I am feeling so grateful for all the wonderful inspirational mommies in my life. Things are so difficult in my mommy-baby bubble at the moment and watching, reading and hearing about how all of you manage yourselves and your kids through the tough times is what is getting me by – so thank you @casseytoi @andi_v1 @theclam @laurakim123 @MrsStick @shafz @ShazRich7 @yourbabymag @CindyAlfino @nabster1412 @anitaboxoza @zayaan27 @nikki_viola @nikkilincoln and offline mommies Tamsyn Fowler, Tessa Nel, Maria Oosthuizen, Claire Balchin and brand new mommy, who is just such an amazing support even when dealing with a newborn, Lèan Taylor.
I have come to a lot of realisations over the past 2 weeks; about my daughter and myself and about my beliefs on raising her. It seems I’ve stumbled onto a philosophy of sorts because of, and sometimes, in spite of the varied advice I’ve been given lately.
First to the realisations about my daughter.
Charly, my beautiful Charlotte Rose, is growing and changing so quickly now. Every day seems to bring another smashed milestone. She has said gaga, dada, mama and lala, though not consistently as yet. She waves in two different ways – with her wrist like the queen and by curling her fingers; she has also added the two arm waving to her dance routine which includes head shaking and jumping. She is trying to clap, well she is clapping with her hands curled; she hasn’t figured out how to open her hands to get the sound yet, but she claps when she is excited, when certain songs play or sometimes just sitting in her ball pit.
You can see the expressions change on her face as she puzzles through new things, you can watch as her mind actively works through potential solutions. She can get right across a room through rolling and “strategic falling” as Brett calls it. She is still rocking back and forth in the crawling position and she can crawl backwards; she has also added pushing herself onto her feet to try to get more momentum, currently this results in face planting with a lot of tears, only to be repeated within minutes again.
She went from only being able to move backwards in her walking ring to moving a couple of steps forward, to moving fluidly forward, to being able to manoeuvre herself enough to come find us in the kitchen and chase the cats, to running forward yesterday.
She loves to turn the lights on and off if you hold her anywhere near a light switch. She only likes to eat if she can feed herself and her favourite thing to eat is whole broccoli florets and the stems. She gives me lovely sloppy open mouth kisses; sometimes she’ll let daddy or granny kiss her, but mostly kisses are reserved for me and she will dive onto me to give them to me. These are only a few of the amazing things she does, and some of the reasons that I remain besotted with her and feel blessed to be a mom in spite of the next bit.
And so we get to the other realisations about Charly. She does not self soothe; she wakes up throughout the night and will only go back to sleep if I hold her or (IF it’s been 3 hours) breastfeed her (I hear the rumbling of comments and advice already, keep reading – there are realisations about myself and my parenting philosophy coming still). She doesn’t like many solids – she actively shakes her head, forces her lips closed so tightly you can’t get a spoon in, hits food away, throws it across the room and shouts angrily at you while waving her arms in the air; so no, it isn’t because she isn’t used to them. She will eat though, if sufficiently distracted while being fed, which I do with nursery rhymes on the TV (yes, I hear the gasping and the tutting). The only reason I’m actively feeding her with a spoon is because my pediatrician guilted me so hard I considered recusing myself as a mother when I told her Charly hadn’t taken to solids yet, other than feeding herself random foods I was introducing to her. I was told I was over-breastfeeding her and this is why she is “overweight” and not interested in solids. Charly eating fact – if she doesn’t like the texture of something she will projectile vomit everywhere; this includes anything that might stick to her palate or feel too slimy. This is not just regular gagging, she gags on regular whole foods which I know is healthy and good learning for her, and we don’t panic (often) and she figures it out. Textures are different. But it’s not a general tactile issue because she loves feeling different textures on her skin and with her hands and has no issues with being touched or held. She is also a baby that really struggles with teething. She has been actively teething for just short of 4 months. The teeth literally begin to cut and then retreat again – yes, I am sure and yes, it is possible – doctor confirmed facts. And it sucks. Badly. It makes her unhappy and upsets her tummy and keeps waking her at night as she pummels her mouth. (Your kid only teethed for a few days? You are lucky. Although this isn’t the norm it isn’t that unusual either). So in summation – my baby girl is incredible but she is also a bad sleeper, eater and teether.
Realisations about me & the resulting philosophies…
I have huge respect for doctors, and lawyers and accountants, basically specialists of any kind; and I trust them to know more than I do on their specialised subject. It is nearly impossible for me to believe that they are wrong about things they are meant to be expert in; but I can get there for my child. I read the latest research and I believe my experts should too; so I am actively looking for a new pediatrician who does and who supports breastfeeding past 6 months. I need a doctor for my child who knows that I am an above averagely intelligent person who gets all the facts before making decisions and although I am open to further learning, I won’t ignore current scientific data for experience based on out of date facts.
