Never Say Never

Good news! I’d written a post for What to Expect  a couple months ago and now it’s live!

Check it out here.

You can also read the full text below the jump.

Melissa Henriquez has been blogging at Let There Be Light since 2008. A New Jersey native who went to college and graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C., Melissa currently lives in the Midwest with her college sweetheart husband, toddler daughter, and 105-pound Labrador pony — er, puppy.

Long before I became a mother, I had some ideas in my head about how life with a baby would look like and what would be “acceptable/unacceptable” to me, a Type A/control-freak by nature. I just knew that some things just wouldn’t fly in my (pre-mama) book.

[Go ahead, keep laughing … you know where this is going].

The baby basics prep classes my husband and I took when I was pregnant gave me more insight — and a more realistic view — into what parenthood would be like, but it wasn’t until our daughter was actually here that I could put my “rules” into action … and, effectively, eat every single one of them.

Yes, you could say that by the end of her first year, I had a massive stomachache from all those words I had chewed.

Sure, there are some true “nevers” that all parents need to abide by for obvious safety reasons: “Never leave baby unattended.” “Never put baby in a car without a car seat.” And, “Never leave small objects lying within baby’s reach,” to name just a few.

But my “nevers” were of a different variety and, as I’ve come to learn in the past 21 months of motherhood, they were unrealistic, a bit ignorant, and made without any real experience to back them up.

Case in point:

What I said: “I won’t use formula [unless absolutely necessary].”

What went down: I wanted desperately to breastfeed. I knew all the benefits of nursing and took a breastfeeding class, read all I could, talked to friends … well, it’s a lot different than when there’s a screaming, squirmy baby in your arms desperate for food. Fortunately, Maya had a successful latch from the get-go and was an efficient nurser. We had a successful two weeks of exclusively nursing, but she was starving. I simply wasn’t making enough milk for her so, on our pediatrician’s recommendation, we ended up doing a combination of breastfeeding, pumping and, yes, formula. Though my husband was completely supportive of me supplementing, it took a long time for me to accept formula is fine, and that I’m not a failure for not being able to exclusively nurse. In the end, I nursed/pumped for nine months and believe I gave Maya every drop of milk I had in me … but I also know she began to thrive and gain weight when we started giving her some formula.

What I said: “I won’t use a pacifier.”

What went down: I had absolutely no reason not to use one, except knowing my mom didn’t use one with us kids. Well, babies need to suck on something and after the second night in the hospital where Maya was still visibly upset even after she had nursed, we caved and told the nurses to bring one in. Surprise, surprise, it worked wonders. When we got home a few days later, we introduced one pacifier — her giraffe Wubbanub —which she used him for naps and at bed time. (She also carried him around at daycare so, by default, he became her first lovey.) We ditched Giraffe at the one-year mark, and she has been totally fine without him — but I don’t see any harm now in using a paci if we are lucky enough to have another baby someday.

What I said: “I won’t let my baby sleep on her belly.”

What went down: We all know the dangers of SIDS, and the best way to prevent SIDS is to have baby sleep alone, on his back, in a crib (per the national PSAs). But by six months, on her belly was how Maya was most comfortable sleeping. At first, we’d flip her over when we’d see her positioned that way … but then realized it was a futile effort since, the little gymnast that she was, she’d still end up on her belly anyway — with her tush in the air in what I like to call “froggy pose” — only a few hours later. We still check on her each night, but at this age — 21 months — we feel comfortable she is safe and sound in her crib.
What I said: “I won’t give my baby rice cereal until the pediatrician says it is okay.”

What went down: I had a little girl who, though she was a peanut and growing, clearly wanted more to eat. At my mom’s urging during a visit, I bit the bullet and gave her a teensy bit of rice cereal in her bottle at two months and then a spoonful here and there mixed with breast milk over the next few weeks. Lo and behold, she began sleeping through the night at 11 weeks. Coincidence? Possibly. But either way, even though our pediatrician didn’t give us the official green light until her six-month checkup, we did what we felt was right for our daughter.

