Thoughts on surviving with a newborn

29 September 2011 at 5:08 am Leave a comment

Oh yeah, it’s all about survival.

Babies cry when they’re separated from us–from our warmth and our heartbeats especially–because of survival, because our species wouldn’t have made it this far if we could set a baby down on the ground in the jungle: quiet babies, in those circumstances, would have been quietly nibbled up by tigers, after all. A baby who cried if you tried to put her down would get picked back up, where he would be quiet and happy again and we adult humans could go back to our hunting and gathering.

So now here we are, no tigers in sight, and it’s still all about survival–the babies’, and our own.

I have a good friend who now lives far away and who just had her first child. My friend is struggling, struggling with doctors’ orders (“Did you really do what the doctor said, and nurse 8-10 minutes every two hours?” my friend asked over email; over email, I laughed, not unsympathetically, and tried to explain that at certain points in those early weeks I might have spent 8-10 minutes in a two-hour span not nursing), struggling with how to care for a baby and herself (“[My partner] is back at work,” my friend wrote, “so I’m sleeping with the baby in the nursery and doing all the night-time things”), and basically just struggling to get through these early weeks.

My advice to her was that, in my opinion, it’s not helpful to think of one parent as “going to work” in the morning because usually both parents–especially the nursing mom who stays home with the newborn during the day–are working. Beyond that, though, my advice was to find a survival strategy that works, right now in real time, for her and her family, and not to think beyond this–not to let thoughts race ahead to “Is this baby going to still be attached to the boob all the time when I go back to work in January?” or “Am I never going to get more than a four-hour stretch of sleep again for the rest of my life?” The answers to those are “Possibly, but you’ll deal,” and “Probably not, but who knows,” but honestly, those questions and answers are far, far away.

For now, do what you have to do to survive!

–Christina

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