Sometimes my daughter cries

When I was preparing for the arrival of my daughter, I read a lot.  I mean- A LOT a lot. I had waited so long to decide to have a baby that I wanted to make sure I knew as much as I could about the prevailing logic of having, feeding, caring for and parenting a child according to the experts. Boy are there a lot of “experts”.

The tenderhearted, “never want to scar my child”, uncertain part of me was immediately drawn to breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, nurse to soothe, and NEVER let her cry it out.

I’ve written before about how the breastfeeding thing went for us. As you would expect from the reasonable place of not currently being pregnant, I can see that to expect a textbook experience was naive and set myself up for a world of stress and unnecessary self-abuse.

I quickly learned that my daughter is very fiercely her own person with her own ideas, preferences and opinions- even at only a few weeks old- that weigh on our every decision as a parent/child team in the adventure of her growing up.

Olivia started having disrupted sleep from my hubby’s snoring or my own restless sleeping. So at four months, we moved her to her crib in her own room and all of a sudden she started sleeping 11 or  12 hour stretches overnight. On the flip side, she still doesn’t sleep for more than 15-20 mins through the day unless I hold her or lay down beside her. If I try to leave, she snuggles her little bum against me as  try to roll away, looking for the comfort of my presence to find sleep again.

Baby wearing went by the wayside when I realized my daughter is A FURNACE and she gets very fussy when she gets too warm pressed against me in a harness or wrap. She prefers the stroller, and so does my back!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, she has decided- months ahead of my schedule- that she would begin to self-wean. So nurse to soothe led to cuddle to soothe, rock to soothe, or simply redirect her…. OR EVEN LET HER CRY! Many of the blogs I had read before she was born, asserted that a crying baby needs or wants something and that crying is the only way she would be able to ask, so I should always respond to the tears; try to find the clue that would lead to me solving her problems and ending the crying… I took it as my personal mission to make sure she never had to ask for relief in vain.

The more I get to know my daughter, and the better able I am to understand what it is she is asking for, the more I understand that sometimes she is just done. Overwhelmed. Tired. Annoyed. Hungry. Angry or just plain old fussy. There are some things I can do for her, but it is inevitable that there are some times when all I can do is ride it out with her; try to help her process her feelings and let her know she is loved and supported. Sometimes she is going to cry because crying is exactly what she needs to do in that moment. And that’s okay. There are times when I need a good cry and no amount of hugging, cuddling, shushing or anything else will solve that. I just need to cry it out.

I had myself in a dither of over analysis  about myself as a mother and her long-term mental health prospects until I came to this powerful and freeing conclusion. Who says tears are always bad? Who says crying will harm her self esteem or sense of trust in me? The same folks who said she would be better in my bed until she chose to leave it at 3,4, 5 years old? The people who said I needed to breastfeed exclusively for at least 12 months? Or the the experts who said a baby worn all day would develop more interest in her environment, more alert attention to faces and new things? My daughter is a person too. She is fully half of this relationship. Who she is, what she wants and how she needs to express herself are her rights. Even when what she really wants is a good cry.

 

Finding time and making time

I don’t remember what I thought being on maternity leave was going  to be like.

I think somewhere in the back of my a mind I imagined that there would be this…nothingness. No getting up for work in the morning, no hectic rush to get ready and get out the door in time to sit powerlessly in traffic as yet another accident froze the bridge absolutely still.

I vaguely remember images floating through my pregnant brain of me sitting in front of windows, in rocking chairs more often than not, with a sleeping baby drowsing in my arms or a steaming cup of coffee curled in my hands while my little one slept peacefully somewhere in the background.

However I pictured its specific details I always had a sense of TIME. Time to wake; time to eat; time to dress and times to play, cuddle, rest, walk, visit, read or even go out with my fiancé for supper… what actually being on maternity leave has taught me is that all of these things seem to happen at once most days. There is more chaotic overlap of life than I was prepared for. Hours blur by in a blink of diapers, cleaning and laughing. Minutes drag in an agony of fussiness, colic, and waiting for daddy to get home.

Always one to like to be prepared, I have found ways to get the basics of our days accomplished- I put out cereal and cutlery the night before; I line bottles up in the fridge and lay out packets of purée for lunch consumption. I scramble eggs the night before and lay out tomorrow’s clothes on the rocking chair. I’ve even begun to shave my legs and wash my hair before bed to save precious moments in the brief windows between naps and outings. I’m starting to feel like we have a “system” , my daughter and I.

Every now and again a little voice whispers in my ear that I need to find time for me things – reading, writing, studying, meditating, curling up with hubby and watching a movie. This is when I’m really put to the test. Making my pre baby interests a priority again. I actually have to put blogging and reading in my planner some days just to remind myself that I matter too. There are times when I am just too tired to carve out those minutes for myself. It is just easier to grab a snack, load up a show and check out on the couch until bedtime. Then there are nights like tonight where I can’t silence that voice until I breathe and make the time to remember who I was before my daughter was born, before this incredible new layer of my life was added. I am always gladdened and refreshed when I do.

So mamas, I get it. Days and weeks blur by and you get it all done. The early mornings, the feedings, the laundry and dishes and vacuuming and napping and moms groups and even the occasional date night… but don’t silence that little voice calling for you to feed your soul and feed your passions. She is you. She is the powerful well of love and energy from which you draw so much for your babies and your family. Remember to draw some to refresh yourself.