Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Past Deadline: Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

Guess what? I’m an auntie!

My “little” brother and sister-in-law had a baby girl last week, so I am officially an aunt for the first time. He’s my only sibling, and there are none on Groom-boy’s side, so this is exciting stuff – a first niece for Groom-boy and a first cousin for Boychild and Girlchild, too!

Being an aunt is going to be pretty cool. I suspect it’s a little like training for grandmotherhood – you get to play with the baby for periods of time and can hand her back at the end.

Being in the midst of a brand-new baby has conjured up a lot of memories and I have been finding it tricky to keep my volumes of information in check. If there’s one thing a new baby is guaranteed to produce (aside from full diapers, spit-up and sleep deprivation), it’s baby stories.

In my own little world, I figure carrying a child for nine months (twice) and then helping it into the world (twice) still rank as the most important things I have ever done. Nothing has ever come close to that overwhelming feeling of seeing my baby for the first time after a heck of a lot of hard work.

Naturally, since this is such a big job it stands to reason mamas are going to retain all sorts of memories about the occasion and about child rearing in general. I should note that an equal amount of information gets sucked away thanks to things like sleep deprivation and rampant hormones. To this day I believe my brain is too full of odds and ends and that a piece of old information has to fall out of one ear to make room for details coming in the other.

Anyway, it seems everyone has an opinion about how to raise children, whether they have children or not. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that actually having a newborn is a bit of a shock to the system the first time and it’s really easy for new moms and dads to be overwhelmed by information.

I hear myself doing it to my brother and sister-in-law. I throw random tidbits of information at them about ways to help a fussy baby (even though theirs isn’t fussy) or products I used and liked or foods I found disagreed with my kids or how to put such-and-such together and on and on. And yet if I thought about it for a moment, I’d realize two things: 1. In all likelihood my brother and sister-in-law are too tired to remember what day it is let alone the intricacies of assembling a bouncy seat; 2. Usually it’s better to be asked for advice than to offer it every time one opens one’s mouth.

It took me a while to realize it when Boychild was a baby, but one of the most important parts about raising a kid is following your instincts. Many times I wandered down a path that didn’t feel quite right because an experienced mama told me it was a good idea. We’re all born with instincts, but sometimes we forget to use them.

Besides, sometimes we just have to figure things out by trial and error. We tend to know our own children best, and since every kid is different what worked for one might not work for another. That said it sure is nice to have experienced moms and dads to ask. Sharing information is a huge part of parenting – it’s the whole “it takes a village to raise a child” thing. And I’m fairly certain any mom or dad would be delighted to share tips if asked. (I’m ready!)

After all this preaching, though, I can’t resist offering one more piece of advice, especially since nine years after my first child was born I am STILL griping about sleep deprivation. So here it is – the oft-repeated but seldom-followed mantra: Sleep when the baby sleeps. Seriously. Do it. Your house might be dirty, your dishes won’t get done and your laundry will be wrinkled, but life looks so much better if you can get some rest. Do it now – newborns are the perfect excuse for napping!

Congrats, Doug and Krista, and welcome to beautiful little Ainsley!
Published in The Perth Courier, Feb. 3/11

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