I just read an article called "25 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids." I nodded at some of them, shrugged off others, and thought about what my tip would be. I suppose mine would be something like #6 (you can read and read all the baby books in existence, and sometimes they just won't apply to your child), except I skipped reading all the baby books.
I did have images of how things would be. I pictured family and friends visiting in the hospital. I saw myself in bed holding my baby. I had ideas about what I'd do: I'd use a sling. I'd breastfeed. I'd puree organic vegetables and fruit when it was time to start solids. I'd use cloth diapers. We'd keep making bread and go hiking and do all the things that people told us we wouldn't have time to do once we had a baby.
I didn't picture the baby being taken away to another hospital before I had held him. I didn't expect a baby too weak to work at the breast, empty bottles when I pumped and pumped and pumped. I didn't think my baby would get most of his nutrition from bulked up formula or something that looked an awful lot like Crisco put in through an NG tube. I never saw the oxygen tanks or the endless appointments or the ambulance rides. I didn't picture him turning blue in my arms. I never imagined a code. I didn't think I'd say goodbye to my baby before we got around to doing all those things people told us we wouldn't have time or energy to do.
Huh, where did all that come from? What I thought I was going to say is that sometimes the way you want to do things, the way you think you should do things, doesn't work, so you adjust. You find out not what the best thing for babies is, but what the best thing for you and your baby.
That holds true for every one. I have advice for mamas of rainbow babies, too. Give yourself permission to have bad days. Not my baby is in the hospital or my baby isn't breathing capital B capital D kinds of Bad Days, but regular old, run-of-the-mill bad days. It's okay to not like it that your baby has cried for five, seven, fifteen hours straight. You can be grateful that they are able to cry without actually enjoying the crying. You get to be exhausted and overwhelmed like everyone else. And it's okay to want a break. Usually when I have these thoughts it goes something like this: I'd love to be able to go for a run or to yoga or I'd like to have ten minutes to think or write or finish a conversation (but I just want a quick little break with my baby to come back to after).
I remember after Henry died I mentioned that I had just gotten up at 10:30, 11 AM. "Lucky," my friend said. I was bitter and wanted to ask her if she really wanted my kind of luck. She had been up half the night with her baby. I was up longing for mine. I knew even then, in the depth of my grief, that if I had another baby some day, there would be days that were hard, as much as I wanted the opportunity to face those challenges, I wouldn't love every minute or every situation. I gave myself permission then to have bad days. I am endlessly thankful to have my girls here with me, living, breathing, healthy. I feel lucky to have time with them and accept the tantrums and the colic and the sleepless nights as part of parenting, but somedays are hard. Some days I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and inadequate. Some days I have cried right along with the baby. Yeah, I've had worse, but I still have (little b, little d) bad days.
What's your advice?