John C Kim and International Adoption Video

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On new babies

On new babies,
Lesson number one the most important thing to teach your children is how to forgive you. Listen up, you may be perfect or near-perfect in your workplace but in child-rearing you'll be a screwup like the rest of us.
Some of us will screw up royally. In fact, it happens right around birth. For some of us even before birth. Sorry this is such a negative intro, but the truth can be difficult to swallow, just ask the 4 year old what they think of that Augmentin. Actually, if you think about it acknowledging this will give you tremendous freedom. The reason we are so anxious about all sorts of things is that we are afraid. We are afraid of not doing it right. In fact, many of us are very anxious because we are afraid of not doing it just right. And I want to tell parents, relax a little bit. Stop struggling against the machine, that is against your unrealistic expectations. You will not do it just right. Having said that, it's a wonder and it really is a wonder that children, namely our children will thrive and grow and become beautiful. Actually, the little old newborn Yoda like creature is quite beautiful already to you. Don't apologize for it. This is the legacy of your genetic, Parental love delusion. Embrace it!
You'll make many mistakes. And your baby, marvelous as they come is resilient, flexible, and amazing. They are very very good at being alive and staying alive. Even to thrive. Babies are remarkably resilient. You don't have to do everything right, you just have to do one thing right. Love your child. Or put another way, love your child by delighting in your child.
Now as very newborn babies, this is easy enough. Mainly they lay their sucking on mother's breast or formula bottle and look beautiful. Even their crying is slightly pathetic and beautiful. Heck even their pooping and peeing is sort of cute and beautiful. It is cute and beautiful until the crying goes on and on and on, and then something else kicks in entirely. It smells of hopelessness, impotence (especially for the man), inadequacy, and sheer pain superimposed on fatigue, stress, hunger and hormones. This is the pain and beauty of parenting.
So relax, you can stop feeling so guilty. The guilt will come. You will not get everything right and your baby will thrive despite you and because of you. But mainly, babies know what to do. They know how to cry when they're hungry, suck when they're hungry, cry when they're tired, sleep when they're tired, poop and pee and so on. So this is the foundation of parenting, that you have a lot to learn, and your child will be teaching you nearly every day something that you did not know. There will be Mistry's that neither you, nor your partner, nor your partner's parents, or your pediatrician will be able to figure out. You will use your gut and intuition, and sleep deprived semi-hallucinatory cognitions to keep your baby warm and well fed. Dry and fairly rested. And most of all loved and delighted in.

Babies do weird things:
in the first 24 to 48 hours, they sleep a lot. You would think they would be a little more excited and stimulated to be in the world. It may be, nobody really knows what babies think,that they're struggling with denial about being born. Or, that coming out into the world is really quite traumatic and as many children and infants do when they're stressed, they sleep. My first child, Annie slept 22 out of the first 24 hours of the first two days of her life. I looked up in pediatrics textbook whether this was normal. It was hard to find. I think it was normal. Babies sleep a lot. The strange thing is, some babies sleep a lot, and some babies sleep almost all the time. As many things are in pediatrics, there is a wide range of what we consider normal.
She breast-fed, for 10 to 15 minutes and then fell promptly asleep. Then, after three hours after cajoling her, whispering to her, singing to her, and finally pinching her (not that hard), she fed again and promptly fell back asleep. You get the idea.

Other weird baby things.
They breathe funny. This is called periodic breathing. This is, they breathe rapidly, as if they are hyperventilating before diving for deep-sea pearls. It is shallow and hyper for 10 to 20 seconds, and then abruptly they seem as if they've caught up, and they practically stop breathing. Take a deep breath. This is normal. This is called periodic breathing. If you want, try meditating with the same breathing pattern and some people get a little buzz out of it.

They poop funny. In the beginning, they poop this tarry sticky goop called meconium stool. It is wonderful and gross. Wonderful because it means that your babies digestive system is working and the teeny little bit of breast milk or formula is making its way through your baby's body. Rejoice in your baby's first poop and fart. It means that a most important part of their physiology is working. In fact, we would not discharge you until your baby pooped. It is gross, because it is unusually and unreasonably sticky. On some, primordial level we are amazed and truth be known somewhat disgusted at this kind of excrement. However, keep in mind this is one of your baby's celebratory moments. Clap, rejoice, sing and dance, even if you have been assigned to clean it. It is wonderful. Remember that first one, even savor it. Embrace this stool. There will be many many many to come. And they will never be as delightful again.

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Personal Web site for John C Kim: KIDDOC.ORG

I am a pediatrician specializing in General Pediatrics, International Adoption Medicine, and in the diagnosis and coaching of families pursuing joy.