We are pretty regimented when it comes to Mac’s schedule. When he was still learning to sleep, in fact, we had things down to the minute each day. He’d eat lunch at 12 and we’d start the nap routine at 12:35 to have him in his crib at 12:50 for a 1 p.m. nap. Each day was the same. Chris and I thrive on routine and, it seems, so does he. The schedule, which would probably stress some other parents out, worked for us.
Before I had him, I honestly didn’t know what kind of mom I’d be when it came to his routine. Would he nap on-the-go the entire first year? How long would he stay in our room? How long would he sleep on me? Would we watch his cues each day, or suggest a schedule?
I had no idea. And honestly? I didn’t know there were so many choices to make. Or so many subsequent opinions. I kind of thought you’d just figure it out as you go. But there I was, with a nine-week-old who would only sleep on my chest during the day, and who wouldn’t sleep more than 2.5 hours at night. We were gearing up for Chris to start three months of weekly travel. I was tired and worried I’d never be able to get anything done again.
I’ll never forget crying to my mom about how Mac had only slept nine hours in a 24-hour window, worrying he was going to struggle, developmentally, from lack of sleep. (She assured me he would not!)
I remember sitting on the floor one day, reading an Insta post on Taking Cara Babies. She asked moms to share their best sleep tips. I cried as I scrolled through the answers, thinking none of this worked for us! I will never sleep again! So eventually, we sleep trained our babe and introduced a schedule. Now he loves his crib and his best friend, Lambie. Being scheduled means Daylight Savings kicks our buns and I get a little nervous when I travel to different time zones. But when it comes to the daily, having an agenda suits our family.
Those first few weeks of having a schedule, I felt compelled to explain myself constantly to other moms. Explaining why we were being more rigid, why we were letting him cry and just how little sleep we were getting before we’d made the change. I also found myself explaining why we decided to vaccinate, introduce solids early - at four months, and switch him from swaddle to sleep sack at nine weeks. I was in constant defend-and-explain mode. I didn’t feel confident in what I was doing and was worried other moms were watching, judging.
Then it hit me one day: nobody was asking me to explain myself. They were just asking me about my son. And, if they did have an opinion about what we’d done, it really didn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what works best for each baby and each family.
We’re 10 months in now and I’m more confident in my decision making. I didn’t over-explain when I gave him ibuprofen last week, though, to be fair, the three teeth he cut in 72 hours did the talking for me. We know each other better, now, too.
I’ve also come to learn that my defensiveness was less about the people asking and more about my own insecurities.
I know there are hundreds of days ahead that will be filled with self-doubt, worry and seeking counsel from other women. These baby days are short and I can’t imagine the questions I’ll have when it comes to things like picking his school, friendships and navigating his teen years.
I understand, now, that we learn as we go and will never have all of the answers. We do the best we can each day, with the information we have.
When it comes to motherhood, that’s the very best you can do.