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“What I’ve learned about new motherhood? Trust Yourself.”

by Guest Blogger on August 13, 2012

Today’s post is brought to you by a guest contributor with one of the cleverest online handles I’ve come across: Tragic Sandwich. I asked “Ms. Sandwich” to share some of the most important lessons she’s learned as a new mom, and I know you’ll identify with the realizations she’s made on her journey. Enjoy! -M

To paraphrase Olympia Dukakis’s Rose Castorini from Moonstruck, “What I don’t know about parenting is a lot.”

Baguette was born in April 2010. Mr. Sandwich and I brought her home two days later, and as we opened the front door, I thought, “Why did they let me bring her home? I have no idea what to do.”

Turns out, I did. In fact, she needed exactly the same things at home that she needed in the hospital: clean, dry diapers; food; the occasional sponge bath (although, wow, did she hate them); and loving parents. So we gave her those. And when she had needs beyond that, we figured out how to meet those as well.

I often felt–and still feel–like I have no idea what I’m doing.

I learned how to play with my baby by watching other mothers play with theirs. I still remember visiting a day care when she was a few months old. The other mom who was introducing her baby to the center was playing with a receiving blanket, holding it up and dropping it down so that it drifted through the air and over the baby. Then she’d pull it up and do the same thing over and over, while her baby giggled. I thought, “Baguette would probably like that,” and then felt horrible that I couldn’t even come up with a game that simple.

But I also realized that we’re all learning, all the time. And so when a number of friends had babies in close succession after Baguette was born, I shared what I’d learned, telling them what products–or sources–had worked best for us.

That phrase “best for us” is key, by the way. It’s at the heart of what anyone really can share with you about raising children. Beyond “this brand of baby nail clippers cut better than that one,” my parenting advice is really quite limited, for a very simple reason.

I’m not you, and Baguette is not your child. Our parenting equations are very different.

So with that in mind, there are two things I tell new parents:

1) There is a very wide range of normal, and no matter how weird that thing your baby just did seems, it is probably normal. Every single time we asked our pediatrician about something that seemed bizarre and potentially unhealthy (Pooped six times in a row? Didn’t poop for days?), he’d respond, “Well, that’s normal.” So go ahead and ask your pediatrician about it, but don’t worry too much. It’s normal.

2) There are a lot of ways to do this right. Find the ones that work for you and your family. This means asking others (and sometimes accepting their unsolicited advice) and trial-and-error. Don’t worry about the process. Everyone is making this up as they go along.

So when people say they have the One Answer? That’s just what worked for them. If it also works for you, great. If it doesn’t, no big deal. If you don’t want to try it? Fine. There is nothing that says you have to.

You know your family and your child better than anyone. When you make choices, you’re doing it with their specific well-being in mind. And you’re the person best equipped to do that. It’s fine to learn from others. But trust yourself. There’s no reason not to.

Tragic Sandwich is a 40-something mom to Baguette, a rambunctious toddler who loves adventures. Together, she and Mr. Sandwich are making their way through the world of first-time parenthood.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Devon August 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Oh this is lovely and so spot-on! Thank you for sharing!

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brittnie August 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

This post is SO refreshing to read. Really. I have a 3 month old, my first child, and I spent the first 8 weeks freaking out about every decision I made. I have sense chilled out, praise God, but I had to realize that there is no one right way to raise a baby. :)

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Gianna August 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I love this! This is exactly right. I think I want to give it to my friend who is having her baby next month!

This should be bronzed and hung in every postpartum room at each and every hospital!

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Nina August 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm

So glad to see one of the blogs I enjoy reading on The Happiest Mom (hi Tragic Sandwich!).

I completely agree with your sentiment. It’s easy to offer advice, particularly us bloggers, because we truly and wholeheartedly do feel like what has worked for us worked so well. But I think all moms need to always do what works for them. No one is ever more invested in your child than you, so it only makes sense to do what seems right to you.

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Cloud August 14, 2012 at 12:46 am

Great guest post! I think the biggest thing for me was accepting the type of mother I am, and finding the way to arrange my life that makes me the best mother I can be. And then ignoring all the people who think that my way isn’t as good as some other way… while also remembering that my way might really, truly suck for some other mom. And that is OK, because we’re all different and we have different kids, so why in the world would we think we’d all parent in the same way?

The other liberating thing was realizing that I could fall back on my science training and take the advice from experts and critically evaluate it, and then shape it to fit my kids and my life. The first time I really got this was about picky eating. I was (and um, still am) a big picky eater, so while the advice from experts was helpful, I could also think about whether it made sense to me as a picky eater and whether it fit with what I know about the biological basis of picky eating, and then come up with a strategy that I felt good about. And then I just kept doing similar analyses for other parenting topics. I think we did better in some areas than others (let’s just say no one should ask us for potty training advice), but overall, it has made me a happier mom.

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SusanP August 15, 2012 at 12:08 am

Another scientist Mommy here and I can totally to relate to what you wrote! :-) I’m also a picky eater and created my own strategies based somewhat on my own expereinces that have worked well so far.

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Alexandria August 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

So very true! Great post!

I Was the type who loves to read and was going to read all the books and be that mommy expert. Once my baby was born I never read another “How to raise/deal with a child” book. I think a lot of this stemmed from the endless unasked-for advice from others, and the “one size fits all” mentality that came from books on the subject. I very quickly learned that “figuring out as I went” seemed to be the most effective. Just as an example? I would listen to parents go on and on and on about the proper way to wean babies and potty train them. These were the kind of things that just happened in their own time and I got really bored of the endless conversations of the *right* way to do things, and annoyed with culture of “over-analyze everything like you are insane!” Because none of this was ever very useful. Maybe I should worry about problems as they arise rather than make everything into a giant problem. All of the above said, there are so many times a spouse, a friend or a relative would figure out a solution or share a tip that I never would have thought of. It takes a village – I just prefer the village not be totally insane. ;)

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Liz August 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

I read all the books. Threw them all out in disgust after a few months. (Would have burned them if it didn’t seem heretical to burn books!) Decided that the only rule to follow was “if it works, do it” – my version of your “what’s best for us.”

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SusanP August 15, 2012 at 12:12 am

Lovely post and I agree with it all!

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Andrea | EC Simplified August 15, 2012 at 4:00 am

Completely agree! To rephrase Mayim Bialik, parenting is built into our DNA. And we intuitively know what’s best for our children. We alone know the nuances and the little quirks that make us and our children unique, and no one formula will work. As parents, yes, we draw from different sources for information, support, and encouragement, but ultimately, we mix and match, tweak and pick, then finally decide how we want to raise our own children.

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Ellen Howell August 15, 2012 at 6:43 am

This is very useful information. Thanks for the awesome advice. You help me to become a great mom.

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Tragic Sandwich August 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Thanks, everyone! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by what we should be doing–I think it’s really important to focus on our true priorities!

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Laura Parker August 16, 2012 at 8:14 am

Parenting is a great responsibility during motherhood. As a mom, I make sure to focus on my major priorities.

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Tiny Blue Lines August 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Although I loved this post, am I the only one who left really hungry for a baguette??

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