Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Parenting and Problem Solving

I've been thinking more about why I'm enjoying Petunia's newborn days more than I enjoyed Pumpkin's. This has been prompted in part by AskMoxie's recent post about having a new baby. I also just have a lot of time to think, since I'm nursing Petunia so often. I have tried reading while I nurse, but my neck is a bit tweaked*, and I can't find a comfortable way to read and nurse. So I sit and think instead.

I mentioned in my last post that I think part of the reason I'm enjoying things more this time is that I've already been turned into a mother. One reason I found that process so hard was that it forced me to change my approach to problems. Hubby and I are both planners and problem-solvers by nature. When we have a problem, or just something that needs to get done (like, for instance, grocery shopping or keeping the house clean), we tend to develop processes and try to optimize our solutions. We both like to have a plan for getting our chores done so that we can enjoy some chore-free time without guilt. Before we had Pumpkin, our household was humming along pretty smoothly. We knew when we'd do the grocery shopping (Sunday evening) and when we'd clean our house (every other weekend). We had processes for just about everything we needed to do to keep our lives chugging along, so we had a fair amount of chore free time, which we spent at our local pub or at the beach or out enjoying the many recreation options in San Diego. (I particularly miss kayaking....)

Then we had Pumpkin. This required changes to most of our household-running processes. It also presented us with a new set of problems- getting breastfeeding going, calming a fussy baby, dealing with her sleep issues, etc. I naturally approached these problems like I did any other- I tried to rationally analyze them and find solutions. If you're a parent, you're laughing now, because you know that children aren't really amenable to that approach. Babies certainly aren't! Pumpkin didn't care about my carefully researched and well-thought out plans for improving her sleep. She, in fact, didn't think there was a problem at all. She didn't have a sleep problem- I did.

Eventually, I learned a better way to approach the problems Pumpkin created in my life, such as sleep deprivation. I learned to look at the situation and figure out what problem could actually be solved. There is very little you can do to make a baby sleep. Once I'd tried all of the possible "solutions" that fit with our parenting philosophy and still had a baby who woke up in the middle of the night, I had to admit that the problem of Pumpkin waking up in the middle of the night was not really one that I could solve. I could, however, solve the problem of adults so sleep deprived that they could barely function. And that is what we eventually did.

For me, one of the hardest things about really becoming a mother (as opposed to just being a woman who had a baby) was learning that there are some problems that I can't solve. In fact, there are some "problems" that aren't really problems at all. My children have their own personalities and traits, and those aren't problems for me to fix, even when they create problems in my life. I need to learn how to focus on the problems in my life rather than in my child.

That process is ongoing, but at least I have learned the basic lesson. I think this is contributing to my greater happiness/lower stress this time around. Of course, as I type this, I'm sitting on the sofa, watching Petunia sleep and fretting about how she's sleeping past her usual "pre-bedtime" feeding, and wondering what I should do to "fix" that. Old habits die hard. At least I realize how insane that thought is, though! The real problem is the lack of good sleep for Hubby and me, not when Petunia nurses- she's not even three weeks old, and can't really be expected to have a schedule yet. We think having Hubby do the first post-bedtime feeding with a bottle will help solve our sleep problem. Petunia's just about old enough to get a bottle now, so I've started pumping and we'll try a bottle tomorrow night. I hope that this will work, and get us both a satisfactory amount of sleep, because having another little one in the house has certainly created havoc in our routines- we have lots of problems to solve!


*Actually, my neck is really a mess. I'm not sure why (constrained sleep positions due to C-section? Craning my neck to see Petunia's latch?)- but the pain was so bad that on Saturday, I went back to the ER, fearing a return of the post-epidural problem. The doctor there thought it was more likely to be a muscle spasm, and prescribed a Valium as a muscle relaxant. When I got home and looked it up, I discovered that Valium is a very poor choice for a breastfeeding mother, so I didn't fill the prescription. Instead, I saw my regular doctor on Monday. She prescribed a muscle relaxant that I can take while breastfeeding. I finally got a chance to get that filled today, and will give it a try tonight. I am hoping that one or two nights will be enough to sort my neck out.

1 comment:

  1. I have a feeling that we will need to be reminded of this time and time again over the upcoming years!


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