Two Little Secrets For Surviving the Infancy Season

I think there are two little facts that make surviving the season of infancy so much easier. Ready for this?

1. They are ALL good babies.

2. This season is all-consuming, but it does end.

How many times have you been asked, “Is she a good baby?” or “Is she sleeping through the night?” You probably have lost count by now, honestly. I know I have. We seemed to be obsessed with defining babies based on their neediness. In fact, by society’s agreed upon definition, I did not have a “good” baby this time around. She needed me constantly. I had to be touching her for her to sleep for the first 18 months. She is two and still doesn’t sleep through the night. For the first year, we were up from 11pm – 2am more nights than I care to remember. However, I fundamentally disagree with our definition of a “good” baby and think you should too.

Two Little Secrets For Surviving the Infancy Season | Houston Moms Blog

Here’s the truth:

Babies are needy! They rely on us for every single thing, big or small.

If we are hungry or thirsty, we just go the the kitchen. If they are hungry or thirsty, they cry and hope someone feeds them.

If we want physical contact, we walk up to our significant other and say, “Hug me,” or wrap our arms around them. If they want physical contact, they cry and hope someone pulls them in close.

If we get scared at night, we roll over and nuzzle against our safe person, or we lay our hand on their heart to soothe ourselves back to sleep. If they get scared at night, they cry and hope someone hears them and rescues them.

Babies spend 9 months living INSIDE a human woman. Their mother is literally their entire world, the only planet they’ve ever known. Then they are thrust out into a bizarrely foreign place, where they suddenly know hunger and thirst and loneliness. They wear scratchy clothes and diapers that get wet or dirty. It smells different, the lights are different, the sounds are different. It is all so different. They are separated from everything they’ve ever known, in a blink. Mama suddenly becomes impermanent; a thing that comes and goes, but is still everything they want in the whole world. Mama is safety, security, nourishment, comfort, home. She feels right, she smells right, she sounds right. It doesn’t matter to them if it is night or day; they just want Mama.

They don’t know it isn’t “good” to need to be held closely once it is dark out; they just want Mama. They don’t know they are supposed to wait 2 hours to have a drink; they are just thirsty {and they want Mama}. They don’t know that Mama is totally and completely exhausted; they just want Mama. They really don’t know anything, except for Planet Mama.

So why does their desperate need for Mama mean they don’t reach some arbitrary definition of what a “good” baby should be?

I think we do ourselves such a disservice in framing infancy in this way, where the scale of neediness determines whether we have a “good” baby or not, rather than just accepting the season for what it is: an incredibly consuming time in which someone else’s needs have to supersede our own, even when we don’t understand those needs or we think they should be different. It is a time where both parents have to make daily sacrifices to stay afloat, and where staying connected to one another in the roiling sea of sleep-deprivation and someone else’s constant demands takes conscious effort. It is a time when we often wake up spent and go to sleep spent. And mercifully, it is also a time that is short and self-limiting. Knowing that is the difference between being forced underwater before you get a chance to take in a gulp of air and have no idea when you will get a chance to breathe again, and someone telling you, “I’m going to hold you underwater for 30 seconds, starting right now!” In the first scenario, you are panicked and flailing about, and in the second, you are prepared and calmly do what you need to do to get through it even if your lungs start to burn a little.

If this is your first go-round in this season, you may not believe me, but it really does end. You roll your eyes at those sweet old ladies who whisper, “Cherish every moment! It goes so fast!” But once it is in your rear view mirror, it really does seem like it just sped right by you.

You can read every baby training book on the shelf or none of them, and these days will still draw to a close.

You can breastfeed or bottle-feed, and these days will still subside.

You can co-sleep or sleep train, and the sleepless nights will still fade into memory in time.

You can keep your baby on a strict schedule or follow your baby’s lead, and this chapter will still end.

When you are in the thick of it, it can seem endless. The days and nights are so long. You wonder how you can keep doing this forever. You worry you will never sleep again unless you take some sort of different action. You feel like you will never have space to be yourself again. You hear people critique your choices and suggest that your actions or inactions are the cause of your baby’s deep neediness. You worry that they are right, that you are causing these problems by somehow spoiling your baby. They aren’t, and you aren’t. Regardless of how you choose to tackle these things, babies still grow up and away. It’s what they are meant to do; it is in their programming. I promise, this season ends all too quickly, and your version of it does not have to look like anyone else’s for it to be a “good” one.

I don’t believe that there is ONE right way to be a parent. Most of us are doing the very best we can, every day. While we can all learn from one another, we shouldn’t confuse that with the feeling that we are doing it wrong and everyone else has it figured out. Don’t buy the lie that SOME babies are good, and you just didn’t get that kind of baby, or that your baby would suddenly be “good” if you were a better mother.  The big, bold truth is they are ALL good babies. The quiet ones and the loud ones. The needy ones and the content ones. The sleepy ones and the active ones. The healthy ones and the not so healthy ones. They are unique individuals, and they are born with their own personalities and quirks, and parenting them through those exquisitely needy early times is a short-lived gift. Remembering this can be such a relief when you feel like everyone else has it figured out except for you.

If you are past this season, the next time you are chatting with a mama, think about changing the conversation. Ask her how she’s coping, and give her a chance to unload or brag. As they say, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Maybe don’t jump in with the “cherish every moment” speech if she is struggling. Instead, nod along and remember the times you felt just the same, as we’ve all been there. We can all use a reminder that we aren’t alone from time to time, in the good times and the challenging ones. Offer words of encouragement and affirmation.

And be sure to remind her that she is a good mama with a good baby, even on the difficult days. And if you are still in this season, remind yourself that YOU are a good mama with a good baby too, even on the hardest of days. You can get through this season, Mama. You were made for it!

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