Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Me Worry?

Living in near isolation, I often am on the phone, or reading, or on the Internet reaching out to the world South of 60. Never before has this isolation been as magnified and scary as when I brought home a newborn baby. I thank my lucky stars my mom was able to come up and give us a much-needed hand those first three weeks, but I sulk, (when I'm feeling sulky), that our family and friends are not closer.That people who can help me are not here. That there are no real-life playgroups or young moms with whom I can share and learn.
I read well over a dozen books about pregnancy in the preceding nine months, trying to find just the write words to help me connect with my growing fetus baby, and appreciate the complex miracle happening week by week inside me. I had decided after a terrorizing trip to the family books section in Chapters that I was not going to collect nearly as many books on babies, parenting, or any related material. There were just too many: an armful on ow to make my baby sleep, a trunkfull on what and how to feed my growing baby, a slew of medical-milestone guides on what to expect as my baby grew. It was all too much. The vast collection of parenting books made me scratch my head and wonder how insecure or gullible a parent must be to purchase so many titles from experts telling them how to rear their child.
I figured if cavemen and our less literate ancestors had managed to raise babies in a far more dangerous and harsh environment, surely there could not be that much to it.
Now that I am a parent, I can better understand the marketing ploy. When we were dealing with restless nights, baby shrieks, painful baby gas and colic, we tried every remedy available to see if it would help. I would have read any book telling me how to make my baby sleep. But I didn't, and we learned how to do it ourselves, and we survived. Lesson learned.
A big part of forming my new mama-identity is figuring out what kind of mama I am. And this is buttressed by how confidant in myself as a mom I am. If I turned to a book, or an expert, with every question I had about Abby (and oh, there are many), I don't know that I would ever feel confidant in my ability to stand on my own two feet. A lot of the strength I find when dealing with a cranky baby or a teething baby that needs soothing comes from the confidence that I know my baby best and am best suited to help her.
Now, I know that a parent who buys a book on parenting or feeding or sleeping is not gullible or insecure. They are looking for answers to the baby who's come without a manual. Mama guilt is a powerful force, and a lifelong one, I'm told. I could always do more, do better.
But in my short experience as a mom, I have found myself more confused and feeling inadequate the more advice I seek out. Lactation experts have left me feeling like a milking machine, and not a mother. Other moms with babies Abby's age inevitably leave me feeling the tiniest bit competitive, or worried when Abby has not done the same things. Wiser moms have left me feeling almost defensive and underneath, lost, when they have advised me on what to do.
I have not opened "What to Expect in Baby's First Year" in three months. The book I bought on baby massage, touting the therapeutic benefits of rubbing Abby down, was a waste. The kid hates massage. I bought one baby food book, so I have but one reference on how to introduce foods and how to prepare both yummy and nutritious first meals.
And the rest is up to us. I have the benefit of knowing that any major boo-boos I make with Abby will only eat away at me, no one else. The town's social worker packed 'er up last spring, so the next authority in line to take away neglected babies and kids is Rich. So she's not going far, even if I feed her bleach and leave her in the snow in her undies.
So much of my role as Abby's mom seems to be about comfort, love, food and shelter. And I know we're giving her proper amounts of each. I'll gladly live in isolation from parenting gurus, book stores, and other moms with their rules and guidelines. I choose only to surround myself with love, support, shared wisdom when solicited, and of course, a good cup of tea.

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