During the end of February through now, there’s been a lack of posts on this blog. We had stopped our forays into different urban wilderness areas and were focused on building our own nest. The birds out there might have been busy building their nests with twigs, leaves, bits of hair and feathers, but here we were gathering blankets, clothes, sheets and sleeping structures. I was reading stroller reviews and picking out feeding supplies, going to classes instead of planning our next expeditions.
So anyway, here we are, proud parents of our own “three week old organic biomass generator” (as Jason referred to him in his own version of a baby announcement to his friends), and I find myself reflecting on how parenting is so different now than it was when my first son was born fifteen years ago. There are many changes in circumstances, of course, but I think it is more than that. The main differences in parenting now versus then have to do with technological advances, my age, and levels of support from my spouse and extended family.
Though technically the “Information Age” or “Digital Age” started way back before my first son was born in 1999, we have come a long way, baby. We might have dreamed about personal computers that were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and allegedly smartphones were in development in the 1990s, but back then, cell phones were not very common. I had some kind of cell phone tucked away in a box that was available in case of emergencies, but I never turned it on. We had the internet, at some point, but I think we must have turned it off to save money, because I don’t remember logging on to my computer very often. I learned about parenting from books and magazines. Most of my information came either from the “What to Expect..” series of books, Parenting magazine, handouts from the pediatrician, and advice from my (ex) husband’s family. If I had a question, I used those references to find the answer. Now, I just Google it, without even getting up or putting the baby down. It is so awesome to have answers at my fingertips.
Not only are there answers at my fingertips, but there are also lullabies. I used to be able to remember the words to so many songs to sing to my first, but with this one, for some reason, in the middle of the night the only song that comes to my mind is some Frankie Avalon song about puppets that I can’t even remember the words to past the chorus. Spotify and Youtube to the rescue! We have a lullaby playlist on our smartphones that we can pull up and then play for baby, or perhaps just use Google or Youtube to help us remember the words for ones to sing to him ourselves.
I also have found that there are a plethora of apps out there designed to help parents track every aspect of their new baby. I found one that I like using (Similac’s Strong Moms App) to track feeding, diaper changes, and sleeping patterns. You can look at graphs of trends, compare days, even email reports to your doctor or spouse if you needed to. You can use it to track and graph growth, bottle feeding, and pumping information (although I haven’t used those latter options too much). Some of my friends have shared my enthusiasm for these apps, while others have poo-pooed them, saying this kind of tracking will either make a person crazy, or really is unnecessary or common sense. “Feed the baby when it’s hungry, let it sleep when it wants to, as long as the diapers keep coming, what is the point of tracking all this?” is their argument. I might change my mind later, but right now my brain is really loving being able to look at the trends, and I find it is most helpful in helping me remember how long ago I fed the baby last. In my sleep-deprived state, I tend to forget those details (I mean, jeez, three days home and my brain was so foggy that I even forgot my baby’s name and had to really think about it for a while before I remembered that simple, major fact). I am also trying to stick to a schedule, waking him up if needed during the day to feed him every 2-3 hours to help him be able to/learn to sleep during the night, so I think right now it is more important to focus on that then just on letting him set the feeding schedule through hunger cues.
Also, there are websites and apps designed to provide parents with not only access to information and reviews of baby gear, but support in the form of active forums where you can be matched with others sharing your same experiences or interests. Most notably, for me, the BabyCenter app is filling this role. I had downloaded their Pregnancy App, and now the My Baby app, both which have me connected to the April 2015 arrival board. I have been obsessed with this board for months now, and even though I am becoming a little less interested, it is still my “go-to” app when I am bored or trying to stay up in the middle of the night during feedings. It is interesting to me to read other people’s stories and read their questions and answers to common (first pregnancy, and now newborn) issues we are all dealing with. It helps me to understand that our experiences and concerns are common, and we are dealing with them in a way consistent with the experience of others. I should be a pro at this parenting stuff, right?, but it has been such a long time between babies that I have forgotten some things.
I think that most of this obsessive researching and tracking/comparing to normal is a function of my age and reproductive issues. I had some complications in this pregnancy at the beginning, and I had lost two pregnancies in the past, so I was a little hyper-concerned about what was going on with me. Some of this is a function of being older and more responsible. In a way, though, some of it is because I am also trying to mitigate the concerns of my husband, who is a first-time dad and also approaches everything differently than my ex did.
I don’t remember my ex-husband reading anything about new baby care, he never went to classes, and his attitude was more like “we’ll figure it out as we go”. Ex didn’t go look at daycare centers with me, we didn’t make a budget ahead of time to make sure we would be able to cover the extra expense of daycare, we didn’t save a nest-egg to be able to afford it all. He just thought we would “wing it”. I know that Jason stresses out more about financial security, and he prefers to research all the options up front.
It seems like babies are more expensive now than they used to be. This time around, I compared reviews and prices of all the baby gear I thought we needed, then made a list of what products it made more sense to buy where. I also compared the cost of daycares, then figured out how to set aside money to pay for the daycare for the rest of the year, plus cover maternity leave for me to stay at home as long as we were comfortable with. I don’t remember if I even had a registry for the baby shower for my first son, or if I had a list of essentials. I am sure I didn’t compare prices and have a list of what I absolutely needed to use the registry completion coupons for at each store to maximize our shopping dollars.
I also did not have the same sense of appreciation of the baby stage when my first was born. I was only 24, just kind of a baby myself really, and I was left kind of reeling over all the physical changes that having a child left me with. I struggled with the late-night feedings, the crying, the lack of sleep. I felt resentful of the sleep that my ex was getting. I feel like this time around, I am getting so much more sleep, thanks to Jason helping out in the middle of the night. I feel so much better physically than I did after the first child, too. I think my body learned how to bounce back and did it better with each consecutive child. Also, that first child was an unexpected surprise, whereas the next two sons I had arrived out of baby fever and biological imperative. I think it is probably easier to appreciate a baby that was intentional, and this does make me wonder how hard it must be for people with less support than I have who have accidental babies. The first month or so with a newborn is no picnic, but cherishing every moment makes it easier.
Time moved slower back in my mid-twenties. It felt like the years between zero and three went on forever. People would tell me, “oh, the years will fly by, cherish them while you have them”, and I thought they were crazy because it seemed like an eternity. Now, though, age and experience has shown me that the years do literally fly by, that between three and fifteen disappears in the blink of an eye, and that I will never have this baby back, as he will grow into a toddler and then an adolescent, a preteen, a teenager, a man – and though I will love all those stages, I will miss my baby and it will make me tear up when I think about it later.
So, this time, when I am up in the middle of the night soothing him back to sleep, I am not weeping quietly to myself, but stroking his soft skin and marveling at his sweet face. I am trying to seal this to memory, so I can hold on as long as I can to it. Since I am so much older, I know that this door will be closing soon, and as the reproductive years end, so will these sweet moments with baby. Every moment is a gift, and I plan to treat them as such.
It reminds me of this poem I came across:
Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.