On Thursday, I had to make a tough decision. It will probably sound lame to those non-parents out there but you’ll understand someday (being a parent now, I’m allowed to say condescending stuff like that). On Wednesday, I had another night of waking-up at every hour and I had reached my breaking point. It was either his tummy or him wanting to eat. The gripe water seems to keep him from squealing but it hasn’t stopped him from grunting while pooping and it’s loud enough to keep me up. Sleep deprivation is powerful, people.
While sharing my strife with a more experienced mom, she nodded and told me what she had done when she was in my situation. Apparently, she had gone for weeks getting very little sleep each night. Her midwife explained the importance of getting at least one 3-hour stretch of sleep in each night. Three hours is what it takes for us adults to go through a regular sleep cycle or else we start to go postal. She finally decided to pump a bottle of milk so that her husband could take on a feeding and get her some much needed sleep. When she told me this, I realized that I needed to make a tough call. Was I going to continue getting one or two-hour chunks of sleep each night, hence becoming crazy? Or should I consider pumping a bottle and letting Caleb relieve me of my feeding duty once a night? The answer seems obvious right? Sure it does… Because you’re not a hormonal train-wreck with a vicious stubborn streak.
The thought of giving Luca a bottle this early made me cry. I love breastfeeding him and I know it’s super beneficial for him so the thought of “the bottle” entering his world was scary to me. Like somehow I was failing to give him the best. (Even the stupid breast pump comes with a pamphlet that’s titled “Breast is Best!” Worst marketing ever.) When I talked about it with Caleb, he got really excited. He thought it would be fun to feed the little guy. That was cute but I still felt unsure about handing over my coveted duty. How childish am I? Caleb saying he thought it would be fun just made me want to hold onto it even more… Wow. Anyway, then I started remembering how crazy I would start to feel around 4 am when I had been waking up every hour. I was also starting to get delusional during the day. Every moment was surreal, like, is this really happening? Did I just say something? I was starting to go off the deep end. There was a moment one day when my dog wouldn’t stop barking and out of pure frustration I almost hit him. Thank goodness I didn’t actually hit him, but just the thought of it scared me. That’s when I knew a change needed to happen.
It’s amazing how different parenthood is when you’re actually in it. I had so many ideas of what it would be like and let me tell you, this isn’t it really. I guess I had imagined myself being all, well mySELF, while having a cute kid hanging around. I didn’t realize that becoming a mom takes your SELF, throws it in a blender with some humility and then bakes it. I’m not really sure who I am right now.
What I do know is that I have chosen what my value will be as a mom. This is a total therapist thing to say I know. Before we had Luca, we decided that our main value was going to be relationship. We want our son to see us as a resource for him as he journeys through life. For a one month old, pretty much the only resource he needs is one who feeds him, comforts him, and keeps him safe. Us providing these needs sets the stage for him to see us as people he can turn to. It creates within him a sense of worthiness to be cared for. Ultimately, it will also set him up for a healthy relationship with God because he will be open to the idea of a loving and reliable father. (Welcome to a crash course in Attachment Theory.) So, when it came to the decision about giving Luca a bottle, I worried that I was personally failing to give him a main need. Then of course, my husband, aka The Voice of Reason, reminded me that a crazy mother is not good. Maybe he just really wanted to feed Luca. I’m not sure, but it worked. What he was saying is true. When I look at our underlying value, I can’t say that I’d be a good resource to Luca if I’m crazy and beating our dog. Hence, why I decided to pump that bottle.
Parenthood has made me realize that I will make decisions that I didn’t think I would. Damn, I was arrogant before. I really thought I would do things a certain way because that’s “what the experts say” is best. I’m learning now that NO expert knows YOUR specific situation. They don’t know your family and your values. I was hanging out with a mom the other day who practices Attachment Parenting to the ‘t’, but you know what? She’s considering spanking her toddler. You know why? Because she’s IN it. She’s in real motherhood, no longer abiding by a theory. I’ll admit, I did cringe when she admitted this to me, but I have no judgement for her. I get how being in the real trenches of motherhood forces you to re-evaluate your parenting plan.
I’m so thankful that we decided what our value would be in raising Luca. It makes it easier to make decisions while we’re in the heat of battle with our heads spinning. Like when I decided to give him a pacifier, another decision I didn’t think I’d make, it was because I learned that babies have a high need to suck. It’s comforting for them. For a while we tried just giving him our pinky fingers to suck on because, according to our value, this was a way of being a resource to him. However, trying to change the diaper of a screaming newborn while giving him your pinky is not realistic. I need two hands to change my kid, especially when I’m also dodging his little pee rocket. So were we really being a resource to him when he was being changed? He hated being changed and that’s when he needed comfort the most. So, we gave him a pacifier to have during the times when we couldn’t give him a pinky. That my friends, is being a resource. Booyah. Sorry, I guess I’m a little proud of myself. Remember how I mentioned the stubbornness? Well, I feel some of that wearing away and I think that’s a good thing. I’m allowing myself to be flexible, to roll with the punches, and to just accept that I’m doing the best I can. This is a big deal for me. So, even though motherhood is disorienting, it’s also grounding because its forcing me to focus on what’s really important.
I should mention that while I’ve only made it to church once since Luca has been born and I don’t read my Bible daily anymore, I still feel close to God. He has been my strength through this and I am so thankful for the gift of prayer. It’s interesting that God is being the very resource that I long to be for my kid. God doesn’t require perfect behavior from me but He does want relationship with me. Pretty rad when you think about it. My hope is that Luca sees us as parents who will always be there for him no matter what he has done. Maybe someday this will help to give him a taste of the same love that God has shown me. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out. For now, I’m going to do the best I can and have no judgment towards other moms who are just doing the same darn thing.