In the Blog
Queer Brown Girl Trying to be a Parent Part 1
Photo courtesy of deb singh. deb and Adli at 2 months
Many months ago I was a “Queer Brown Girl Trying to Get Pregnant”. I finally got pregnant. My son, Adli is almost 6 months old and this new mom is now a Queer Brown Girl Trying to be a Parent! Check out my 3 part blog series about the baby basics, adventures of being a queer mom, and motherhood as work!
So even trying to write this blog is a challenge - that is to say finding the time is a challenge! Feeding a baby, making sure he’s burped, sleeps well, has clean diapers and doesn’t get bored is serious work!
I heard somewhere that as humans, especially as birth parents, we are hormonally programmed to be disturbed and called to action when we hear a baby cry. And it’s just that! When my son wails, I want to do everything to make him comfortable again – even when he is incorrigible!
Even with all the reading and planning I did prior to birth, I knew it would be a shock to the system and a rude awakening; the sleepless nights, the not being able to eat a meal undisturbed, and the new things my body could do/not do anymore. But, I had no idea I might feel numb, indifferent or shell-shocked.
My partner said I didn’t speak for that first week. She said I was catatonic with shock. But, when I reflect on that time, I thought I was being quiet and subdued because, well, my son had to be experiencing so much overstimulation finally being part of the world that I didn’t want to further overwhelm him.
But that said, I was astounded. I was amazed that even though I intellectually knew there was a baby inside of me that I actually made one, and that it came from my body. I was further profoundly changed in that first week because this kid needed me. He needs me to survive – to eat, to sleep, to feel comfort and to feel safe. In fact, “need” is not a strong enough of a word.
Photo courtesy of deb singh.
So, the following is a short outline of the things that helped us both survive that critical and defining first few weeks of our new lives.
Deb and Adli’s Baby Basics
a. We needed help!
I had some amazing friends bring us food in the hospital, and even more, a friend that stayed with us the first 5 days to help with dishes, holding the baby in my post natal state (as labour is the hardest work a body can do, your body is in recovery and healing can take weeks). Takethemameal.com really helped us manage a schedule of people coming for the first 3 weeks to bring a meal as I needed to be constantly eating because of breastfeeding, but didn’t have any time or energy to cook. Finally, what we also needed was house cleaning and support with the baby for the first 6 months. It helped when friends actually asked what works for us, brought us baby clothes and diapers and offered bouts of child care (which, in the first 6 weeks really looks like holding the baby while I go pee!)
b. Making Decisions
Clearly having a baby means deciding the kinds of things you want to expose your baby to, how you would like to raise them and integrate them into the world. I was recently out with a few new moms and frankly, sticking to those decisions every single time is a hilarious joke. We have to be flexible in the ways in which we choose to teach our newborns the basics of life: eating, sleeping and affection. And, certainly taking the cues from baby is merely a guideline and not one to be followed at every turn. Some of the first and most basic decisions can include where to have your baby (hospital or at home), co-sleeping (in bassinette in the same room or sleeping in the same bed) and bottle feeding or breast/chest feeding. I chose to breast feed exclusively for 5 months straight and we tried the bottle but my son never really took to it (it was a constant tearful battle every time I left him with a bottle and a babysitter). Now, after introducing him to the sippy cup, I supplement with formula once a day so I can leave the house sometimes! One must be flexible as babies are ever-changing little creatures.
c. You are not alone…
If you are doing this with a partner it can be challenging to always make decisions together and not micro manage the other partner. If you are doing this single, it can be challenging to have only yourself to rely on for all the care the baby needs as they are constantly demanding things critical to their survival (including cuddles) at all hours of day and night. It can feel lonely being a new mom and not merely because it is isolating to have a kid in a North American context, where the world isn’t baby friendly. It’s isolating because you, your body and life are so different now. New mom groups can be great, but we needed to balance all the needs that surfaced upon becoming new parents. Even when we wanted to hook up with other new moms, we had to think about traveling with a newborn, his nap schedule, and even the weather! (Don’t forget that umbrella Deb, it’s not just about your hairstyle anymore!)
d. The 4th trimester – Harvey Karps Happiest Baby Method (the 5 Ss)
We quickly learned that Adli, like all babies, was clearly not climitized for life outside the womb just yet. He was so used to being in the womb that he needed some reminders of his former home to soothe and comfort him. These include Harvey Karps 5 Ss: Swaddle, Side/Stomach Position, Shush, Swing and Suck
The list of Ss help a new parent remember all the ways in which we can help baby transition to life outside the womb. For example, babies are used to being all cramped up in the uterus so swaddling a baby’s new flayling arms can soothe them and help baby sleep longer (otherwise a baby’s moving arms can wake her while she sleeps). Another, birthright and natural instinct, is to suck. Babies will take to a pacifier easily at this time and while there are all sorts of thoughts about the use of them, pacifiers can help a baby maintain their natural reaction to suck without it having to be on you all the time. We nicknamed ours “God”.
So its clear to see that the simple joy of having a child can be complicated with all the stuff you need to learn, do, buy, know, and so on. We learned these baby basics both the easy and the hard way, with massive help from Babycentre.ca, friends who had been through it recently, and other moms in my life. We also were supported by having friends and family, come over to help support with household chores and baby holding.
These are just a few of my baby basics, even though there is nothing basic about having a baby!
Check out my next blog: Adventure of Being a Queer Mom!