Friday, September 22, 2006

Tales from the Crib

I offer the following for your consideration:

Here's Miss Baby waking up from her (shortish!) morning nap yesterday. Please note that her feet are hanging out through the bars of her crib. Obviously, I did not put her down like this, but you can see she's not terribly distressed about the situation (although, if I were to caption this, it would probably read 'Put down the camera already, The Mama, and make with the rescue operation'). Basically, she's perpendicular to how she started. And she's managed to remove all her blankets, while keeping her comfort-diaper (that's another post) artfully draped over her shoulder.

Maybe her new name should be 'Baby Houdini'.

But that's not really the point. Here's the point. Do you ever look at a photograph and suddenly see things that weren't apparent to you in real time, in real life? For example, for all its comedic gold, this photo is alloyed with signs of Dangerous, Sloppy, and Unsafe Mothering Practices I am afraid to publish for fear the CAS or at least the BabyCentre gurus will come to pillory me. Notice the stuffed animal in the far right! The dangling ribbon at the top right! The profusion of bunched up blankets around the baby! And, the pillow, my god the PILLOW! Basically, this setup is just begging for a smothering to take place, according to all the experts.

I think the Modern Mother-to-Be spends most of her pregnancy learning about all the different, inadvertent, clearly negligent ways that she can kill her as-yet-unborn-miracle once it makes its way out of the womb (the guilt trip they pull on you while it's still in the womb is also, alas, another post). It's a world of 'never', 'don't do', 'avoid', and 'no': never put your baby to sleep on her tummy; don't leave baby unattended; avoid placing on a soft surface; no crib bumpers no pillows no stuffed animals no duvets no bedsharing no couchnapping NO NO NO.

If having a baby is about, fundamentally, saying a resounding YES to new life and new love, baby care is all about death-avoidance, stridently and righteously proclaimed by experts aplenty.

Don't get me wrong. I think the 'back to sleep' campaign conveys some useful information about avoiding potentially smothering your baby. And it's good that safety standards mean Miss Baby can only wedge her legs and not her skull between the bars of her crib. But aren't we all getting a little crazy with the safety proclamations? The pillow (eek!) in Miss Baby's deathtrap, um, crib, is a backrest for her: she goes to sleep on her side (ack!) because that's how she always fell asleep after feeds when we were bedsharing (horror!). She's got blankets at each end of the crib (yelp!) because she goes down in whatever direction she was facing to eat -- and the blanket from the foot end comes up to cover her, lightning quick, before she can freak out. The ribbon and the toy give her something to look at when she's considering whether to sleep or to wail. And all of these things contribute to a happy, well-napped baby.

Really, I have to give the credit for most of these innovations to my mom -- who put me to sleep on my tummy, under a duvet, with an electric heating pad for god's sake. Who bottle-fed me, propped me up on the no-doubt flammable couch with pillows, and watched me make my first roll ... right off the bed and onto the floor. And I survived. This generation of Grammas are horrified that we are horrified at their parenting technique. And maybe they should be. I think we're a little overcautious now, perhaps because we've become such a litigious society, or maybe because so many of today's new moms are operating a gazillion miles away from their families without much mentoring or support, or maybe because the baby gear has gotten so complicated and our lives so rushed we need terribly explicit directions to save us from ourselves. I don't know. But I sure am tired of worrying so much about Miss Baby's certainly imminent catastrophic death from a change-table-fall, car-seat-tipover, pillow-smothering, cat-attack, toy-choking incident.

You know what? No matter what you do, Miss Baby is going to spin herself silly in the crib, and wind up with her feet wedged through the bars. And she's likely going to be fine, and you'll likely take a bunch of pictures to laugh at with your friends. Everyone should just calm down. And maybe laugh a little more.

"Are you going to kill me, mobile? I just want to chew on you and love you!"

1 comment:

bubandpie said...

I really liked this post (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - right?).

Veronica at Toddled Dredge posted her confession a couple of weeks ago - both her babies were determined tummy sleepers, and unfortunately she was unlucky enough to become a mother in the post-Back-to-Sleep-campaign days, which meant that doing what needed to be done so that her children could sleep would be seen as tantamount to putting them to bed in a tub of cold water.

Since writing my post this morning I've been remembering the look of alarm on the public health nurse's face when I mentioned that the baby seemed to sleep better in a carseat than in the bassinet. "A flat surface is best developmentally," she said. What the hell does that mean? If they sleep in the carseat their limbs grow out sideways?