Toolkit Parenting

The Theory of Babies

Babies, in theory, need nurseries and cribs with mobiles and nightlights. And so, pregnant and excited (and then pregnant and exhausted), I put together a beautiful nursery with bright decorations, dim lighting, and, of course, a crib for sleeping.

Babies, in theory, need structure and schedule from the very beginning. And so, dutifully and with appropriate solemnity, I researched sleep training and food schedules, breastfeeding dos and don’ts, schedule tips and key points.

Babies, in theory, will do xyz if you first do abc. They are complicated like a difficult math equation – tricky and elaborate, but completely able to be solved if you work hard enough and follow all of the correct steps.

Pregnant and excited (then pregnant and exhausted), I felt prepared for my baby-to-be. I was pretty good at math, after all, and I’d done all the research and work of setting up for what was headed my way.

Then I had a baby.

A not theoretical, actually real kind of baby. A baby who didn’t read the books I read and didn’t have the plans for her structured and scheduled infancy the way I did. I had a baby who didn’t want to sleep in her crib, who didn’t care one bit for her colorful but dimly lit nursery; I had a baby who wanted what she wanted when she wanted it and would not be dissuaded.

I had a particular kind of baby. And she made me a particular kind of mother. I realized that the sound of her distressed, infant cry was like a knife to the heart and I absolutely could not, would not, tolerate the sound of it if it could be helped. I began to understand that she would tell me what she needed when she needed it, not some book. With some level of despair I realized that no matter how many times I input abc, xyc was not a guaranteed result.

I came to understand that babies are people, not theories, and though the experience of others before me could offer support and guidance, the person that was my actual baby was the one who could tell me what she wanted and what was going to work for her. I relaxed and let go of the mold I thought she was supposed to fit into and tried to figure out who she already was.

Though my tribe of community mothers supported me as I struggled to accept the change in my well-laid plans, it was my baby that taught me most everything I needed to know about being a gentle parent.

Babies are not theoretical. There is no equation to be solved. It is impossible to know what the result will be if you do abc like that one book you read, or mom you talked to, or doctor you visited told you to do. There is no way to learn how to be a parent other than becoming one.

Pregnant for your first? May I kindly suggest doing less research and getting more sleep? Babies, in theory, are notoriously bad at sleeping.

1 comment for “The Theory of Babies

    Annastacia Smith
    July 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    This was almost just like my road to gentle parenting, too! Such a great article, especially supportive when faced with opposing opinions like “oh, you’re too responsive, let her cry” or “are you doing it for her benefit or for yours?” (I HATE that last one.) I’m just doing what feels natural, and responding to my baby is the most natural instinct I’ve ever felt.

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