Tempering the “Angel Baby” fantasy

photo-46I 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!

Baby-whispererI 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.

11 thoughts on “Tempering the “Angel Baby” fantasy

  1. Jennifer Munro

    I LOVED Tracey Hogg and I love her advice. Dana was a combo of the touchy, spirited, and grumpy baby. You’ved met her now – she is delightful and charming child but as a baby she was a force. Tracey died a few years ago but was a wonderful and caring woman. I love her suggested schedules and highly recommend following them. However her shush and pat sleep plan didn’t work for us. For sleep I recommend the ladies at Sleepy Planet. com. If I didn’t give you the DVD and book then go to sleepy planet.com and buy the DVD – watch it twice and understand that you can’t implement anything until 4 months. It’s a good $20 to spend. As you might not recall Dana has killer sleep issues. We even did a private consult with the ladies at SP. They are amazing. The book that the APA says stay away from is the book everyone is going to recommend you to and that’s BabyWise. There are lots of things about the BabyWise plan that are hurtful to bonding which is what you want to do in adoption. I think I gave you something to wear BabyCharlie. Get skin to skin and wear him to bond. And don’t worry everything else will kick in. Remember you are quickly going to know him best.

  2. I haven’t heard of this book – but my wife recently read BabyWise. We read quite a few of the Dr. Sears books – these are the guys that promote attachment parenting. They seem to be at the other end of the BabyWise spectrum. Dr. Sears recommends following your gut reaction in responding to an infant’s cries, for example (most of us would respond by going to the baby, soothing, etc.), but self-soothing was the big thing for BabyWise. I agree with you – when all these different techniques are contradictory, it’s confusing. But attachment in adoption is a big deal – so we’re leaning more towards the elements we think will work for us with the Dr. Sears techniques – if you want to check it out, here’s a link:

  3. Thanks all! I will check out that book, Ethan, and Jennie I will be sure to stay away from BabyWise. I have a feeling I’m going to want to hold that baby ALL the time — my challenge will be letting him/her self-soothe at all, though I think that is an important skill for baby to learn. First and foremost, attachment and bonding are the priorities and we can work on the other stuff later. Though a sleep schedule and being able to self-soothe in the middle of the night would be nice. 🙂 But who knows–I’m trying to read but also give myself enough latitude to form my own opinions when the time comes.

  4. Pingback: NY Times Blog: Biological vs Adopted Child Bonding | Adopting Charlie

  5. Oddly, this topic was brought up last night on a Facebook forum. I don’t think there is a magical “mommy connection” that means moms know exactly what to do and when. Even biological moms will say this.

    I didn’t care for The Baby Whisperer. I loved Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Marc Weissbluth. Best sleep book ever! And I read at least a dozen of them.

    Babywise is worth a read. They don’t say you can’t hold your baby. What they do say is that babies need a schedule, and they propose one. If I remember correctly, they also had some useful information about formula feeding. Babywise worked OK for DS, but not at all for DD. Babies are different. There have been multiple versions of Babywise. The latest one – the one I read – doesn’t seem to have the problems earlier versions had.

    While you’re doing your research, I’m going to be all controversial and recommend that you also read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccines, by Dr. Stephanie Cave. It’s a solid, middle-ground book about vaccinations and diseases.

    1. Thanks, Robyn! There are so many books out there I need to read. Interesting about the vaccines. I definitely will vaccinate my kids but it sounds like that book suggests what might be a better/safer schedule. I’ll look into it.

  6. daisyrhonda

    I totally relate to you in this – “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?” This is exactly how I feel, too. Way to go in going ahead and reading as much as you feel you need! What other books have you found really helpful? My favourites so far have been The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, The Mother of All Baby Books by Ann Douglas, and Supernanny by Jo Frost. I have at least another 5 I want to read yet!

    1. Thanks for your comment! The Happiest Baby on the Block is on my list, but I haven’t heard of the other two you mentioned. I haven’t gotten much farther on my reading list than The Baby Whisperer and a couple of books on transracial adoption. I’m not sure how many different methods/techniques my brain will retain. 🙂 My cousin recommended The Sleepy Planet DVD for sleep help.

  7. When Sarah dropped Lilli in my lap and I began my stint as an accidental nanny, I didn’t know if I would end up bored, irritated, and distant from Lilli. Lilli wasn’t my baby, she wasn’t my responsibility, and she was way younger than any child that I had babysat before. Then I took care of her and in a very short time, we were watching Joss Whedon shows, doing baby yoga, and falling asleep in the recliner. I remember being left alone with her and thinking about how much babies all looked like Winston Churchill when she held my hand and cuddled up to me. My heart melted in an instant. Its hard to not love them.

    1. So true, Sami. You were the best accidental nanny there ever was–and continue to be the best aunt! Lilli was a lucky baby! I might have to ship you out here to help me out, too. 🙂

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