Friday, 4 October 2013

Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

Oh my goodness! When I was expecting my first baby I had so many questions that I could never find the answers to in any of the books I had. I was the first one out of all of my friends that had children--I was a pioneer amongst my peers. My mother never wanted to discuss the subject of pregnancy, let alone answer questions about the nitty gritty details of childbirth, and nursing. I voraciously read everything and anything that I could about pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and motherhood that could be found in a library or bookstore. I have to say that many of those questions were still unanswered by the time I had my second, third and even fourth children. It is only now that I can reflect upon the questions that I had almost twenty years ago when we first started trying to conceive, that I am able to piece together some answers. 

Number one on the list of things I wish I knew: listen to your instincts first and foremost over mothers, mother-in-laws and know-it-all strangers (that usually don’t have any kids). With my first baby I didn’t listen to my own common sense, and listened to the old wives tales spewed from various relatives whose children were as old as I was. It wasn’t until my son was three months old and he had stopped gaining weight that things turned around. The pediatrician told me that breastfeeding wasn’t working for me and that I should move to formula. My mother told me that I was just like her, and that I couldn’t nurse. Things had gone so well for the first few months, and things just stalled. It didn’t make sense that I just stopped being able to produce enough milk. I really wanted to continue nursing because of the number of allergies that run in my family, and I was well-versed on all of the other benefits, so I sought the help of a lactation consultant. When I went in for the appointment in her home, we spoke relatively briefly--perhaps only a minute or two--and she figured it out. My son was tongue-tied. It is a relatively easy condition to fix, and had I had a midwife like I had wanted, she would have discovered it immediately upon his birth. Basically, the tip of his tongue was shaped like the top of a heart because his frenulum (the little webby-thing under his tongue) was attached to the tip of his tongue instead of the middle of the underside of the tongue. He did not have the full use of his tongue, and so he couldn’t nurse properly. The lactation consultant said that this condition usually gets discovered earlier, but my milk “let down” was so strong, my son was able to survive on foremilk alone until he hit his third month growth spurt. My son had the five minute “operation” within two days and with the wonderful help of the lactation consultant I was able to fully nurse my son until he was over a year old. Take that! doctor who said I couldn’t nurse my son. Had I listened to this ignorant doctor I wouldn’t have been successful at nursing all four of my children. Nursing may not be for everyone, but it definitely was for me. Honestly, I would have taken it as a personal failure as a mother if I couldn’t have nursed my babies.

Number two on the list of things I wish I knew: be proactive. Don’t wait until things get out of control because when that happens you don't always think rationally and won't react like you should. Try to anticipate a problem before it arises, and then come up with a solution in order to avoid things go haywire. For example, learn your baby’s different cries. There are the: “I’m hungry” cry, “I’m tired” cry, “I’ve soiled myself” cry, “I’m just being Mr. Cranky-pants” cry, “I just need some loving” cry, and the “you didn’t figure out what was wrong the first (or second) time, so I am going to lose it on you” cry. Learn the cries, because pretty much every cry is trying to tell you something. Now this ties back to Number One, listen to your instincts. Have confidence. You need to believe in yourself that you can figure out the difference between the different cries. I can still hear the difference between many of the baby cries that I hear, so that must mean that cries are kind of...universal. Once you figure out the cries then you are able to avoid the “you didn’t figure out what was wrong the first time, so I am going to lose it on you” cry which can be the most upsetting of all because even if you figure it out, the baby is too far gone to settle down.

You should also be proactive when they are toddlers. Have you ever seen a family trying to leave a park? Is it all roses and sunshine? or does the child have a Jack Nicholson freak-out? I have to say that I have never had a child of mine freak out when we left the park, the pool, the zoo...anywhere. The only reason was because I was proactive. I had seen so many parents dealing with temper tantrums when they had to go home after a fun event, I wanted to avoid that situation so I came up with my own solution. When I first started taking my first child to the park, I would explain to him on the way there that we would be spending an hour at the park, and we would say “goodbye” to the park at the end of the hour, and if he said goodbye nicely we would come back again the next day. Sounds kind of silly, right? But it worked. I would give him a five minute warning that we were leaving, and then after five minutes I would walk him around the park and we would say goodbye to the slide, the swings, the trees, tell them that we would see them tomorrow and then go home. Without fail, I would keep my promise and we would go back to the park the next day. My son had no concept of time at that point, but the five minute warning was great because it gave him a few minutes to finish what he was doing and prepare himself to leave the park. The routine of saying goodbye was so he could make the transition from active play time, to going home. My keeping my promise that we would return kept him from feeling loss every time we left, because he knew we would be back soon.

When I was pregnant and my children were growing up, there were are so many things that came up on a daily basis that I really wish that I knew someone that I trusted that I could ask questions and bounce ideas off of...someone with the experience of having gone through it all. As my friends have children, I have become that trusted wealth of knowledge for them, and this is one of the reasons I have wanted to blog. I have so much to share. My children have all turned out marvelously, so I know that I have done a few things right. Sometimes it just takes common sense, but when you are bombarded by all of the literature that is available out there it is hard to figure out your own opinions, let alone make up your own mind. That brings us back to my first thing I wish I had known all of those years ago...listen to your instincts. Dig down deep and figure out how you really feel.