Independence Day

July 4, 2018

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Independent:

Not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction, autonomous, free

 Not relying on another or others for aid or support

 Not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. thinking or acting for oneself.

 

On this, Independence Day,  July 4th I cannot help but think of babies and their parents. There is such a cultural push to have babies become independent. There seems to be a fear of babies being too dependent on their parents. I hear the words “needy” “bad habits” “spoiled” bandied about in reference to babies’needs. But that is what they are: NEEDS.

Babies need to be held and fed and spoken to and socialized. They are not ready to be independent until at the earliest 18 years old.

Routine and structure are important but separation or rejection is not healthy. If you meet your baby’s dependency needs they will grow independent in time.

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Do you remember falling in love? The excitement of seeing that special someone? Your heart speeding up? Remember catching each others’ eyes? The way it felt when your skin touched? The vulnerability you allowed yourself?

As your relationship developed both of you revealed your flaws because you let your guards down. Sometimes you got angry but you recovered because love created a place of safety, forgiveness and acceptance, unconditionally.

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This happens with babies.  We have to negotiate our time and space to accommodate this feeling. Our hearts have unending abundance. There is an excitement and fear because we did not realize our capacity to feel such profound emotions.

Welcome to parenting. This journey is all about falling in love. Love can be wonderful and scary, frustrating and exhilarating.

Fall in love amidst the chaos of a life that is no longer yours alone. You find that you have lost control of your environment. You don’t have time for yourself, your home is a disaster. When did you last shower? Did you eat breakfast?  What happened to your body? Will you ever make love again?

But then you catch your baby’s eyes and all the mess fades away, if only momentarily.

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Your baby doesn’t care about dust bunnies and dishes piled high. She simply needs you.

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Remember in the early days with your partner wanting to be together constantly? This is how your baby feels. She wants you to hold her and feed her, to talk to her and to touch her. Your baby does not want to leave your side.

As you fell in love with your significant other there were times of uncertainty. If you put limitations on your time together would that make you feel secure or insecure?

Babies feel the same. Putting limitations on touch, holding and feeding can make a baby feel unsettled. She may build up defense mechanisms. Allow yourself to dive deep into this new relationship.

In this new phase of your life you will find you tap into your intuition. Trust this gift. Listen to your baby and listen to your heart.

Life is messy. It is speckled with moments of great amazement and awe but mostly it is ordinary. Life with a new baby can be overwhelming all of the time but after an adjustment period it will be mostly ordinary. You will find the comfort of this new kind of love extraordinary.

Here are some strategies to help you enjoy this new chapter of your life:

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~Talk to your baby, tell her your life story – she loves the sound of your voice

~Ask for help – and accept it!

~Tell people honestly what you need: food (prepared), to clean your house, to hold your baby while you sleep or shower

~Sleep when your baby sleeps – yes, take naps when the sun is shining

~Wear your baby – this can let you move about while still keeping her happy on your body

~Keep diapers and changing gear in more than one place – the nursery, your bedroom, the living room – so you don’t have to travel

~Set up nursing stations – a glass of water for you, snacks, a burp cloth in various areas

~Put an outgoing message on all your communications – “Hello, thank you for contacting the Smiths, we are busy bonding with our baby, please leave a message and we will call you back when we get a chance.”

 

Be vulnerable, take emotional risks, fall in love.

 

 

For many women being pregnant with her second child is a wonderful occasion while for others it is a time of inner conflict. Yes, she wants this new baby but how could she possibly love anyone as much as she loves the little person here. Will the first child be abandoned? How will she stretch herself anymore than she already is? How can she create equality within her family?

It is important to realize that the learning curve with the first child is incredibly steep. When you are already in the role of parent bringing a new baby home is not as frightening.

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Remember this baby is born into a family unit. We do not mother each child separately. Yes, we have different relationships with each child but we can never divide ourselves equally. There are times when one child requires more time and focus. Yes, they will fight for attention. The mothers I have spoken with who feel that they do not abandon one child for the sake of another seemed to have similar attitudes: “We are a family, a unit.” One mom who refers to her family as “The 12th Street Gang.” I love this.

You know the Sister Sledge song “We are Family?” “I got all my sisters and me”

My mother loved The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. I picked it up recently and it made me realize how much his words spoke to her.

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On children he wrote:

Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s

longing for itself.

They come through you but not from

You,

And though they are with you yet they

Belong not to you.

 

Children are individuals but they do not exist alone. We are here to guide and love them. They will model what they see. Let them play well with others and work through natural conflicts?

My freshman year of college I had an acting teacher who asked me which of my siblings I loved best. Without missing a beat my reply was, “I love them equally but differently.” That was my Mama’s work! She created that.

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(My siblings and me)

It is helpful to have strategies to be able to mother more than one child at a time.

Here are some ideas that can help:

~ wear the baby – get a sling, wrap or other carrier to keep the baby close and keep your hands free

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~ include the older child in caring for his sibling, do not force it, rather give him the opportunity to help, keep diapers and baby’s clothes within reach of him so he can get these things

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~ do not overindulge either of the children

~ ask open ended questions and really listen to him

~ acknowledge his feelings 

~ let go of things – dust, material objects

~ ask for help with the house and food – when people ask what you need tell them you need food and a clean house

 

You can never create true equality! Ask anyone with siblings – they will tell you stories. Go easy on yourself.

By keeping your family together the older child sees how he was cared for. By separating the two you teach them that you cannot love them together – that each child is just one unit, creating more competition. By including the new baby you are modeling love, acceptance and patience.