1) I won’t need help.
I figured that after the first few postpartum weeks, I’d be all good.
Very funny mama! Very funny!
My mother ended up helping me out every single weekday afternoon, for the next three months. And after that, I got a helper. I think that if I weren’t struggling with Michael’s naps so much, it could have worked out a little bit differently, but the truth of the matter is, help is always welcome when you have a baby. It will always be welcome. It’s amazing how desperate you can sometimes feel when you’re alone with a baby, and then how absolutely relieved you become just knowing that there’s another adult around to play Pass-the-Baby with.
2) I especially won’t need help from my mother-in-law.
My mother-in-law was the one who, at 2am on the day we brought Michael home, marched into my bedroom, swept up my screeching baby in her arms and calmed him practically instantly with a resounding Frère Jacques. It is a humbling moment when you realise that everyone else around you is an expert on baby calming, and you know nothing except for what you’ve read in books, all of which just won’t work for your baby, of course. (The five S’s? Hah.) Your mother-in-law may do a terrible job of diaper changing, but when it comes to calming a baby (incidentally the only thing that matters and also the most perplexing), there’s no one more effective than another mother. Or father.
3) Let my baby cry? No sweat.
Theoretically, I had no issue with letting my baby cry it out. Practically, it’s been the most emotionally wrenching thing I’ve had to do yet, as a mother. Despite the fact that I am totally supportive of CIO sleep training (in Michael’s case, anyway), it still tears me up in a way which I could not have anticipated. Hearing other people’s babies cry – you’re like, “Whatever. Brat.” If it’s your baby, everything in you is screaming to pick him up and make it all better, and forcing yourself not to is extraordinarily stressful.
4) I’ll put my baby down awake, right from the start, so he can learn how to go to sleep on his own.
I blame the baby books. (I’m looking at you, Baby Whisperer! And Gina Ford!) “Start like how you mean to go on” is bullshit. It sounds logical enough, but I honestly can’t see how it’s actually possible, without potentially killing your postpartum exhausted self. When your baby is still fresh to this world, he will tend to sleep at random times and places (but especially while nursing in your arms), and I can’t imagine attempting to wake him up on purpose just to put him down awake. As Michael would say:
That’s just psycho!
Especially since your screeching newborn has been awake for the last four hours straight (i.e. an eternity) and you have been desperately praying for him to finally go to sleep. I dare you to wake him up, at this point, just to teach him a sleep lesson. Instead, I bet you’re going to stand up reeeeaaaally slowly from your couch, then bend over reeeaaaally slowly and place him down on his mattress like he’s made of very thin glass.
And believe me, you won’t have ruined him for life. You can totally worry about that kind of thing later, when you have more energy and your baby is more developmentally ready.
5) We won’t need formula.
When Ralph and I went shopping for baby stuff before Michael was born, I was all “Let’s just get the smallest tin of formula coz we probably won’t need to use it. Don’t waste money. ” Fast forward to the day of Michael’s birth, and we’re depleting Mount Alvernia Hospital’s stock of Enfamil bottles. I was so confident that my baby would be able to survive on breastmilk alone, having never breastfed in my life of course.
Formula ended up being the best thing that happened to us (Michael included), directly postpartum. With a 4.4kg newborn baby, I wasn’t going to muck around with drops of colostrum.
6) There’s no way I’m going to let my husband watch me pump.
My parents, brother-in-law, sister, neighbour, neighbour’s cat, have all seen me pump. And yes, my husband too. To his credit, he pretended that it was absolutely normal that his wife was being milked like a cow.
I didn’t care one bit, who saw what. All that mattered was that I was in my own home, seated where I wanted to be seated, and doing what I needed to be doing. I had zero energy to waste on lugging the pump from one location to another, or figuring out how to cover up the two awkward plastic things extending from my chest. Sometimes, if I was really feeling civic minded, I would toss my shirt across my front, but most of the time I would be sitting in my chair, staring at my chest, periodically pointing and asking people to look at the bottles. “Isn’t that cool? Wow! Look! Look! Milk!”
7) I won’t speak to my baby in a high pitched, silly voice, nor say “ooooh you cutey cutey ga ga gaaaa”
Totally do. Sorry. It’s biological or something.
And anyway, mirroring your baby babbles back to him are an important form of communication and training.
8) I will love staying at home and looking after my son.
Yes, and no. Looking after a young baby all day long is tiring, and very often boring. Even when I’m having the most intensely amazing moment with him, I am frequently also intensely bored at the exact same time. It’s the strangest coexistence, like certain parts of your brain which you have never used are lighting up and other parts of your brain have crawled into a cave to die. And seriously, I can’t even do The Eensy Weensy Spider anymore. Can’t. Do. It. No. More. But in the fringes of that daily (boring) routine, hidden in corners and behind all the same-old, is constant change… and I am so grateful that I am here, right now, at this moment when he discovers his thumb, his fingers, his toes, that this is sweet and that is strange and this sound is funny and saliva bubbles are the best thing. And that is just the unpredictability that I need – watching a human being organically evolve from a desperately pathetic, screeching lump to one that more resembles our species. One muscle, one movement, one babble at a time. I am here, and I am watching, and I am cheering him on.