Before I had my son. That's when I knew everything about being a mom. Those of you who know me know I'm that type A (my husband says type A+) person who does all of my research ahead of time and has a plan for everything I'm going to do. Once "The Plan" is established, we rarely deviate from "The Plan". If you have seen my travel binders or helped at my wedding you know exactly what I'm talking about. The instructions for setting up the reception were 3 pages long, typed, bulleted, and included diagrams. When my husband and I moved to WA, I made diagrams of each room in the house, showing where all of the major pieces of furniture were to be placed by the movers. The list of examples goes on. Needless to say, being in the Navy has challenged me and my need for "The Plan". Then we had Varick...
I read half a dozen, or more, books on parenting. I had the apps that track growth and give you parenting tips. I attended every class at the hospital. I spoke to friends and family and KNEW what I was going to do with my baby. In my mind I believed that I had allowed for some flexibility, but I really hadn't. And any time someone questioned a part of "The Plan" I went into major defense mode. I had done my research. I didn't need their suggestions, doubts or skepticism. I just wanted their support. To the point that after Varick was born, it was almost detrimental to us.
I was determined to exclusively breastfeed. I had done my reading on it, gone to the classes, and spoken to other moms. I wanted to give my child the best I could think of, and to me, that meant EBF. I didn't want to feed my baby that "fake stuff" (sorry Aunt KC, but that was my opinion at that time). Plus, I didn't want to pay for it. For those of you who haven't purchased baby formula, it's expensive! There's a reason it's locked up with the high end liquor in some stores...Then, Varick was born. We struggled with his latch in the hospital, but by the time we went home he was eating so I didn't think anything of it. My milk came in, I could tell he was getting food, and he stayed on for 30-45 minutes at a time so I figured he was eating well. At his 2 day check after our release we weighed him. He had lost a full pound, over 13% of his birth weight. I freaked out a bit. We adjusted what I was doing and I came back 2 days later. He had gained 5 oz back! Win! I relaxed and we went back home and did our thing. Two week check came up. Varick had only gained 1oz. I was devastated. What was I doing wrong? We started doing weekly weight checks. I put Varick on unrestricted feeding (there goes the part of "The Plan" about putting him on a schedule). I kept track of everything. How many wet diapers he had, how many bms, how long he was eating. I'd spend 5 hours a day with him nursing some days. We saw nutritionists, lactation nurses, and doctors. We found out Varick was tongue-tied and had it clipped (the most traumatic thing to Chad and I had experienced at that point). Still, his weight crawled, going up 1 oz a week. Finally, at 6 weeks he had reached his birth weight. I would almost be in tears every time I changed his clothes. He was so thin. I felt like a failure as a mom. People would say things out of concern, meaning the best, but in my head all I heard was "You aren't a good mom. You aren't taking care of your son." We finally started supplementing formula. I hated it. I hated the bottles. I hated the smell. Varick was spitting up half of the formula we fed him, so we switched to sensitive. Then it happened. The week we had 3 whole ounces of weight gain! Then the same the next week! We were still in the 1-2% for weight, but we were at least on a growth curve finally. We kept supplementing formula. We had breast milk donated to us by a friend in the navy. Varick kept growing and thriving. At 5 months he finally started to catch up in his weight. Through it all I realized that, in the end, it doesn't matter whether you exclusively breastfeed, supplement with formula, or exclusively formula feed. What matters is that your baby is fed, happy, and growing. You do what's right for you and your baby.
I also thought we were going to exclusively cloth diaper. I'm a tree hugger at heart and hated the idea of spending money on disposable diapers just to have Varick poop in it and me throw it in the trash. I still hate the idea. Unfortunately, daycare wouldn't take cloth diapers. I think that's partially because they don't understand how they work, partially because they just have sanitation concerns, which I understand. So we buy disposables. But when we are at home we use cloth (usually) and I love the fact that I can use them for our other children in the future. Our stash has already paid itself off in diapers we didn't have to buy for our home. And really, the extra laundry isn't that bad.
"The Plan" also included making all of Varick's baby food. It's fresher, I control what's going into my baby completely, and it's cheaper. But we got on WIC because of my unstable job situation. They give us like 50 jars of baby food a month. So we get it, and that's what we take into daycare for Varick to eat. And some times that's what he eats at home too. Or when we travel. You know what's in jarred baby food? Vegetables and water. You know what's in my homemade food? Vegetables and water. It's the same thing. Mine is just chunkier. I still haven't given him juice, processed sugar or junk food. My baby eats health food, but some of it is pre-made from the store, just like mine.
There have been plenty of other things in "The Plan" that haven't always worked out for me. Like sleep training, regular nap times, not letting Varick watch TV, reading to him every day, or consistently using sign language with him. I have set him in his bouncer with "Fineus and Ferb" on for an hour before, so that I could do the dishes and start dinner. I've left Varick in his crib to "cry it out" before when my husband was at work over night and I'd been trying to console him for over an hour and was at my wits end. I've also handed him to his dad and said "I just can't deal with this right now" and left for a while.
In the end I've had to realize that being a parent isn't about being in control. It's about being flexible. It's about making sure my child is as healthy and safe as I can make him. It's about making sure that Varick knows he is loved. It's about ENJOYING my child, not worrying about if I'm doing everything "right". Because I won't. I'm going to mess up. But we learn and go on. It's about sharing my experiences with other moms, so that they know that whatever they are going through with their child is "normal". And it means not judging other moms. Because I know that we are all just being the best moms that we can be to our own babies.