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The Experts

I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

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