What I said: “I won’t send my child to daycare.”

What went down: I remember saying this in my early 20s, a decade before becoming a mother. My mom had been a stay-at-home mom and I knew I might want to work, but didn’t want to “dump my kids” somewhere else; that’s how I (naively) felt about daycare, that it was a dumping ground for children. I wanted nothing to do with that; I wanted to raise them. But then something funny happened. I got pregnant and still loved my job, and didn’t really want to stop working quite yet. I knew I’d always be a mom … but I didn’t know if I’d always work. And so even though I’ve had plenty of moments of doubt about my decision to work, I still choose to work and believe it’s what’s best for me both personally and professionally at the moment. Working doesn’t hinder my ability to mother Maya; if anything, I hope it means I bring a different perspective to her life. So against my 20-year-old self’s rigid, naive beliefs, my daughter is a daycare baby — and she is flourishing and I am at peace with my decision [for now — there’s always that caveat].

What I said: “I won’t let my children crawl around in public places.”

What went down:As I detailed on my blog in a post earlier this year, sometimes duty calls. When you’re stuck at Newark Airport alone enduring five hours of delays with an 11-month old who wants to crawl and cruise all over… you do what you gotta do! It was a rude awakening for me, and my days of (unfairly) judging others — or caring about what others think —are long gone. Dear moms I might have possibly passed judgment on in the past … please accept my deepest apologies. I was completely clueless. Signed, a then-ignorant young girl [read as: non-mom].

What I said: “I won’t be one of ‘those moms’ who talk about their kids 24/7.”

What went down: I don’t talk about her 24/7, but I do talk about her a whole lot, and I make no apologies for this. I have a life outside of my daughter, of course … she — and my husband; our family — is the center of my universe right now. I try not to turn every conversation back to her, and I try to use discretion and be in tune to my audience (especially with non-mommy friends) but she is a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine ignoring my most important role.

So there you have it. I swallowed a lot of “nevers” in Maya’s first year and my resolution for this second year of Maya’s life has been to never say never. Instead, I want to take each new situation as it comes with an open mind. Learning to be open-minded and flexible has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned in these 21 months as a mom; no good comes from making such black and white blanket statements. It’s one thing for a mom to stand her ground on something she firmly believes in; it’s another thing altogether to make determinant statements just because it’s how I think it should be.

I learned this the hard way, and I’m still digesting as we speak.

How about you? What were your “nevers”? How long did it take you to realize it’s OK to be flexible and doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom because you “caved”?


One thought on “Never Say Never

  1. Cosleeping. Like the “back to sleep,” cosleeping is strongly associated with SIDS—not to mention that Teh Husband and I just believed it was unhealthy in the long run, and we didn’t want to start something we’d eventually have to break.

    Then D was born. And from the night he was born, he refused to sleep unless he was being held. Now, at three months old, he will sleep through the night—waking only for feedings (and often I have to wake him)—if he’s being held. If I try to put him in his crib? He might last an hour before he wakes fussing and crying.

    At this tender age, I’m not willing to let him CIO. So the choice is cosleeping or no sleeping for Mommy! We’ve worked out our positioning so that he’s swaddled, safely on his back, away from blankets, with my arm around him.

    We still want to get him sleeping in his crib as soon as possible. Now that I’m back at work, I have to be up earlier than D really needs to be up. And that’s not mentioning that, ideally, I’d like to squeeze in a workout and a shower before feeding him and getting ready for the day—but I can’t get up early if he’s going to wake and fuss the minute his little back touches any surface that isn’t Mommy’s or Daddy’s arms.

    Also, big hugs to you on having to supplement with formula. We’re in the same boat—in fact, D was only 4 days old when the lactation consultant determined he’d lost too much of his birth weight and we needed to start on formula. And like Maya, D is a natural nurser and loves it so; it breaks my heart, but my own production is significantly less than half of what he needs to grow and thrive. But on the combination of formula and “Mommy milk,” he’s thriving indeed.

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