Tuesday, July 14, 2015

From Tears to Triumph

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Ashley Bellis (Mother to one child)

When I was expecting, a lady from church whom I greatly respect recommended I read a book that she read for motherhood. Our church library had a copy and I delved into "Preparation for Parenthood" by Gary Ezzo (the same author as the Babywise series). Reading through it I took notes, answered the discussion questions, and filled my husband in on all that I had read. It seemed like a perfect formula! 

I never had much experience with toddlers, let alone newborns! I am the oldest of two, and have two younger cousins that I spent 90% of my growing-up time with. However, the only thing I knew about babies was that they wore diapers and drank from bottles. But with my new knowledge and a very detailed and intelligent husband to back me up, I believed that Baby would be born and he would nurse immediately, sleep soundly, and only make noise when he laughed. Ha. Big HA! 

My son was born screaming and spent most of his first month perfecting that scream. My nerves were frazzled. My hopes and dreams were splattered like a bug on the windshield. My husband was working full-time and helping me full-time at home. I remember trying to convince my son to sleep while Andy (husband) and I ate dinner. That plan worked once. I remember showering at night while Andy held Jake (baby) and I could hear him screaming above the shower and ventilation fan -- and they were downstairs! Oh, I was scared and freaked out. I knew I wanted to implement the eat/wake/sleep routine. I knew I wanted an angelic, smiling Gerber-esque baby. I knew I needed clarity or I could never go back to work part-time (my plan after 8 weeks maternity). I knew I needed to get my stuff together so I could give Andy a break when he came home from work. I knew I needed to put my foot down to this baby's demands and develop a routine that benefited all of us.

On Jake's 1-month birthday I had had enough. Praise the Lord I had stumbled across Valerie's blog. I poured over her newborn summaries and sample schedules. She made it sound so easy, and she had a baby ~1 year ahead of my own, I knew I could try! Over dinner I would talk with Andy about my "research" and we worked on a sample schedule for our bundle of noise, I mean joy. We worked really hard for bedtime and tried to feed at consistent times. During the overnight feedings I would take my e-reader and read while Jake nursed and then fell back asleep. I read through "Little Women" that way. Made it more enjoyable for me, I guess :) But we weren't out of the woods yet. Little Baby had learned to love his on-demand lifestyle and there were many nights/afternoons where he cried and screamed, wanting me for whatever reason. I followed Valerie's advice and checked on him every 20 minutes, and then every 30 minutes as he got older. 

It seemed like every success we had with our routine was followed by instant, short-lived regression. Every time I felt like we were making concrete progress, we would have a wave of shorts naps, bad feedings, and scream-filled nights. I messaged my friend, who was also implementing Babywise, and she told me to keep on trying. Bad days happen. And this echoed Valerie's posts about beginning as you intend to go on. I started viewing each feeding as a new "beginning" in our three-hour schedule. Andy was right beside me to encourage me. I felt confident going back to work after 9 weeks of maternity, leaving my not-as-often-screamer with a Babywise babysitter. 

Jake and I continued to dance and learn, created new new expectations, and fell more in love instead of in frustration. I nervously celebrated when we transitioned to a four-hour schedule. I didn't want to pop our beautiful, blossoming happy life. But you know what? After about a week, the four-hour schedule was implemented and we all adjusted well. My confidence in myself as a mother was high. My confidence in Jake's health and wellness was also high. The rings under my eyes faded away, and I was able to resume my home duties without guilt. Eventually we dropped the morning nap, and I again held my breath. We smoothly transitioned, yet again, and now we have completely free mornings. Babywise equals freedom for parents and baby!

Fast-forward from a months-old baby to a two year old toddler. I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that my son is brilliant. I know everyone's child is brilliant, but I am so proud of our consistent striving and implementation of Babywise. I didn't do it perfectly, but I know my son is healthy and well-rested. Going out and about, I see a lot of kids who aren't well-rested and they are struggling. They aren't scheduled. They don't know what to expect. They throw tantrums and fits over trivial things. I see my son, who sleeps for 3.5 hours in the afternoon and 11 hours at night, and he is alert, active, and engaging. He throws tantrums now, too, but they aren't from exhaustion. They are just "normal," I guess, even though we are working on his anger impulses. But I have peace. I have peaceful afternoons while he sleeps. I have peaceful nights knowing that he is dreaming of sheep jumping fences. (Well, more likely Thomas the Train driving around with Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.)

Babywise takes work. It isn't for the faint of heart. It isn't for the wishy-washy. I spent many an hour listening to my wee man cry because he didn't want to sleep. It took so much work, so many tears (from me), so many hugs (from Andy), and patience from all of us. My parents and in-laws would comment about how we put our baby to bed "too often." Or that we shouldn't be so "strict" with our baby. We should lower our expectations. No, I don't think so. A baby is a baby, yes, but I don't want to start our parenting relationship with him thinking that baby knows best. 

We are planning to try for Baby #2 soon, and we have every intention of implementing Babywise again. There are a few areas where I know I need to improve, but I at least know that all the hard work of scheduling will pay off. Eternal thanks to Valerie for creating this blog and giving me confidence! If you feel hopeless, keep chugging away; one feeding, one waketime, one nap at a time. There will come a day where you will look back and only remember the good times :)

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