Thursday, 20 June 2013

Four Things I Would Do Differently If I Had Another Baby

At this point, the concept of having another baby is pretty much unfathomable to me, so I'm passing on these ideas in the hope that someone else will benefit from them.

1. I wouldn't obsess over breastfeeding. This is a tricky one for me. In a previous post, Why I'm Still Nursing, I described my struggles with trying to get my firstborn to nurse, even though nobody was happy about it. With my second, I swore I wouldn't get hung up on breastfeeding...then proceeded to do just that when she arrived. Fortunately, it worked out—but if it hadn't, it would have been a huge blow to my self-confidence. Even though she was exclusively breastfed, I worried constantly that she wasn't getting enough or that I wasn't "doing it right." 

I realize now that all of that guilt and anxiety was self-imposed. With another baby, I would really try to be relaxed about feedings. If nursing worked out, great! If not, pass the formula! And even if it did, I would probably do some bottle feeding to cut down on the exhaustion that comes with being the only food source. That was a rude awakening (literally) for me the second time around.

2. I would sleep when the baby sleeps. For real. I did a better job of this with my second baby—we took lots of lovely naps together. But for those of us who are A-type personalities, it's difficult to let go of the idea that when the baby is sleeping, we need to be doing something. I should clean up the kitchen! Check my email! Do my banking! During those early sleep-deprived months, I should have just slept when the baby slept. All of the time.

3. I would be less afraid of making changes. One of my shortcomings as a parent is that when something works, I don't want to mess with it. For example: with my second, I kept her swaddled for sleep well past the point when it was useful, simply because she was a good sleeper and I was afraid to ruin it. But when I eventually bit the bullet and unswaddled her, it was no big deal. In fact, I secretly suspect she was thinking, Finally! Thank god she's letting me out of that straitjacket! Other mothers I've talked to say the same thing: they get themselves all worked up about a change in habits or routine, but ultimately, it's harder for them than for their babies. Babies are adaptable; mommies are less so.

4. I would be more confident in my mothering abilities—and I'd cut myself some slack. Here's the thing about parenting: there's no manual, no training. You can talk to people and watch videos and read books, but the truth is, nothing can prepare you for what it's going to be like. You're learning on the job, continually making decisions that directly affect the health and well-being of your child. The weight of that responsibility can seem scary...but I've come to realize that few decisions are irrevocable. Don't want to nurse in the middle of the night? Give the kid a bottle! Got your toddler into a bedtime routine that's not working for you? Change it! Aside from the obvious (e.g., don't let your toddler play with electrical sockets), most of those decisions won't matter long-term, anyway. Besides, I remember my mom telling me that she had Poison Control on speed-dial when I was a toddler—and she was a wonderful mother. So how can I possibly expect that I'll do everything perfectly?

That last one is important, because I'm still learning every day. Sometimes I'll get it right; sometimes, I'll wish I'd done something different. 

But when it comes to my beautiful, smart, amazing children, I wouldn't change a thing.

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