From Novice to Expert?
by Christy Carl-Sillman
It’s amazing that only nine months after embarking upon this adventure of motherhood my bumbling novice identity has suddenly transformed into my being an expert in the field. Four of my close friends are expecting their first child, and I couldn’t be happier. Finally they will understand, finally they will engage in the motherhood discussions, and finally I won’t be the only mama dragging her baby and all his gear to lunch with the ladies.
I was seriously taken aback though when one of my friends referred to me as her “mommy mentor.” I laughed out loud, no, literally, laughed out loud to this notion. How could I be her mommy mentor? I feel like I’ve barely made it through these past nine months. That by the grace of God, luck of the Irish, or pure happenstance I didn’t royally screw up this mommy-hood transformation I’ve experienced. Truly everything I have learned is from my mistakes, and maybe it’s because I am open and share my failures as well as my triumphs with the mommy-club masses, but I hope it brings new moms, old moms, and expecting moms some hope.
Christy’s Monumental Mommy Mistakes:
#1: READ your car seat manual; don’t just trust the nurse who buckles your baby in as you leave the hospital. We were strapping my son’s legs up to his stomach for over two months due to this rookie mistake— no wonder he had reflux issues! We were lucky enough to avoid car accidents during this time period, but this could have been a seriously dangerous mistake.
#2: Homeopathic supplements can be helpful, but they don’t usually come with instructions. In an attempt to increase my milk production we discovered an herbal supplement called Fenugreek. After researching a little online we asked our lactation consultant who directed us to take three times the recommended dose. I questioned her advice, but she confirmed the dosage, so I figured she must know best. After one dose I was crippled with horrible diarrhea and vomiting, and shortly afterwards my son also had diarrhea. The craziest side effect was our skin smelled like maple syrup for almost a week. Never thought my body odor would smell like an IHOP.
#3: Don’t travel out of the country when your baby is less than six months old. Getting a baby passport photo is not a fun task, flying in an airplane for twelve hours with a baby does not make other passengers happy, and having to decide on the most important baby gear to drag with you seems impossible. While I encourage short getaways, our trip to the Bahamas when my son was two months old provided me with a good old fashioned emotional breakdown of immense proportions.
#4: Don’t ignore your mommy-gut. Just like a woman’s breast milk knows what nutrients the baby needs, our gut tells us when something is wrong, and we should never ignore it. I knew my son’s screaming fits after each feeding were not normal. That his arching, spitting up, and inability to get comfortable when lying flat were all part of a gastro-esophageal reflux issue, yet our pediatrician insisted it was “normal” and part of “colic.” You know what colic is? It’s a cop-out for pediatricians who don’t want to investigate the one thing which is consuming the lives of a formerly happy family. My gut told me to find a new pediatrician, but I ignored it. My son suffered way longer than he ever should have, and once we finally made the switch to a new pediatrician he got the diagnosis and treatment which finally allowed him to be the happy boy I knew was in there the whole time.
#5: Every mom has the right to approach motherhood in any of the millions of “methods” out there (as long as it is safe for the baby), but placing guilt, shame, or judgment upon another mom should be considered a crime against motherhood as a whole. My mistake involves trying to listen to all the different sleep methods, all the different advice, and buying into the extreme beliefs some other mamas hold. I was terrified of letting my son cry before going to sleep, but at around five months old I realized he was playing me like a fool. So against all advice I followed my baby’s cues, my gut, and our lifestyle, and ultimately we found the best “sleep training” approach through our own method, which ultimately led us to sleep-filled nights and a happier baby.
#6: Socks and tile don’t mix. Need I say more?
There are many other mommy mistakes, but I also recognize my triumphs, however hard coming they may have been— soothing the colic fits, surviving the Bahamas, recognizing I had postpartum depression and getting the help I needed, FINALLY finding a baby formula which made his stomach feel good, establishing a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine based on his cues which rewarded us with twelve hours straight sleep, and ultimately braving this new world as a we instead of a me.
I wish nothing but smooth sailing for my new mommy friends, but know that just like me they will hit a bump or two. I will be there to reassure them that they are still amazing moms, and to offer my support however I can. I feel as though I’ve climbed a mountain, but now, at nine months old, every day with my son is pure joy, love, and happiness. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, mistakes and all, because his laugh is the most amazing reward I have ever received.