Full disclosure: I did not swaddle any of my babies. I think maybe I sort of did at the hospital with my first, but it became evident really quickly with each that my children like to flop out in odd positions, and swaddling hindered their ability to fling their arm over their face, prop their legs up, or contort into wacky pretzels (especially favored: the butt in the air pose, adopted the precise moment they become able to turn over onto their tummy and given up…never? The four-year-old still does it.) He spent his time under bili lights looking like he was at a spa.
However, I know many, many, many parents for whom swaddling was the best thing they ever did, allowing them to soothe the unsoothable, quiet the yeller, calm the tiny beast.
There are a lot of things like this – people who swaddle, people who don’t; people who breastfeed, people who don’t; people who babywear, people who don’t; people who use cribs, people who don’t. I think if I came up with all the little choices people make and put it in list format, it would be the longest blog post ever written by anyone in the history of blogs. It would probably be longer than Ulysses.
I was a part of a conversation the other day on a friend’s Facebook status about one of the myriad choices we make as parents and as we ascertained where we each fall on that particular issue, one of the moms mentioned that the “against” comments would have sent her over the edge as a new, first-time mom when it felt like she was making an unpopular and difficult choice, but a choice she felt strongly was the right one for her family and her baby. I realized that I had come a very long way in my journey as mom to small people who test me and force me to grow and expand at practically every turn. It was no longer an affront to me when others did things differently. There are a few issues where I have an incredibly firm stance and as a consequence of that growth I also have the confidence to speak my mind, even if it’s unpopular. I also have the capacity to empathize and not be offended in the least when others have equally strong stances that are the opposite of my own. It’s actually kind of refreshing to see that there is not just one way – that parenting basically the opposite of the way I do will also produce remarkable, kind, creative, and goofy children.
I have thanked every deity I can think of (and a few I’ve invented just for the purpose of thanking) that my inconsolable screaming banshee child was my third and not my first. I still didn’t have the first clue how to help her other than just do the mom bounce and endure a tiny person screaming in my face for an hour, but I did have enough experience to know that this was just one variation of normal, and that we were both going to get through it. If she were my first, I have no idea what kind of choices I’d have made. Heaven knows I was as uptight as uptight gets with my first and he was one of those never cries babies that you read about in attachment parenting books (he read them, too, I guess) – always soothed by nursing or the sling, perfectly content. Little stinker.
So, maybe you are parenting your first baby or parenting your first screamer. Maybe you adopted a gorgeous little cherub that yells his head off and you are wondering if you had physically given birth, would you know what to do? (To answer that: probably not! Take heart!) Maybe you’re parenting your ninth perfect little angel who has read all the books like her siblings before her and knows just what she should be calmed by. I’d like to think that we’re all in this together – we’re all starting in different places, expanding at different rates, but we’re all doing the best we can with the wildly different circumstances and babies we’ve been given.
I wish there was a mama (or daddy!) swaddle blanket for those times that you need to be snuggled up and cared for. For the times at 3am when you wonder how on earth an 8lb baby can be so heavy and how your hallway can be so long. For the times you watch the sun come up or when you fall asleep before it goes down because you are just that exhausted. For the times when the choices seem so hard, so monumental – be they pacifiers, cribs, slings, schools, or socks.
I’ll be looking up those deities again tonight to thank them for letting me reach the point where I can recognize that we are all on the same team. I will thank them for opening my mind to see that what we ought to do for each other is offer support, a cozy blanket, a little mama swaddle. Even if we disagree, even if we do things differently, I am confident that your kids will turn out just as goofy as mine.