hours to put Ellis down for a one-hour nap. It wasn’t worth it. The struggle overtook our day and I found my self-worth hinged on this arbitrary measure of mothering the “right way.”
So I waved the white flag and surrendered to the mystery of mothering well and decided to let things happen instead of trying to make them happen. I can’t tell you how many minutes and hours of my day I bought back with that simple decision. It is amazing how much giving up on worrying just feels like peace, and also inspires more confidence. Without letting worry be my main feeling, I have the space to feel other things, like joy and contentment, which turn out to be much more rewarding feelings.
Right now my toddler is happily shoveling sand into recycling containers during what should be his naptime, because although he gave it a go a nap just wasn’t going to happen today. And my six month old is feeding puffs to the dog (because that is the only mouth that cooperates with his limited motor skills) and I am happily seizing the moment to write this all down amidst a cluttered table in a kitchen that could use a good cleaning.
Admittedly, it looks a little like chaos now, but chaos never felt so good.