Before I entered the world of parenthood I was blissfully unaware of the stark truths that lay behind the parenting door. I believed (as parents want you to) that parents know what they are doing. Perhaps they have a strong passion or inclination toward a particular form of parenting, but generally (I believed) natural instinct kicks in and we follow those to produce a happy well-rounded little person. So confident was I about this, that when my Husband asked me when I was 5 months pregnant “after we have the baby, what’s the plan?”, I laughed in his face. What a ridiculous question I thought! Isn’t it obvious?! We simply raise said baby… Yes, that is the plan.
What I’ve learned thus far (almost 8 months in), is that ‘plans’ and ‘children’ do not mix. The reality of this hit me first during labour. In the weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth I was advised to create a ‘birthing plan’. I carefully took my time over this, trying not to be too specific so that I wouldn’t be shocked when those ‘plans’ didn’t quite happen. Well, I may as well have used that plan to mop up my waters, it would have been more useful. The only person that looked at that plan was my Husband for about 30 seconds before it became apparent that this ‘plan’ wasn’t ever going to materialise. Goodbye low lighting, goodbye classical music, hello about 20 odd people up my bloody chuff! I’m only glad I didn’t laminate the thing, so it could mock my pre-birth naivety.
Upon bringing my little bundle of tiny fresh baby home I realised that I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing. So focussed was I on pushing her out that I hadn’t really considered ‘what next’. The natural instinct wasn’t quite at its strongest following labour, childbirth and a whole 11 hours post birth of wide awake and feeding baby. What became really apparent to me and my Husband at this point was that we were basically making it up as we went along. How often should she feed? Does she need a bath? Is she supposed to be able to lift her head like that?! Why the hell is she pooping black stuff??? We didn’t know, we were too tired to read about it, and all knowledge we had previously had slipped away in a sleep deprived oblivion. And so it began, the parenting experiment!
The experimentation is an ongoing joy, and covers pretty much all babying areas:-
- Crying – Yeah, babies do this a lot! All you can do is try out various different things in the hope that one of them stops said baby from crying. Clean nappy, check. Not too hot/cold, check. Full up, check. Being cuddled, check. That’s the basic checks done, let me tell you this, sometimes those things can all be accounted for and your baby will still cry. Sorry.
- Sleep – Things that may guide your baby to sleep may include some,all or none of the following; feeding, rocking, pacing, singing, putting them down, picking them up, going out in the car/sling/pushchair, allowing naps, preventing naps, music, white noise, silence. Through much desperate experimentation we discovered Lady Gaga (see previous post), and after she hit 4 months we learned that she actually would nap, but only if we put her down. Phew.
- Feeding – Do you breastfeed? Can you breastfeed? Can baby? Is formula the best way for you? Or combination feeding? Would a formula feed make your baby sleep longer at night (for us not a chance in hell)? Would a dream feed bring you a more peaceful night? How much, how often, who best to do it…? More recently we’ve had the joys of weaning too, though this is more openly a big experiment it has still caused stress in other ways and prompted previous rants!
The more I talk to other parents about this the more I realise that it is all just one big experiment. None of us know what the frig we’re doing! NO ONE EVER HAS! Parental knowledge is a ruse, an illusion, a hoax! Sure you can read a book, seek advice, but even the application of these to your own child, in your own setting is one massive experiment, and all too often a failed one. That’s why there are so many books out there and so much unsolicited advice!
So here I am, still at the beginning of my parenting journey and the experiments have only just began. I have decided to just embrace this venture, perhaps if I ever have another I will have some kind of clue what the hell is happening (unlikely). I shall willingly accept that just giving something a go to ‘see what happens’ is OK, it’s more than OK, it’s what we’re all bloody doing anyway.