On the evening of July 8th, 2022, Jessica and I found ourselves at the hospital for the third time. We were somewhat skeptical that we’d be admitted given that Jess had been in false labour the previous times.
We had wanted a home birth with a midwife, but being relegated to waitlist purgatory meant that a hospital was our only option. We also wanted Jess’s mother and my mother to be there with us, but covid restrictions meant that we could only have visitors post-delivery.
When I finally got the text to come upstairs, I rushed to grab all of our bags and bedding from the trunk of the car, and I hobbled my way to the birthing unit looking very much like a sherpa.
Although Jess was in obvious discomfort from her impending labour, we felt optimistic that everything would work out. After all, we had worked tirelessly on our birthing plan, so we knew how we wanted things to go.
Jess wanted a water birth, which the hospital’s website mentioned they could accommodate—and she also wanted to forego the epidural. But as the nurse helped us settle in and got Jess hooked up to the monitors and IV, we discovered that we had to scrap our birthing plan altogether.
When we learned that the whirlpool tub was only for labouring, we decided to explore other birthing options like standing. But when we learned that standing was only acceptable for labouring and not delivery, we resigned ourselves to the whims of the hospital staff and OB.
Between trips to the ice machine for Jess, the labour pain quickly started to ramp up. And because our son wouldn’t stay still long enough to get accurate heart readings, he had to be hooked up to an internal monitor, which restricted Jess from assuming any positions that might bring her some pain relief.
So epidural it was.
This labour experience was a sign of things to come—an indication that very little is within our realm of control.
Our parenting journey began at the ungodly hour of 4am on July 9th. Although it’s impossible to sleep on hospital chairs, we were reassured by the constant presence of nurses and doctors tending to us. But when we were finally sent home with an entirely new human, we lost all confidence in our ability to be parents.
If you do any amount of research into parenting, you’ll quickly learn that there’s absolutely no rulebook for raising an infant. Granted, there isn’t much to do for the first few weeks because you’re dealing with a wrinkled potato that sleeps for 95% of the day, but you still worry about everything.
Is my son breathing? Is he latching onto the breast well? Is he getting enough sleep? Is he too hot? Too cold?
If you looked at our combined search history for those first few weeks, you’d likely see a lot of “is X normal in babies” or “why does my baby do X”. As wonderful as Google can be for supplying new parents with information and resources, people are also very opinionated when it comes to raising children.
Through our research, we learned that bottle and formula feeding are still largely stigmatized. We read that co-sleeping is never okay under any circumstances, and that you shouldn’t let your baby fall asleep on the breast. We pored over opinion after opinion of where our baby should be in his development.
It’s easy to feel reassured by research when it supports your prevailing beliefs, but what do you do when the top tips and recommendations don’t work for you? What do you do when you’re running on 1–2 hours of sleep and your infant won’t fall asleep? What do you do when your baby cries incessantly after you’ve made sure all of his needs have been met?
We quickly learned that these tips and recommendations are guidelines at best. Parenting is a balancing act of juggling your needs with the needs of your child. If you need your son to sleep in bed with you because that’s the only way everyone will sleep, then that’s what you have to do.
They say to sleep while your baby sleeps, so does that mean you should clean while your baby cleans or cook while your baby cooks? At the end of the day, only you know what’s best for you and your kid, so take what you read with a grain of salt. Use guidelines as a starting point if you need to, but don’t compromise your values or your sanity.
You’ll try and fail a lot. One day you’ll bounce your baby a certain way and they’ll stop crying, but the following day that technique might have no effect. So keep an open mind. Keep adapting.