Friday, April 15, 2011

I shouldn’t have been so polite

I knew going into it that caring for a newborn again was going to test the very limits of my endurance. Anyone who says they get “baby fever” and crave having a newborn in the house, must never have breastfed. The first two weeks nursing a newborn are the toughest challenge of parenting, in my opinion. For those who have not personally enjoyed the experience, imagine getting a hickie from a half-inch vacuum nozzle, on the most sensitive part of your body, twice every three hours. And if that weren’t enough, tolerate that discomfort and continue to nurture your other family members on 4-6 hours of sleep a night, obtained in 1 ½ hour increments. I don’t mean to say that bottle fed infants are a walk in the park – I have no idea what creative means bottle fed infants use to test your adoration. That, of course, is key; I’m already so smitten with this helpless little creature that I couldn’t imagine offering her any less than my best. Even if it kills me. And I know we’re going to make a great team by the end of this early part, able to head out on a whim; her food supply secure in my bosom, without a bagful of bottles, cold packs, formula, and purified water.
If only she were always this peaceful!

 None of the newborn stuff has been much of a surprise, our little golden girl is actually a much easier baby so far than either of her big sisters were. She caught on to nursing quicker, she often sleeps between nighttime feedings, and she never broke a capillary in my breast and burped up a flood of red milk and blood clots (my middle daughter was a rather voracious nurser). What has been a real surprise, however, is how different I am as a 35 year old new mom, than I was as a 25 year old new mom.

Take, for instance, hospital visits. When my first daughter was born, we had visitors who came the following afternoon and, despite my head-bobs and lack of color, stayed 2 ½ hours. In my fear of being impolite, I didn’t take back my baby, demand that they leave, or hint about my exhaustion and her need to nurse. Many similar scenes were repeated in our living room, once we got home. In contrast, with this baby, when my husband told me visitors had just called and were on their way, I shrugged my shoulders, continued to get my clothes together, and said, “if they get here while I’m in the shower, they’ll have to wait until I’m done.” I’ve told people “no” who wanted to drop in; I’ve taken my baby back and reminded visitors how little sleep I had; I’ve turned the phone off and ignored a ringing doorbell. This time around, I’ve also developed a much higher tolerance for letting outsiders see a messy house when I do welcome them in.

On the upside, although I may have been a little impolite, there aren’t nearly as many dirty clothes and dishes for others to see. The payoff to putting up stronger boundaries has been better sleep, a baby who found her schedule quicker, and having some energy leftover to make meals, wash clothes, and keep my older kids from feeling neglected. A newborn is a fulltime job, I spend over 8 hours a day, just feeding her, let alone diaper changing and soothing cries. My husband is a willing helper in the evening, but we don’t have a whole lot extra to offer, even for our most welcome and beloved friends.

It is an honor that so many people want to welcome and love my daughter; I’ve been able to enjoy their affection so much more, by having it channeled into portions small enough to accommodate. I only wish I had known ten years ago! My advice to young moms – do what you have to do and send visitors away after 15-20 minutes. That is, of course, if they are there to ogle the baby. If they’re washing your dishes, they are welcome to stick around until they’re done.

And when you welcome one of these children because of me, you welcome me. Matthew 18:5

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