“Yes they do, Kim. That’s pretty much all people say,” Deena responds dryly.
They’re talking about motherhood here.
After accidentally getting pregnant, Kim’s carefree life is suddenly hit with the mother of all life-changing tsunamis — motherhood. As she tries to juggle her role as a single working mom, she desperately attempts to cling on to some shred of her former bar-hopping life. While Kim is an entirely unlikable character, with some minor editing, I do agree with her aforementioned sentiment.
Pre-baby, nobody ever explained to me just how difficult motherhood was. But, there's a very good reason for that. Fact is, it's a job that is almost impossible to describe accurately. It’s sort of like the ‘you had to be there’ of inside jokes. You literally have to go there before you can really understand.
The best I can come up with is this: Imagine being very, very tired but having to climb uphill everyday (sometimes all day) while hauling around a backpack that keeps getting heavier and heavier and can squirm like crazy and make really loud noises. It's like that but far more exhausting.
OK, but here’s the thing: Motherhood is also the most memorable and adored stage of my life to date. Still, if I knew then (AKA, pre-baby) what I know now, then my bone-tired, food-splattered, messy-haired existence wouldn’t have come as such a shocker.
With that in mind, I decided to ask around and see what lessons, warnings and tidbits of wisdom other mamas have discovered on their parenthood journeys so far. From getting baby on a routine and potty training to meddlesome strangers and showering your baby with hugs and kisses, here's what they had to say:
“Never say ‘I will never do that’ — you know, use formula, disposable diapers, stay home with the kids or not, use a kid leash or a monster stroller. It will bite you in the ass! Try not to judge other parents: Being a parent is rewarding but can be difficult and you never know what is going on in somebody's life. Also, try not to judge yourself too harshly. Try to really enjoy your time unplugged with your kids. Turn off the TV, video, computer and phone and be in the moment with them. Listen to what they are saying. Ask them about their friends and their day.” — Mariana, mom of a boy, 5, and girl, 3
“Something I'd share with new parents: Everything is a phase so don't get too worked up about things, just go with the flow and savour the precious moments because every few months or so, things change and babies start doing something new. I realized this while getting groceries one day and saw a newborn. They only stay that way for such a short time. It seems like forever when you are going through it but gosh, they grow so quickly. I also learned a phrase early on for twin moms: When the going gets rough: ‘this two shall pass.’” — Amy, mom of twin baby boys
“Nobody warns you about the hell that is potty training.” — Judith, mom of a toddler and a baby, both girls
“Be flexible about time, but have a consistent routine. Baby should know the order things happen in — for us that's eat, play, wind down, bed. We do the exact same wind down whether it’s a nap or bedtime, with variations to books, songs and what she sleeps in to indicate that it’s time to go to sleep for the night. Timing might change based on what's happening or how they sleep. Nothing you plan to do is more important than their sleep, so be prepared to reschedule. Two other things I wished I'd thought about: Make noise when you feed baby so that you can do this whenever, wherever. I used it as silent bonding time and now we can't have any noise when she breastfeeds. And leave baby with strangers early and often or else you'll have major problems getting them to let you get away for a massage, gym session or just to get out.” — Alix, mom of a baby girl
“Many people — including the old lady on the bus who never had kids and the middle-aged man with a hate-on for women — will have some piece of unwanted advice to give you. Trust your own instincts. Watch out for in-laws and your own parents: They most likely will change once the baby is born. Also, give up trying to be supermom right now. We all need a helping hand. Don't be afraid to pass on duties to dad, and when family members visit, put them to work. And, most importantly, smother your baby with love, kisses, hugs and cuddles. You can never do this too much. One day before you know it, they've found their feet and are squirming out of your arms to take on life's next challenge.” — Sophie, mom of a baby boy
The Baby Whisperer — such a calming and reassuring title, isn’t?
It’s just one of a large stack of books (among them What to Expect in the First Year, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and the famous tome by Dr. William Sears, The Baby Book) all promising to fix whatever parenting conundrum you’ve stumbled upon.
For many, that conundrum often involves the question, how do I get baby to sleep?
It’s a subject tirelessly researched by overtired parents.
Of all the books in this hugely saturated market, none popped up in conversation quite as frequently as The Baby Whisperer (written by Tracy Hogg) when our crib-resistant son was born eight months ago.
The subtitle says it all, really: Solves All Your Problems (By Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions).
Yes, all your problems.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Desperate, sleep-deprived and lugging around under-eye baggage so dark, raccoons could’ve easily mistaken me as one of their own, I dove straight into The Baby Whisperer’s deep pool of promises and took a mental sigh of relief.
Soon all of my troubles would vanish. Looking back, it’s easy to see how foolish this was.
Thing is, our baby slept just fine — as long as I carried him. If I put him in his crib during the day or attempted to transfer him after he’d fallen asleep, he screamed like he’d been set on fire.
Where he craved constant closeness, I craved alone time.
In need of a solution, the E.A.S.Y program — which stands for eat, activity, sleep and you time — held great hope. Sadly, E.A.S.Y proved to be painstakingly hard.
Often, I would just finish changing his diaper when he’d have another bowel movement and I’d have to start all over again. Sometimes he’d need a scrub in the tub, getting us even further behind schedule. And he wanted to nurse around the clock, which is how his nickname became velcro.
When it was time to swaddle him for a nap, he’d wiggle free leaving me to repair his handiwork.
“At this point, it might take baby “15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep,” proclaims The Baby Whisperer.
