I wrote this back in February of this year, when O and I were still new to each other and I was still kind of a mess. I never published it, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was all still too raw. Too close. I was angry with books and bloggers for not being honest about what living with a baby is actually like.
I re-read it today. It's almost 8 months later and boy are we both in a different place! A better place. We have routine. We have a schedule! But more importantly, when we get off schedule, when we need to switch things up, we can. O will sleep at night. I will sleep at night. It's not as panic-inducing as it was during those first months. We've hit a rhythm. A stride. (I'm not cocky, it's just true right now. We're in between bouts of teething, though, so it's just a period of calm before another storm.)
Anyway. I decided to post this after all. It's where I was, and maybe some of you have been there or are there, too. Like I said, we're not there anymore. It got better. It will get better, friends!
February 10, 2015
I read lots of books about caring for babies while I was pregnant. At least two. (Lots!) I read a lot of blogs, too. (Blogs count. Kind of.) The general consensus from the literature AND from lots of parents I talked to was to get your kid on a schedule as early as you can, as best you can. Feed/play/sleep. Feed/play/sleep. Breastfed babies will want/need to eat about every 2-3 hours, formula-fed babies every 3-4 hours. Simple!
Something all the literature tends to exclude is just how not simple this actually is. Well, that's not entirely true. Authors/bloggers admit that schedules & routines must be flexible, as all babies are unique and their needs vary, often from day to day. If your baby wakes up and is hungry before his first scheduled feeding of the day, early in the morning, just feed him a little and then put him back down to sleep. Oh, just a little food? Because he can understand the concept of "you're only getting a couple of ounces right now because you're going to get a full feeding after you go back to sleep for another hour"?
And he can just go back to sleep?
It is not helpful, when you're not sure how to get the kid to fall asleep, to be told "just put him back down to sleep." Oh! Just put him back down? Why didn't I think to do that? Silly me! Just put him back down to sleep! Books are so helpful.
Rather than drive myself crazy trying to get O to adhere to a rigid routine of "wake up, eat, stay away for a little bit, then take a nap on a 3-4 hour schedule" (3-4 because he's formula fed), I'm learning to learn his routine instead.
You see, I'm a great scheduler. I love itineraries and routines! I don't so much enjoy being on a strict routine every day myself - I appreciate the freedom to do what I want/need to do or feel like doing at the time. But, I do love calendars and planners and making schedules. Unfortunately, O does not seem to care.
This has presented a perhaps stupidly unforeseen challenge for me.
I made training schedules for getting back into shape after childbirth, with race dates on the calendar and daily/weekly workouts starting promptly 6 weeks after the Birth Day. Pre-baby me said, "This will be great!" Post-baby me says, "Awe. That's adorable... But, no." Pre-baby me made feeding schedules for the kiddo as he grew. Post-baby me hasn't looked at a schedule once. Not once. Pre-baby me thought I would be the one implementing order and routine...
Post-baby me is learning every day that life is so much better when I just let the kid be the kid. Now, yes, someday I will need to be more hands-on with a schedule. It's not like I'm all willy-nilly about it now, though. We have routines. We have nighttime rituals and morning patterns.
For example, when O wakes up in the morning, anytime between 5-8am, he's going to be awake for a good 3-4 hours. He might want to eat again in 2-3 hours and then stay awake for another hour or so, or he might fall asleep (thank the Lord). And when he does fall asleep for his mid-morning nap, it's in the living room in his swing by the fire while listening to NPR. I've given up trying to put him down 45-60 minutes after his first feeding back in his room in his crib. He just won't have it. He's a daytime swing napper, I guess. And he's not an every-4-hours formula feeder, either. This kid is a good eater. (A true Allhiser - hurry up and eat so we can eat again!) So even though books tell you to feed every 3-4 hours, this kid clusters his feedings. Books be damned! He's just happier this way.
This took me awhile to learn. Now that I've figured it out and have officially blogged about it he will change and the routine will need to adjust. I will need to adjust.
The great thing about baby books is that they can give you a basic foundation from which to work. The thing those books can't do is get specific about the kind of life you and your baby are going to create together.
When I try too hard to impose my schedule or my ideas or my plans on O, on our day, I go crazy. My heart rate elevates. I start talking in crazy fast run-on sentences that drive my husband nuts. I freak out if something changes and I can't figure out why.
When I relax and resign myself to the fact that I'm not in control anymore things tend to run much more smoothly. The more I let go and give in to O's way of life, the more I love it. I mean, I don't enjoy everything. I get frustrated. A lot. But I do love it.
Oy. Just reading this made my stomach churn a little. Those first few months were HARD. So, so hard. I felt so much panic. So much desperation. But now, it's AMAZING.
Oh, it's still hard. But the difficulties are different. And you know what? Babies get awesome as they get older. Things really do calm down... for awhile at least. Calm and storm. Calm and storm. Calm.