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Meredith Lopez Headshot

Rogue Mothering

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There are many reasons why I'm sure I'm going to Mommy Hell when I die -- a place that smells of curdled, regurgitated formula and sounds like a constant, low-pitched whine of "unh-keh keh keh rar keh YEEEEEEAAAAHHHH" -- but the latest reason is this: I have stopped reading baby books.

That's right. No more Dr. Weissbluth, no more Dr. Spock, no more Dr. Moore. I still have all my books, but I've put them on a shelf in our bedroom bookcase, aka The Bookcase Full Of Books We No Longer Care About But Can't Quite Bring Ourselves to Give Away or Sell. Even my mother still reads Dr. Spock, and I'm 33 years old. ("Chapter 197: What to do when your 20 year-old drops out of college and moves to New York with no money, no job, no friends there, and no place to live.")

The beginning of the end of reading baby books came, for me, when the Juban Princeling was three months old and we were told by his pediatrician to stop letting him nap in his stroller at home. He wasn't sleeping in it anymore anyway, but he didn't seem to want his crib, either. What followed was what I - what's the opposite of lovingly? Hatingly? - refer to as "Hell Week." The kid would not nap in his crib. He slept in it just fine at night, but during the day you would have thought his crib mattress was lined with acid-tipped needles and broken glass. One night it got so bad that I walked out of the apartment, went to the East River, called my mom, and sobbed to her for 45 minutes while my hands froze and snow fell on my head. (My mom: "Do you want to hear what Dr. Spock has to say about it?") A few days later it got even worse, so that Husband came home early and worked the rest of the day from his company laptop on our dining table. Nothing says "Mother of the Year" quite like your husband rushing home to watch the baby while he works because he's really that scared of what you might do.

During Hell Week I consulted everything I could for help. Dr. Weissbluth, while I'm sure is a genius, told me in his book that my son should be starting to get into a naptime routine, with a long first nap of the day evolving around 9am. Oh, that Dr. Weissbluth. He's a laugh riot. I told the Princeling about this and he laughed at me. Or pooped. With babies that young it's pretty much the same thing.

Every book I read, every website I went to, had contradictory advice, but I still tried everything. Swaddle. No swaddle. Mobile. No mobile. Lullabyes. Rocking. Swaying. Standing on my head. Hopping on one foot, waving a lotus leaf, and chanting in Sanskrit. I stopped just short of animal sacrifice, though if Hell Week had turned into Hell MONTH, who knows what drastic measures I would have resorted to trying. The only thing I refused to do was putting a toy in his crib, "to keep your baby entertained and to teach him that his crib is a place of fun and enjoyment." Yeah, right. I had visions of the Princeling choking on any toy small enough to get into his mouth, and suffocating himself on any toy not big enough to eat. The only thing that worked, finally, was pulling the earphones out of my MP3 player (which has its own external speaker) and putting a classical cd on a loop by his crib. But that idea did not come from any book I read. It came from my own experience as a camp counselor years ago, when I used to play soft music for the kids during nap time.

Hell Week finally ended, the Princeling came to terms with napping in his crib, and life went on as usual. As my son continued to grow and develop, I found myself consulting my stacks and stacks of baby books less and less often. I did buy "Caring For Your Baby and Young Child" by the American Academy of Pediatrics because I am not a complete barbarian. That book is used as my first resort during times when, say, the Princeling spent all day throwing up at me. Not on me - at me. He would, like, aim it right for my chest whenever I picked him up. I took it as a term of endearment. Again, with babies that young it's hard to tell when they are sick vs. when they are annoying you on purpose vs. when they just want to say "I love you, Mom. BLUARGCH."

As we - and by "we" I mean "I" - packed up to move to our new digs in Brooklyn, I came across my stacks and stacks of baby books and it occurred to me that it's been a while since I sat down and read the chapters on my son's latest developments. By the time we moved he was almost seven months old. Next week he'll be eight months. So long as he's not sprouting new limbs or sudden weird birthmarks (I've seen The Omen, I know what's up), still eats everything we feed him and gets enough sleep, I figure he's fine. He's a happy, well-adjusted, easy baby, despite having me for a mother. He plays, he laughs a lot, he tries to crawl and ends up pushing himself backwards, he loves to be held upside-down as well as thrown into the air (Mommy Hell!), he shrieks like a banshee for no particular reason, he tries to shove all his bath toys into his mouth at once and then gags, he sits up without support, he babbles nonstop in his little baby language. In other words, he's a perfect little 8 month old baby, and I don't need any books or experts to tell me that.

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