Friday, 20 July 2012

The Differences Between Children


Ok so here is how it goes:

Baby number one.  I didn't read much to prepare for when Tristan was born, I just kind of figured I'd wing it.  That's how I roll!  A neighbour gave me a copy of the Sears' Baby Book after he was born and I read about attachment parenting and thought great, I could do this!  So we just kind of went along with things.  It was pretty relaxed, and Tristan was a pretty relaxed baby.  He didn't cry much, would fall asleep just about anywhere.  We'd spend our days lounging around on the couch cuddling or napping together in bed.  There was never a rush to do anything and we never had much to do.  It was quite lovely, and I very much enjoyed his newborn days.  By a month he was sleeping decently at night, even doing longer stretches.  We didn't have much of a routine. 

But then when he was about 4 months old he started waking all.night.long.  It was awful.  Lucky for him he was still incredibly happy and sweet during the day.  But we were tired all the time, and it was hard.  So I started buying books.  I bought the No Cry Sleep Solution (didn't really like it).  I bought How to Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, the controversial Ferber book (had some interesting sleep info but controlled crying methods we not for me).  Then I bought The Baby Whisperer Solves Your Problems and finally found a method I thought I could work with.  It had the compassion and respect for babies that attachment parenting preached, without sacrificing the parent to baby's every whim.  So we started working with the Baby Whisperer methods and I did become a little obsessed with Tristan's routine, but it worked and we saw great results.  I was very happy to have discovered the book as it was the most helpful one that I have found to date.

So of course feeling all smug that I had 'created' a baby who was happy on a good routine and slept well, I figured I knew all the secrets and that I'd get it right from the start when we had our second baby.

Baby number two.  Ok, mistake number one is setting expectations too high.  Convinced that I would have another happy easy going baby, and that I knew all the tricks to making babies sleep, I was certain that our second baby would be a champion sleeper right from the start.  WRONG!  First of all, my babies don't sleep well as newborns, or much before a year for that matter.  That is just how they are.  I still didn't know that when Finn was born though, and was so hopeful that he would be sleeping better than Tristan earlier on.  I couldn't be more wrong.

Now, in Finn's defense we went through a major upheaval after he was born when we moved here, and I'm sure that the stress that I went through those first months and even that first year rubbed off on him.  Babies are intuitive, they feel everything.  So while he was a fussy baby by nature, I'm certain it was made worse by the fact that we went through some very rough times.  Then there was the reflux issue.  Finn really did seem like he was in pain and we figured he had reflux.  Once he was medicated for it he seemed to be much happier, but it was still a frustrating situation.  Reflux, colic, call it what you want but that baby cried a lot.  And didn't sleep. 

But I was so focused on wanting to get him on a good routine early and avoid creating accidental parenting or prop issues.  I drove myself crazy trying to 'do things right', and trying to teach independent sleep right from the start when clearly he wasn't ready.  In the end he ended up spending most of the time strapped to my chest while I attempted to get through life with a toddler.  I constantly felt like I was in a whirlwind of craziness, trying to keep him happy but all the while obsessing about routines and sleep.  It was not fun.

You know what though?  Even while I was driving myself nuts things were coming together.  Routines happen whether you try to enforce them or not, especially when you already have an older child on a routine.  Before I knew it Finn was on a routine, and I didn't even need to try so hard.  And you know what else?  It happened earlier than it did with Tristan, and in the end he became a better sleeper as a result.  Without even knowing it I got him napping well in the afternoon and going down easily on his own at night.  And while it took Finn far longer to actually sleep through the night than it did with Tristan, I think he developed better sleep habits earlier and he is still the better sleeper.  In fact, he is an amazing sleeper.

So that brings us to baby number three, and now we come full circle.  What is the difference this time?  I have two other experiences to draw from.  So what was the first step?  LOWERED EXPECTATIONS.  I made sure not to set myself up for disappointment me this time.  Step two?  Relax and let go.  Go back to attachment parenting a bit.  With two older siblings this baby has to go with the flow, so I best forget about worrying about naps in cribs, independent sleep, and all that stuff.  I mean, do I really have time to spend shh/patting Lily to sleep at every nap and bedtime?

I know from my experiences with the boys we'll get there in the end.  Right now Lily naps on the go.  She naps in the carseat, she naps in the baby carrier.  She does not fall asleep easily, the only way I can get her to sleep right now most of the time is to walk around with her in the baby carrier.  Do I worry that I am creating a prop?  Nope.  Maybe I am, but I know that I have the tools to deal with that later.  She is only 4 weeks old right now, and I have to do what I have to do to take care of all members of my family.  So she needs to sleep, and the boys need their care too, so she can sleep in the carrier while I take care of them.  Right now that means when it's time to put her down for her afternoon nap or at bedtime, I have to put her in the carrier and walk her around.  Not ideal I know, but it's fine.  It's totally, 100% fine.  So where as with Finn I would have been stressed about the repercussions of doing this, now I am totally ok with it.

It's fascinating to me to see how my attitude has changed with each child and each experience.  And also how different the situations are.  With my second child, I only had my first very easy one to compare to, and so when he ended up being colicky and fussy I was crushed.  It felt like the end of the world.  I expected it to be easy again.  In retrospect, how could it be?  When you have one baby you can cater to their every need, when you have two your attention has to be divided.  I am noticing that with Lily now as well, even though she is fairly easy going, she has to be schlepped around all over the place which I'm sure makes her more fussy than she might be if she were an only child and I could sit on the couch and hold her all day.  That is just how it is, and I know that now.

I feel bad for thinking so poorly of Finn as a baby.  My expectations for him were so high.  I was hard on him, and I was hard on myself.  Interestingly, I think Lily may be almost as fussy as he was.  Maybe not quite as bad, but she can be pretty fussy.  And she is certainly a lousy sleeper like both the boys were.  But my attitude is different.  I now know that's how babies are.  And maybe instead of labelling Finn refluxy, colicky, or fussy I should have just known that's how newborns act instead of always looking for a 'solution' to the 'problem'.  When Lily fusses I just put her in the carrier and carry on.  That was she can always be with me, and I can always keep doing what needs to be done.  She may or may not be as fussy as Finn, but I am certainly coping much better.

I wished so much of Finn's infancy away, not being able to wait until he was 'older' and 'less fussy', and hoping he would settle at 3/6/9 months etc.  I kept thinking "In one more month he'll be happier", instead of enjoying him as a newborn.  I've definitely not wanted to make the same mistakes again with Lily who will be my last baby.  When she is crying or things are difficult, and I find myself wishing for when she is older, I quickly ignore those thoughts.  Because with two boys who are already two and almost four years old, I know all too well how quickly the time goes.  She is already 4 weeks old.  And I am enjoying every single minute.

So for now, I carry her around everywhere and I do what it takes to make her happy without worrying about creating bad habits.  She sleeps in my bed and when we're all ready I know she'll be able to transition to her own crib, even if it takes a little bit of work.  Mostly I'm just trying to live in the moment and not worry about anything else.

I feel like I've come full circle back to more of an attachment parenting style.  Though I really don't like to think of it as the 'Sears' style, or the 'Ferber' style, or the 'Baby Whisperer' style of parenting, I'd rather think of it as 'My Style'.

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