I had so many lofty ambitions before I became a mother.
No, I’m not referring to those of the career elk. I had many preconceived ideas of what kind of MOTHER I would be.
Only the best, of course. The sensible, yet loving, caring, yet not indulgent, wise parent, who does not what’s merely best for her child, but also best for her and her husband.
HAH! I was quickly relieved of the illusions harboured of being the earthy, BabyWise trained parent-directed feeding type mother (as opposed to attachment parenting type, or Cry It Out Ferber type or Gina Ford type – see? can’t say I didn’t read up extensively before the event).
Faced with a wailing baby, and deer-in-the-headlights reaction on whether to persist with breastfeeding or to (ooh forbid the word!) SUPPLEMENT with formula on Day 4, I soon slid down the path of no return. The path of “whatever works, baby!” (pun not intended).
Much as I tried to cling to my principles, there was soon no right or wrong, good or bad method, especially in the midst of prisoner-of-war levels of sleep deprivation.
Simple rule-of-thumb. WHATEVER WORKS. Without deviating too much into the dark side (e.g. feeding baby alcohol), I’d do whatever it took to calm baby down, to make baby feed well, to make baby sleep just that teeny weeny minute more. Do NOT underestimate the power of an extra minute of nap time (for mummy).
Before I became a mother, I scoffed at those who weakly (or so I thought, dear me) allowed the baby to join the marriage bed. They should sleep separately! Of course! How disastrous to slide down the slope of co-sleeping intentionally. Of course the baby would never want to sleep in his own bed thereafter!
Some mothers held their glowing dream babies in their arms as they smugly extolled the total doability of Training a Gina Ford baby. See? Little miss perfect here fell in step with a perfect sleep routine within the first week. You have to train them from the hospital bed, they say knowingly, waggling their self-righteous fingers to your nose, otherwise it just gets harder to reclaim your bed/time/sanity with each passing day. (Disclaimer: I do not mean to offend any Gina Ford devotee. But heck, if it worked for you, you’re so fortunate you should be able to stomach any measure of bitterness from me.)
Well, all I have to say is, not every baby has a Gina Ford temperament. Some babies can (blessed you are as their mummy!), some babies just simply can’t. Not to mention, as a doctor mummy friend quite astutely observed, Gina Ford was never a mother, only a nurse.
With baby #1, it was a matter of time before I abandoned (i) exclusive breastfeeding at all costs, supplementing as necessary (more of this in no more no less a mum), (ii) not rocking the baby to sleep, (iii) adhering to parent-directed feeding schedules – i.e. wake the baby up to feed, make the baby play NOT sleep after feeding, then pat to sleep at regular though not strict intervals.
With baby #2, the chillaxed mode kicked into full gear. Whatever works! Sanity is prime! became my battle cries.
So I slipped further. Baby #1 always slept in her cot for at least half the night from zero years to almost 2. Baby #1 did not get night feeds. Baby #1 could only come into our bed after 3am if she woke for some reason (sigh, we liked to blame teething) and stay there. Baby #1 slept thru the night (read: 5-6 hours at a stretch) since week 8 and slept beautifully through the night (for real – 9pm to 7am) after she was mostly done teething around 20 months I seem to recall.
With baby #2, we regressed into allowing tod #1 to continue co-sleeping (too much trouble to phase in sleeping in her own room), and adding baby #2 to the (expanded) bed as necessary. I tried to do the nurse at night but put baby back to cot initially (but she’d wake! and cry! and need to nurse AGAIN!), till it just made sense to let baby continue sleeping next to mama after nursing. Then it became Cot? what Cot? for what?
There are some “disciplines” we still hold fast to. But these are for pure survival reasons. Naps. Tod #1 is 3.5 years old, and most of her peers are dropping their naps faster than you can say “disaster”. But we bribe (oh yes, another crime I let myself commit with alacrity), punish, cajole, threaten, till she naps. Baby #2 is supposed to drop her morning nap around now. But you can be sure we will cling on to it as for dear life, for as long as humanly possible.
For the simple reason that naptime = caregiver rest time. Not really “rest time” per se, since that is usually spent tornado-ing around the house doing essential chores, or snatching toilet/shower breaks, or swift half-awake power naps (gasp! is she stirring? Noooooooooo! oh phew she just flipped but didn’t wake. 2 more seconds of peace, YES thank you LORD), or gadget screen time to clutch at whatever remaining straws of sanity left in our beings.
So there you have it. Just some key very superficial evidence of how motherhood has changed me. It has changed the core of my being in a myriad of other ways, but that is another emotionally exhausting post for another day.
For now, to all mums-to-be who may be reading this, cut yourself swathes of slack, and remember, it is not a crime to go for Whatever Works, at some point or another, because to a large extent, Sanity is Key. Or more simply put – happy mummy –> happy child. It worked for me.
Break a leg.