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.