Apparently I am not the only one still nursing a grudge against Gary Ezzo . In fact, there's a whole week dedicated to it which I missed, but I've been wanting to post about this anyway.
I have probably done enough Ezzo-ranting on this blog, and the fact is that I have friends who I respect very much who do Babywise, and I know that it fits some personalities and some babies, and it can be done gently and wisely . . . so rather than offend anyone or get myself all stressed-out just thinking about my experience with "the Book", I'll just describe a bit about my three different girls and my three different approaches, and the conclusion I have finally come to.
I feel bad for firstborns. Seriously. My parenting style keeps changing and it's the firstborn who must endure all of my mistakes. If Sami grows up to hate me and chooses to rebel by being really prissy and buying a lot of expensive purses, Sam, I will not blame you.
Sam was a difficult baby. And when I say difficult I mean that she didn't sleep for the first three months years of her life, was colicky and wanted to nurse so much that I believed she was sucking the marrow from my bones. I think I thought this was pretty normal until we had Annie who actually slept for more than ten minutes at a time, and I couldn't believe how easy life was. I was a first-time mom who loved this baby so much I couldn't see straight, I hated not being in the same room with her, couldn't run to the grocery store without calling twice and rushing home to be with her. But I was battling this intense guilt that said I wasn't doing this right, she should be sleeping by now, I need to let her cry. And so we'd read "the Book" and tell ourselves okay, this is the night, tonight she cries . . . and I could just cry now even thinking about those times we let her cry it out, and the way that she cried and cried and cried and cried and did not go to sleep . . . and I won't even tell you how long she cried but it was TOO LONG and my mothering instincts were going nuts, I would just weep until I couldn't take it any more and would rush to pick her up . . . I thank God that we weren't so foolish to keep doing that to our poor daughter, but even one night of that much crying was too much.
And yes, there are babies who respond much differently to this approach, just slip right into a schedule, like our second born Annie did, but Sam was a completely different baby. The only thing that could comfort her was to be held, to sleep between us, and her need to be close to her mother was NOT a SIN, not something that needed punished or disciplined . . . rather we were being trained to be good parents and all of the sacrifice that requires.
(Also I understand now that a first-time mother often doesn't have as much milk, and the only way to stimulate more milk production is with frequent nursing. I am certain that had I stuck to the schedule I would not have been able to nurse her for the full first year).
After the first two sleepless and guilt-ridden months I went to the library where I found Dr. Sears and his book on high-need babies . His parenting methods resonated with what my maternal instincts were already telling me: to co-sleep, demand feed, and hold my baby as much as possible. He describes a "fourth trimester" that some babies (I now believe all babies) need to be close to their mother, and this made perfect sense to me.
(The thing that I really don't get with the Cry It Out method is why Christians- Christians! are so drawn to it, even adamant about it . . . because if parents are a picture of God to their children, this is nothing like the God I know . . . I do not serve a God who only responds to me at certain times, under certain conditions . .. I do not serve a God who refuses to listen when I cry . . . rather the God I know invites me to cry to him, over and over He says this, to pour my heart out to Him . . . and that He is a waiting Father, a Father lavish with affection and understanding, one who is ever-present, ever holding His children).
Annie was different. I brought her home from the hospital and laid her on the bed and I couldn't believe it- she stayed asleep! She loved to sleep! She didn't need me at all, she could sleep in her bed and when she was still waking up several times during the night by about six months I decided to see what would happen if I let her cry, and it took less than five minutes- probably two minutes for her to put herself back to sleep.
My regret with Annie is that I didn't hold her enough. I didn't feel as quickly connected with Annie as I did Sam, and I noticed that though she was a far easier baby, I would become irritated much more quickly when she would wake up at inconvenient times. One of the benefits of "wearing" or holding your baby a lot is for the mother and baby to attach, and it can even help with a mother's post-partum emotions. Now as a two-year old, I welcome any affection I can get from her . . . she is a very loving, sweet kid but I will always worry that she is so independent and maybe that is my fault.
I am so glad to have a third child to finally be confidant in my approach to parenting! This time, I held Josie as much as possible as a newborn, I nursed whenever she wanted, and we slept together the first few months (now she falls asleep in her own bed, and when she wakes up to nurse I bring her into bed with us- if her sisters haven't taken her place). I have a couple of slings that I use sometimes, but mostly I just hold her. She is my calmest, happiest baby, and we have a really natural rhythm that flows with the rhythm of the rest of the home.
I have read a lot of Dr. Sears and have found that the Attachment Parenting approach fits my personality, but as with anything I take what works for us and try not to be legalistic about it. When I began to feel stressed about whether I was holding Josie enough, whether I had the correct slings or should buy more, whether she was "attached" enough . . . and when I began to realize that my older girls were becoming resentful of my constantly carrying Josie, I stepped back and gave myself permission to parent according to what works for us, and not another kind of formula.
Hopefully all of our children will be loved and understood enough to make-up for our many flaws and mistakes, and more than anything we are so aware of our dependance on God's grace to cover our children, but maybe this is also a good reason to have many children, because you just keep getting better at it. . . right Babe? Right??