I believe breastfeeding is the best thing for my child and I turn into one of those crazy people when there are implications that I should actively wean my daughter for any reason. I believe that breast milk should be her main source of nutrition until she is a year old because it is perfectly balanced just for her, with solid foods playing a supporting role. I believe that solids are very important as a source of additional iron and vitamins, but that otherwise they should be used to introduce your child to textures and flavours and to teach children to move things around their mouths which will help with speech etc at some future date – in other words “food for fun until they are one” (cringe and duck the flying opinions and objects being hurled at me). I am loosely following something along the lines of Baby Led Weaning, with some supplementing of Purity meals (from the jar!) to ensure she’s getting the value of additional protein and fruits. My baby is more or less demand fed and I won’t consider force weaning my child until she is one – not at night, not in the day.
I do not believe in letting my child cry herself to sleep – let me repeat that more clearly:
I. DO. NOT. BELIEVE. IN. LETTING. MY. CHILD. CRY. HERSELF. TO. SLEEP.
This will not change because I am tired. And trust me, I haven’t slept more than 4 hours and 50 minutes since she was born; that’s 8 months of sleep deprivation for someone who averaged 12 hours a night before getting pregnant. I am broken tired. There are days I feel like my body cannot go on. But it does, and I get on with it, because my child is beautiful and happy and thriving. She has complete faith in me, that I will always be there for her and I don’t ever want that to change. I won’t risk her trust, not even if the likelihood is a million to one. I will continue to try to introduce self soothing objects as I have been doing all along, I will continue to try to pat her back to sleep without picking her up in the night; but I won’t move her to her room and ignore her screams to “teach her a lesson” and that is what it feels like to me. I will always soothe my daughter when she is crying for me, I will feed her to sleep at night, I will cuddle her when she wakes from a nightmare or when she just wants her mommy; even if I don’t get to sleep through the night. I believe she will sleep when she’s ready, when she is a little bigger, and she’ll do so knowing that if she wakes, I will ALWAYS be there. And when she does, I will probably miss the way she needs me now.
Oh, and I don’t believe TV is the devil. I don’t believe that putting animated nursery rhymes on while my child eats is going to cause her undue harm. I don’t use it to entertain her all day so I can do other things. She is spoken with and sung to and danced with and played with and encouraged to play alone and she spends time on the floor and in her ball pool and on her play mat and goes for walks outside and has other baby visitors and spends time in her walking ring (also not the devil) and in her jolly jumper (again, not the devil) and I read to her every single day from real books made of paper and cardboard.
These are MY feelings. I STILL don’t judge other people for doing anything differently; for not being able to or not wanting to breastfeed, for forcibly weaning your baby, for feeding your babies only homemade, mashed foods, for sleep training your babies, for having your babies sleep in their own room, for not letting your child watch TV till they’re 2, for never letting them try a walking ring or a jolly jumper, for not taking your sick kids to the doctor and not believing in giving them antibiotics. For making the decisions that are right for your babies and you and your family.
And I won’t judge you when I see you online ranting, crying or begging for understanding when things go wrong, because every one of us has days where everything goes wrong. At some point your baby won’t eat or sleep or won’t stop crying or you will feel like every decision you have made was wrong and you are the worst mommy that ever was and the guilt will come in waves and seemingly overwhelm you. And on those days I hope you do come online and share those feelings with all of us, because I won’t judge you – I will reach out across the internet with a huge virtual hug and remind you that you are the PERFECT mommy for your babies and that every decision you have made was the exact right choice for them and you. And unless you ask for advice, you won’t get any from me; and if you did ask and I do give, I hope you know it is still just my opinion and that I am only a first time mommy trying to find my way and hoping my experiences are helping you find yours.
I will still vent and cry that I am beyond tired, that my baby won’t sleep, that teething IS the devil, that she won’t eat anything but broccoli florets and the smoothest of Purity; I will still want other mommies to say “I hear you”, “you’re doing fine”, and MOST importantly – “it will get better”. Because these are things that deep down I know even on the bad days when believing in anything feels impossible. I will still, to a degree, listen to the advice when I have solicited it and even on occasion when I haven’t, and I will appreciate that you are sharing the things that have worked for you; but I won’t necessarily use that advice if it goes against what I believe.
What it all boils down to is – being a mommy is HARD and every single one of us is doing everything we can to be the very best at it while juggling jobs, spouses, families, friends and a huge variety of other things. Being a mom changes everything about you, even in my case core beliefs and innumerable things I thought I knew. I never thought I would be so fiercely pro-breastfeeding (even if it is just in my own case) or that I could choose no sleep over letting my child cry even for the briefest of times. I still doubt myself and my choices daily, but somewhere inside me certain things resonate and are becoming “mommy instincts”. My baby girl is growing (far too quickly) into an independent, contented, smiley, friendly, scarily smart little human, so evidently I’m doing something right.