Thursday, January 18, 2007

Who's Afraid of Amanda?

Who’s Afraid of Amanda?
By Roberta Martone Pavia

My husband and I had tried so long to get pregnant that when it finally happened we realized we hadn’t given much thought to what came next. As we were basking in the news of my pregnancy, it hit us: although, at the ages of 45 and 50, respectively, my husband and I were seasoned corporate executives, we didn’t know the first thing about taking care of a newborn.

Growing up, I was the last of three children. I had no younger siblings on which to practice. And, since my nieces and nephews lived out of state, I couldn’t practice on them either. In addition, At 45 years old, my babysitting days were a distant memory. So, it’s no surprise that even at my mature age I was somewhat petrified of this seven-pound newborn.

The first few days were OK because I was still in a haze from the miracle of birth, not to mention the drugs from my Cesarean section. My older sister, a mom with two grown kids of her own, came to the rescue and spent the first week with me, which momentarily delayed my panic. Also, my husband took a week off from work to ease the transition.

My daughter was a good baby. We didn’t realize how good until we heard the horror stories from other parents. Babies who nursed every 10 minutes. Three-month-olds who wailed non-stop. For the first week our daughter did what the doctors said she would: ate, slept, and pooped. And then did it all over again. And again.

Still, when my sister headed home and my husband headed back to work, I was filled with anxiety and panic. What if the baby stopped breathing? What if she choked on something? Those first few days I felt like I was walking on egg shells. One false move and I was convinced everyone, including my new daughter, would realize I didn’t know the first thing about motherhood.

Before my baby’s arrival, I wanted to bone up by studying parenting books. I’m one of those people who needs to do exhaustive research: as a student, I over studied; as a professional, I over prepared. And that’s how I hoped to get ready for motherhood. I just didn’t realize I wouldn’t have the time or energy to do either. So, here I was unprepared for the most important job of my life. If I did something wrong this time, the consequences would be dire.

Those first few days, I lived for Amanda's naps and was lucky that she was such a sleepy baby. In fact, she slept a good part of the day. And because I wasn’t sleeping much at night, so did I. So much for my plans to repaint the kitchen and strip that chest of drawers. Between changing, feeding, and rocking, I was lucky if I had enough energy to make it to the couch for a snooze myself. What did parents with cranky babies do? All too soon I would find out.

Amanda was a model baby. She rarely cried and if she did it only took a few minutes to figure out why. A messy diaper. A hungry stomach. Then one day, when she was about two months old and I was gaining confidence in my mothering skills, she started crying. And crying. And crying. The cries turned to wails and screeches and screams. What had happened to my perfect baby?

After 45 minutes of rocking, nursing, and trying to soothe her, I called the doctor, sure that he would tell me to rush her to Emergency. The nurse was very helpful and understanding, but I swear I detected a hint of humor in her tone when she said the problem was probably gas. Gas? No you don’t understand; this baby is waling. “Gas,” she insisted since I had taken Justine’s temperature and found it to be normal.

After a walk outside, a warm bath, and a back rub, I was still panicked and my daughter was still screaming. At my wits end, I called my best friend who lived down the street. Unfortunately my friend is childless so she didn’t have any concrete suggestions, but she did lend a lot of moral support.

Finally, as quickly as the crying had started, it stopped. And my little one started cooing and purring once again. Maybe it was gas, after all. The good news was I had lived through the toughest moment of her little life --- and mine as a mom --- and both of us had emerged unscathed. From then on, it got easier. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but soon I was able to sleep through the night, something I vowed I would never be able to do again.

Today, my baby is almost three years old and not only am I sleeping through the night, but I feel like a seasoned parent often giving advice to those who are a few steps behind me. I warn them that the ‘terrible twos’ are a piece of cake compared to the ‘terrible teens’. At least that’s what parents who are a few steps ahead of me say. I can hardly wait.

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