I was in a baby consignment store the other day, checking out all the parenting books. I had four or five in my hand and was skimming them, trying to get an idea of which one or two would be best (ended up buying all of them) when a lady walked past me and said to her friend, loud enough that I could hear, “I never read any of the baby books I bought.”
I think she was trying to tell me not to waste my time. But I didn’t listen. I feel like I need to learn as much as I can. Because as much as I love babies and kids, I have never cared for one full-time. Will I know what to do when she cries? What about when he gets sick or has a fever? How will I set a sleep schedule? And maybe because we’re adopting, I’m wondering if I will just “know” what to do like so many women say they do. Will my maternal instincts kick in even though I haven’t given birth?
I certainly hope so. But if for some reason I don’t just “get it,” I will be prepared. I’m learning lots of great tips and the importance of a routine and schedule. I’m reading The Baby Whisperer now and have also learned that there are basically five different types of babies: Angel Baby, Textbook Baby, Touchy Baby, Spirited Baby, and Grumpy Baby. The author, who I think is some sort of British super nanny, says that learning which type of baby you have helps you tailor activities and routines that will keep them happy and secure. I am so looking forward to getting to know our baby and learning about his or her personality and particular needs. What an adventure!
I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this book, though, is to temper the “Angel Baby fantasy”– what the book says happens during pregnancy when women spend nine months picturing the perfect little Angel Baby (the baby who never cries, sleeps through the night, calms herself, smiles right away and is just a quiet bundle of joy). She says this fantasy is a common reason that bonding can take longer than expected or that parents can feel frazzled and disillusioned after bringing their baby home from the hospital. Too often, parents expect a perfectly happy, predictable, cooing baby to join the family. And when that does not happen, and the baby turns out to be touchy, spirited, or grumpy instead, the fantasy is shattered and people can feel cheated and disappointed.
Maybe I have an advantage here since we are adopting because I have no expectations. I’m not sitting here with my hand on my belly picturing a little mini-me. The author says that many new parents expect a tiny version of themselves to pop out and expect to understand their child and instinctively know what he or she needs at every moment. But that is not usually the way it happens. Every baby is different and just because a mom and dad happen to be calm and cool does not mean they will have a calm and cool baby. Doesn’t usually work like that.
I fully realize that we will have to get to know our baby and that he or she may be nothing like either of us in terms of temperament or personality (but he also could be). You just never know. Via adoption or biology, you never know what kind of baby you’re going to get and where she’ll fall on the Angel–Grumpy spectrum.
So, what I’ve learned: try not to create any illusions. I don’t want the wait and the want to trick me into thinking everything is going to be absolutely perfect once the baby gets here. Having a newborn is going to be challenging and it will take time for us to get to know our baby and his or her individual likes, dislikes, and needs. What a privilege and honor to be the one to discover those things, though. I can’t wait to find out what type of baby ours will be–Angel Baby or not–and exploring all the different ways we can nurture and help her grow.