Saturday, November 7, 2009

On Sleeping

As I've mentioned, I take parenting advice with some grains, or bags, of salt. People I talk to seem to be obsessed with sleep.

The first few weeks after Em was born, sleep was precious and infrequent. If she was sleeping, I'd wake up all the time to check that she was ok. And then she woke up needing attention/love/food often. Babies are like that! I don't know how parents who put their babies in another room to sleep manage the anxieties of those first weeks.

But then she adapted to our patterns and started mostly sleeping at night and mostly being awake during the day. I started trusting that she'd live through the night. There was that rough day at seven weeks when my Dads were here, when I'd kept her in the Infantino baby carrier all day, so she'd been asleep all day, and then only slept, and thus I only slept, four hours that night.

We're now in a nice routine where she naps once or twice a day for a few hours at a time and then sleeps from nine or ten in the evening to three or four in the morning for a brief snack, and then back to sleep again for a few more hours, often until seven in the morning. I've actually realized that it's often me (and my milk supply!) waking her up at four - she's no longer that hungry, so I usually pump a little extra for while I'm at work. And then we go back to sleep.

Before baby, I expected my sleep would be interrupted regularly with baby. First with feedings and diaper changes, then nightmares and nighttime illnesses, fevers, vomiting, then as she gets older, just worrying while she's out for an overnight with friends, and then parties and more! Parenting, as far as I'm concerned, is not about getting a good night's sleep.

I thought this was commonly known. I'm surprised by everyone's interest in how the baby is sleeping, if I'm sleeping, and the suggestions and tricks for getting her to sleep more. She's a baby with a teeny tiny tummy! I just don't expect her to sleep through the night for awhile, and even when she starts, I hear it's common to stop and start again.

I suspect that some people's inquiry as to whether or not I'm getting any sleep (and oh! I am, thank you) is more about making conversation, like commenting on the weather or making jokes about working hard vs hardly working. I know before I had a baby, I didn't know what to ask about them.

However, the parents who seem to be sleep obsessed make me wonder if I've just got a weirdly easy baby, which is entirely possible, or if my expectations are just a lot lower. I know the nights to come where she's awake once an hour again will be challenging. But knowing that they are coming makes them easier to deal with.

Do you talk a lot about sleep? What are/were your expectations about parenting and sleep?

On Parenting Advice

Parenting advice, I've found, is a real mixed bag. I think most of it comes from a good and helpful place: people want to tell you things that worked for them, or that they think is accurate. You get to thank them and do what you think is right, or argue with them if that's your style.

I'm so new to being a mom, that handing out parenting advice seems a bit foolishly optimistic to me. I've only been doing this for just over three months - who am I to say if I'm doing it right? Yet I am confident enough to reject some parenting advice out of hand, like the well meaning acquaintance who outlined his detailed plan for crying it out, which he inflicted on his children. To which, you might be interested to know, I said it was interesting that it worked for him but I absolutely couldn't see how I could do it.

I had lunch with a pregnant friend yesterday who may end up being a single parent by choice, after trying to conceive for a long time. She's not told our group of friends that she's pregnant yet, so I'll keep her identity under wraps for the moment.

She said something about now that she's finally pregnant, the idea of parenting is overwhelming and scary. I mumbled something about having felt the same way when I saw that pregnant indicator on the pee test stick late that night last November. And many times since then - there were even thoughts of OMFG, what have I done? I can't do this!

At least, that's what went through my head up til Emily was born. Then, other than the breastfeeding issues we had, I've just been questioning if I'm doing it right.

While I was pregnant, I worried that I'd be completely incompetent, that my husband would abandon us (I have no idea why I thought that - he was the one who lobbied for a baby after all!), that Emily wouldn't be healthy, that I'd chicken out during labour, that I'd be a terrible parent.

I didn't seriously worry about being a single parent - my husband is very loyal and family oriented. I knew we'd have parenting style conflicts and oh boy has that been accurate! But he's here, parenting along side me. I almost wrote helping me, but considering he's at home with Emily every day I'm at work, which most weeks is five out of seven days, and doing a lot of things like cooking, shopping, cleaning and grocery shopping, it might be more accurate to say I'm helping him!

Today, I'm working on learning how best to apply the Attachment Parenting principles, and balancing parenting with working, looking for a new job and doing a little bit of career development too. She's going to be a work at home mom - awesome - but probably a single mom too - and I think that presents a special set of challenges. I murmur reassuring noises but I've got very little in the way of practical suggestions for her, on how to manage money, day care, breastfeeding, meetings...

So I don't know what to say to my friend who is not only having normal pregnancy anxiety, but also may be additionally anxious about doing all of this essentially on her own (her family is almost as far away as mine).

Advice on parenting I have always found most useful when it falls in the category of "this is what works best for us, do what you feel is right" - so any thoughts or resources you'd like to share on what you wish you knew about parenting in general or specifically, taking care of things as a single parent, please share them below! And of course, she isn't actually asking for advice, but it's what I can offer, plus hand me downs... :)