We all have this image of what kind of parents we will be before we have kids. Me? I was sure that I’d be a hard ass. My baby would be well trained (can you tell I’m a dog person?) and I would be strict about what was and wasn’t allowed from the very beginning. They’d learn quick. If my baby cried all the time I would let him or her cry it out to teach them to self soothe.
And then I actually became a mom and somehow, without me noticing, everything I thought I would be completely changed. I don’t know if the way Atlas came into world (insane birth story here) changed the way I parent. Maybe if he had arrived a full term, healthy, bouncy baby surrounded with love and smiles I would be a different kind of mother. Maybe his birth made me softer than I would have been because we could have lost him, but I’m nowhere near the strict mom I thought I would be. When my baby cries, I pick him up. No matter how many times my elders told me it was good to let him cry, when he cries, I come to his rescue.
There’s so much controversy about whether letting a baby cry is right or wrong. I haven’t read much about it to be honest so I can’t tell you anything scientific. That’s another thing, I thought I’d be the mom who read all the books, but I’ve become the mom who just does what feels natural. Some people say it’s the only way to get your baby to sleep when they won’t that you shouldn’t “spoil” your baby by holding them too much. On the flip side some people say it’s abuse. Me? I say you should do what feels right and natural. And for me it feels wrong.
Since when is wanting affection, to be held or given love a bad thing? I shouldn’t spoil him by comforting him when he’s upset? I’m his mother. Seriously? I don’t anticipate him crying at the age of 15 for his mommy to come and pick him up or snuggle him so what’s the big deal if I spend a few years “spoiling” him with my attention when he feels scared or upset so deeply, so intensely that he’s gasping for air between sobs?
I read something early on, maybe a couple weeks after we came home from the hospital, and it was something I can’t for the life of me remember, but totally put it into perspective for me. It was like a lightbulb went on. No, I take that back. It was more like I got socked in the stomach at the thought of ever making my child feel lonely or abandoned or unloved. Imagine crying hysterically, truly upset, distraught, and having the one person who could easily make everything better choose to ignore you. That’s not something I can do to my son. My own heart breaks imagining his little heart breaking when I could so easily make him feel safe and loved. I’m his mother. That’s my job.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been days when I’m on the edge of a cliff about to jump and I need to take a couple minutes to step back and regain my sanity. Those days I will put him somewhere safe and walk away for a few minutes to gather myself. I vividly remember one day it took long enough to fix my truly awful mood that he fell asleep crying and my stomach still sinks thinking about it. But to purposefully leave him to cry when I could simply go hold him? Screw that.
But what about sleep? How do we get him to sleep? We have this state of mind and it’s pretty simple:
When we became parents we realized our sleeping days were over. And we accept it. Not happily, not easily, but we accept it. And we choose to ride it out, move through this time, and remind ourselves that these days aren’t forever.
There have been nights when we have been able to sleep through the night.
There have been way more nights when we’ve woken up 5 or even 10 times to soothe him.
There have been nights when we’re up for hours and hours with a baby who just won’t sleep.
There have been nights when we are too exhausted to keep getting up and let him in our bed.
There have been nights where sleeping with us does absolutely nothing.
There have been all kinds of nights, most of them exhausting, but these nights aren’t going to last forever.
I spent the first several days of my sons life unable to hold him or even touch him with my bare hands. I spent the first four months of my sons life only able to hold him under supervision in a NICU with dozens of people around. If he cried in the middle of the night I wasn’t there to hold him. So if he wants me to hold him, I’ll hold him. I know what it feels like to not be able to so I’ll do my best to savor every wonderful, tiring, frustrating, exhausting moment of it.
Love, snuggle, embrace your babies when they want you. There’s nothing wrong with a baby wanting the loving embrace of his parents and one day, when he no longer wants you, you might wish he did.
P.S. This post isn’t to make anyone feel bad or to say that I’m right or know it all. Maybe if my baby cried more it would be a different story, who knows! Parenting is full of sensitive topics and I know this is one of them. Like I said above, do what feels right and natural for you and your family.