Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Baby Monitors

I wish I had known more or had more moms around me that thought like me when I had my first child. I didn’t, and I can be a victim of listening too much to others and ignoring my inner voice. Well, I used to be that way. After having three children, I have found my inner self and now rarely listen to the advice of others. Just look at it as the swing of the pendulum. I’m on the left-handed swing now. The right-handed swing annoyed me too much and led to quite a bit of personal anguish. All that anguish centered on baby monitors and the proper use of this innovation.

There are only a few characters: me; my daughter, Inwe; another mom, Amy; and her baby, Black Ben or the Little Bastard. Does this nickname tell you the attitude of the mom that I hung around when I had my first child? In my defense she was the wife of my husband’s post-doctoral fellow, was expecting a baby just 3 months before me, and our husbands were interested in us liking each other. I was being a good wife and reaching out to Amy. We weren’t perfect for each other, but Amy and I were in the right time at the right place with close pregnancies.

Both of us were rather desperate for companionship as our pregnancies progressed. We took walks through her neighborhood and shopping trips to Richmond to look for the few baby items that others had not given us. Amy had obviously done a lot of reading on baby products. I was more focused on my pregnancy and the development of the little girl inside me. I was the one well versed in the biology of our bodies; Amy knew the ins and outs of Babies R Us. Amy counseled me on the right type of baby monitor to buy—it had to be one with a few options: it had to have volume control, it should have the option of being battery powered for moving about the house, and it was a must to have lights to indicate the level of sound occurring in the baby’s room without actually having to hear the sound. These options weren’t difficult to find, so I went out and bought one. It was a pretty nice monitor that sat on top of the baby’s dresser in the soon-to-be nursery.  

After Inwe was born, Amy and I spent mornings together nursing our children, walking the neighborhood hills again, and talking about the lack of sleep. Amy began to detail the sleeping habits of Ben (I’m opposed to using the adjective “Black” or the descriptive “Little Bastard”, so I will use the boy’s real name). At just over 12 weeks of age, Ben had to learn how to fall asleep without anyone helping him. So, no rocking, patting on the back, or singing. Just lying in a room waiting for exhaustion to take over. And, it was exhaustion that took over because what did Ben do when left in a room by himself—cry. He cried loudly too. Amy liked to show me the lights on the monitor without sound. “It doesn’t last too long,” she would say. It was too long for me. I didn’t say anything. She had read some Happy Baby, Healthy Sleep Habits book, and I was still in the “hold the baby as much as you can” stage with Inwe.

When it came time to teach Inwe to sleep on her own, I was counseled by Amy and by my pediatrician to try the Ferber method. This is a type of cry-it-out method, and since I didn’t know any better and trusted my pediatrician on everything else, I tried it. I don’t know who cried more, Inwe or me. I couldn’t use just the lights feature on my baby monitor. I had to hear the cries, the mental torture I was inflicting upon my sweet, but too heavy to walk around with as she fell asleep baby. Inwe got through it, but I was permanently traumatized by the experience.

By the time my second baby, Larien, was born I was thinking my way. I am not going to let her cry it out. I am not going to stop nursing her at 6 ½ months even if she does repeatedly bite me. I am going to start losing the baby weight as soon as I possibly can. I am going to find some support, goddammit! And, I did.

I found a group of women online that were nursing their babies for as long as they could, trying to lose the baby weight, and who did not believe in the cry-it-out method. There was no Ferberizing, no Baby Wise acolytes, and no one who used just the lights feature on their monitors.

Larien learned how to fall asleep on her own without crying. She had an occasional whimper (and a odd period when she was an older infant when my husband slept on the floor with her in the middle of the night), but she never had to give in to exhaustion. This baby won’t have to do that either. I may lose a little more sleep working harder to teach him to sleep without crying, but I will feel more at ease using the monitor for its intended use—hearing when a baby wakes.

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