Now does this mean baby will shriek for 15 to 20 minutes? I wondered. In any case, 15 minutes turned into 20, then 30 and so on, and all the while he was making Janet Leigh’s famous scream in the 1960 film Psycho sound like child’s play.
For a month solid, I stubbornly tried to get our baby to fit into this popular, one-size-fits-all mold. It wasn’t working: I was in tears and so was he.
Finally, we shifted gears. If he wanted to be held, I held him. During yoga, I placed him in a peanut shell carrier or the Baby Bjorn. I made meals this way, washed dishes and visited with friends all while toting him around. Maybe it was body warmth or perhaps he found the sound of my heartbeat soothing but, whatever it was, it was magic.
If he wanted to nurse for short stints or long ones or at weird times, that’s what he got.
Instead of following someone else’s solutions for a baby they’d never met, I allowed him to tell me what he needed. And do you know what we got in return? Arguably one of the happiest babies on the block.
He has since grown into a confident, playful, good-natured and giggly little being.
Oh, and he now takes long, peaceful naps in his crib and is longer referred to as velcro.
Looking back on my mommy-hood beginnings, I think, what a waste of bloody time.
I wish I would’ve taken a deep breath, trusted my instincts (and, more importantly, our baby’s) and learned to ride the unpredictable waves.
For those trying to unlock the mysterious inner workings of your baby, sure, gain all the knowledge you can, but sometimes the best education will simply come from observing the strange new creature in your life.
After all, whether you realize it yet or not, all the authors in the world don’t know what you do — your baby.
Yes mama, you are the expert.
So be kind to yourself, carve your own path and go ahead and be your very own unique, loving, creative and impossibly magical baby whisperer.
It’s 1:30 in the morning and I am awake doing what new parents do best — worry.
The baby has just let out a blood-curdling cry and fallen back to sleep.
Me? Well, I am not so lucky.
When his cry comes sounding through the baby monitor, it’s like getting zapped with a frightening blast of electricity.
So, I am awake.
Like really, really awake.
Tossing, turning and tossing some more.
And it’s at this otherwise peaceful hour that the haunting begins.
Truly what better time for those tucked away fears to rise from the depths of the subconscious mind to torture the hell out of a parent?
Of course the first thing I worry about is whether our baby is breathing.
Maybe that desperate cry was the only one he could muster because he’s stuck face down in the mattress unable to get air — a somewhat ridiculous notion as the SIDS monitor is sitting right beside me tick-tock ‘n’ away. Clearly the kid is breathing.
This of course doesn’t stop me from going into his room so I can see his chest rising and falling firsthand.
I'd love to tell you that this doesn’t happen often but I am an atrocious liar.
Surely we all have nights like these, non? You know, the ones when we reach down into the bottomless pit of parenthood fears, yank out a bunch and spend several hours grinding away at them like pit bulls on a bone, non?
Speaking of pit bulls, they scare the crap out of me. Sure, go ahead and tell me that the gentlest dog you ever knew was a pit bull but it won’t change a thing.
Given this fear, it only makes sense to plot a survival plan should one ever threaten our baby. Oh don’t worry, in this imagined scenario we escape unscathed by blasting our frothy-mouthed attacker with a hit of bear spray.
See, the thing is, even if your baby isn’t ruining your sleep, there’s a good chance your anxiety is.
Perhaps you can relate to the sampling below of nagging nighttime worries? Of course you can. You're a parent, after all, and naturally an unhealthy amount of stress comes with the job.
Baby has been sleeping a really long time. Something must be wrong. Better wake him up to check.
Is he eating enough? Eating too much? Are his nutritional needs covered or is he lacking protein, iron and essential vitamins? And if so, how would I know?
What about choking? Would I remember my infant CPR training if it happened? What if he’s in the care of someone else at the time? Then what?
Is baby happy? Are we good parents? Or are we messing up big time? Will we be responsible for life-long therapy sessions?
What if our children grow up to become people we don’t like very much? It happens sometimes. After all, criminal masterminds, evil dictators and Ann Coulter all have moms and dads. Shudder to think.
What if they get bullied? Is it OK to go rangy on some little turd’s head? Are we expected to behave like grown-ups when the person we love more than life itself is being treated badly?
And what about their beautiful hearts? They’re so open and trusting, what if their tender hearts get broken? Or they turn cynical? The very thought is heartbreaking.
Oh, and let’s not forget baby kisses. Seriously, what is better than planting kisses on baby’s squishy cheeks, tiny nose and irresistible feet? But a day will come when they won’t want our kisses or — gasp — even our hugs! I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
What if in the frantic pace of parenting it all goes by too quickly and our precious memories get lost in the shuffle?
Then there’s their health — the most important thing of all. Please, please, please keep baby healthy. We’d give up anything — kidneys, livers and hearts if we could — for these small beings to flourish.
On that note, what about germs? How much germ exposure is good anyway?
Oh, and don’t get me started on pesticides, environmental contaminants, natural disasters, man-made threats, cellphone, TV and Internet exposure, drowning, house fires, airplane crashes, highway pileups, poisonous snake bites and the constant question, ‘is that poop normal?’ Was bringing a baby into this world a selfish thing to do?
And so it begins: A lifetime of fretting and sleepless nights. It is now 4:44 a.m. and I’ve exhausted myself senseless and I am wondering why the human brain doesn’t come with an off switch. I must sleep but before I do, I should check in on our little crumpet one last time … you know, just in case.