Having just joined the new potter_parents Yahoo! Group (yeah, go ahead, laugh), I've been thinking about the things I've learned since becoming a mother for the first time. There are a lot of things I know now about babies and parenting in general, especially after having my second child, that I wish I had known back then -- it would have saved me a lot of anxiety and frustration. On the other hand, even if somebody had told me some of those things, I suspect I wouldn't have believed them... or at least I would have mentally argued myself out of taking the advice. First-time mothers -- at least those who want to be good ones -- are natural martyrs.
However, a lot of my techniques for handling babies have changed radically between my first and second children. For instance:
NICHOLAS: Spent first six months sleeping in our room, because in my new-mother idealism I thought it would be cruel and negligent not to keep him close. Unfortunately, like most babies he was a lousy sleeper, and we both woke any time one of us snuffled or turned over.
SIMON: Spent first three weeks in our room, and then got moved to the spare room, and finally down the hall into Nicholas's room. The further away we moved him, the better both he and I slept. Works for me.
NICHOLAS: Was conscientiously placed on his back or side for fear of SIDS. We all slept poorly.
SIMON: Slept poorly on his back or side. Was placed on his tummy out of desperation. We all slept much better.
NICHOLAS: Was picked up and frantically soothed almost every time he cried, no matter what else I had to drop in order to do it. I blamed myself as a bad mother every time he cried, which was often.
SIMON: Gets left to cry for five or ten minutes on a regular basis, because my hands are tied with Nicholas or some other task I can't put off. I no longer blame myself, I just do what has to be done.
NICHOLAS: Was handled like fine china while changing, dressing and bathing, for fear of breaking some delicate little appendage and/or (gasp!) upsetting him.
SIMON: Gets handled like a sack of potatoes. Appears to find this amusing.
NICHOLAS: Was fed conscientiously every two hours, attempting to stretch out the time whenever possible.
SIMON: Gets fed whenever his mood needs improving, or whenever I just want to shut him up.
There are any number of other examples, really. The first time around you're anxious to do everything right, but of course you don't actually know what the right way is, so you tend to be at the mercy of everybody's advice. Some of the books aimed at new parents are really calculated to induce guilt, too. I still feel a twinge of guilt every time I look at my mostly-unused baby sling, for instance, but although (like co-sleeping) I was committed to the idea and really did try hard, it was just never comfortable or practical for me or my kids.
This time around, I'm just sticking with whatever things seem to work, and not blaming myself for not doing things that don't. Even though Mrs. So-and-So down the road or Dr. Know-It-All the parenting expert say otherwise.