So we got back from The Big Trip last night at around 11:30. I knew before we even left that our weekend with family and friends would fly by, but I couldn’t anticipate just how fast it would actually go. It turned out to be a really great experience; even though Collin was running off of next to no sleep, constantly being schlepped from one unfamiliar place to the next and handled by people he had never met, he was still charming and adorable. I left Southern California with new respect for this amazing little creature, who is so resilient and brave. The one down side of the trip was that Collin, amazing as he is, is extremely distractable and it effects his nursing. Sometimes I honestly believe he would rather devote his attention to a play-by-play of grass growing than expend the effort to breastfeed. I believe the trouble started when we introduced the bottle (of pumped breastmilk) at four weeks, which is the age we were told was best because it was least likely to result in “nipple confusion” (which is a kinder term for “The baby would rather have a bottle than nurse from the breast”).
Actually, we had just gotten over a month-long fight with nipple confusion after spending the bulk of Labor Day weekend in bed topless (me) and diaper-clad (baby) so we could have lots of skin-to-skin cuddle time to help “promote” breastfeeding. It actually worked after two grueling days, with lots of moments where I actually considered giving up and pumping for the remainder of his breast milk days while my baby cried and cried for a bottle. This trip, however, threw all our hard work out the window. At first, I put up a fight and tried to get him to nurse as much as possible during the six hour drive to Socal, which looked a lot like me twisted precariously over his car seat to put my boob in his mouth, smiling and waving at other cars as they drove by and stared. Eventually, I gave up and the bottle took another victory, so now we’re back in bed for days until he is nursing again.
Introducing Collin to my friends and family was something I had a lot of anxiety about at first (What if he is uncharacteristically cranky and screams the whole time? What if he gets sick? What if he is afraid of all the new faces? ), but everything ended up going really well. The most amusing introduction was Collin meeting his six-year-old aunt, who was adopted into the family when I was a young adult, and who was immensely curious about babies and mommies. She watched me breastfeed with open-mouthed awe, and developed a mini-obsession with it. She drank cup after cup of milk and then announced she was going to drink my milk (didn’t happen). The best part was her commentary about body parts that she didn’t normally see, like my breast (“It looks like a big balloon is attached to you.”) and my son’s penis (“It’s a sea shell!”).
As for The Big Car ride, it could have been much worse. Collin had the most trouble on the way home, when he cried for an hour until he actually choked himself and scared the daylights out of all three of us. After that, he fell asleep and we drove for five hours in silence because suddenly the slightest sound would wake him up. It gave us lots of time to think and practice our miming skills. Now that it’s over and Collin is liberated from his car seat, I can almost hear him declare, Braveheart-style, “FREEDOOOOOM!!” All said and done, it was an excellent first family vacation, and fun to be able to trade our redwoods for desert hills for a few days.
So it’s time for The Big Trip. As discussed in a previous entry, The Big Trip is our first trip together as a family, down to Southern California (from Northern California), a 5-7 hour car ride without a baby in tow. Due to family circumstances, we have been on stand-by for exactly when we could make The Big Trip, and found out three days ago that we would be going. That has been a hidden blessing, because it gave me very little time to panic over the details, like I tend to do with things of this nature.
Where will we stay? How will the baby do in the car? What if the car breaks down? What if the baby has a hard time getting adjusted to a new place and new faces? What if there is an earthquake/ flood/ car accident/ apocalypse?
Meanwhile, I have been in various states of packing since I found out we were going, and I’m trying really hard to tame my inner compulsive over-packer. I think I’m doing an OK job…the first aid kit only has necessities in it (that probably won’t even be used), and a big suit case that used to overflow with all my things when I traveled as a single person now houses my whole family’s clothes. I’ve taken it upon myself to pack all three of us, the first time I’ve ever packed for a family. Not only do I really feel like a mom right now, I am bewildered at how much you need to pack for a baby. His bath tub, all his favorite books and toys (plus some he hasn’t played with yet to keep him entertained in the car), his walker, his bibs, his burp cloths, his everything. How do people do it with more than one??
Well, here’s to safe travels!
At times, it’s hard not to feel lost in a sea of parenting advice, drifting aimlessly in a tiny little boat that is my self-confidence. I’m constantly staring down at the water, trying to grab words of wisdom that swim by. Do I keep what I catch, or throw it back in the water?
Do I rock my son to sleep so he can drift off in love and comfort? Or put him to bed while he’s sleepy but awake, so he will learn to comfort himself?
Do I carry him on my body in a sling so he will feel safe and secure when he faces the world? Or do I put him in a stroller so he can learn to be comfortable sitting by himself?
It wouldn’t be so frustrating if half the time the parenting advice I come across isn’t completely conflicting. To make matters worse, everything I read always says that if you do/don’t do what it suggests, it will have lasting implications on your child as an adult. For example, if I practice child-led weaning and let Collin decide when to stop nursing, will I be strengthening our mother-child bond and teaching him that his needs are important and valuable, or will I be creating a person that is emotionally needy, clingy, and demanding? Today, Husband and baby and I went to a Labor Day BBQ (Happy Labor Day, by the way) thrown by my new parents’ group, and it was incredibly refreshing to listen to other parents talk about their experiences instead of listening to what the “Experts” have to say. I feel much better after talking to other parents than I do when I read an article telling me what I should be doing. Today, I heard a lot of:
“Our lives are still totally chaotic. We have no schedule, the baby’s naps are completely spontaneous.”
“Oh, he is fine laying on the blanket right now because we’re outside. When we’re around the house, I still can’t put him down for five minutes.”
I left the BBQ feeling like maybe I wasn’t the worst parent in the world, and there was hope for me yet. Come to think of it, it’s sad that all the “advice” out there can actually make me feel that way. When it comes down to it, there has always been and there will always be opposing parenting advice, and parenting trends that are popular today will be totally disproven and outdated when the next generation is having babies, just like it was for us. From what I’ve gathered, it takes all different types of parenting to create all different types of people to inhabit this world, and the best thing a parent can do is follow their intuition and give their child lots of love. Love seems to be the one thing a parent can give their child that is completely supported by every expert.