New Parenthood Pet Peeve

One of the most difficult things we’ve experienced so far about being a new parent – despite battling reflux – has been the near constant unsolicited advice. This is not to be confused with resource sharing from veteran parents when asked for help, though sometimes there’s some grey area between these things when a new parent’s venting is interpreted as a request for help. It’s also differentiated from comments such as, “This is what worked for us.” “I” statements are so very different from “you.”

In my previous update, I referenced a common theme of unsolicited advice we’ve received: that we should change formulas to a dairy-free variety. Again, some parents have said, “We had similar symptoms and eventually discovered that our little one had a dairy sensitivity, so we switched,” and that’s so different. I mean, flat-out, judgment laced, “Why haven’t you tried another type of formula?” as though it would be the simplest thing in the world and is clearly our fault for having not yet solved the problem of reflux.

It is especially annoying when this judgy, unsolicited advice comes from people who haven’t parented a newborn in several decades. It’s also hurtful when these people are family members, which, in turn, reopens any sort of outstanding wounds from familial baggage. This was very much the case when we recently visited my parents.

To give a little context, it is important to note that my parents are kind of anti-medicine. In order for the use of medicine to be considered valid and appropriate in their minds, it must be some sort of very grave or emergent diagnosis, in which case, it must be swiftly handled so someone can move on with their lives (read: without medication). For the majority of their lives, my parents have not taken any sort of medication, and when they have, it’s been for very short periods of time. They visit doctors regularly and believe very strongly in preventative health, but will judge the dickens out of someone they think is “resorting” to medicine when they don’t think it’s necessary.

My parents also have a really messed up relationship with food. They rarely eat, sans a small breakfast and a large, late dinner. Sometimes they have a snack during the middle of the day. In keeping with their judgment of others who do not share these practices, anyone who eats differently or more frequently in their presence is the subject of their scorn. Throughout my entire life, being a larger kid, then teen, then adult, my parents have judged me for my weight and have attempted to police the frequency and contents of my meals.

I’m not sure why I thought this, but, before I became a mom, I had assumed that their prejudices related to food and medicine would only extend to their daughter and the rest of the world, and not bleed onto their perfect, few week old only grandchild. Clearly, that was delusional.

During our visit, I kept hearing little barbs about the frequency of his meals:

  • “Again?! Didn’t he JUST eat?!”
  • “I swear, we didn’t feed YOU this much.”
  • [While E was rooting and starting to fuss] “I don’t think he’s hungry ag-aaaaain! He’s probably just bored.”

I did my best to keep my cool and diplomatically educate them as much as possible, but I really wanted to just scream, “YES! He’s hungry again! I’m his mom and know all of the hunger signs and patterns for my child. If you didn’t feed me ‘this much,’ it probably explains a lot about why you just said that I used to cry all the time.”

I had previously explained the laundry list of E’s reflux symptoms and told them all about our reasoning for advocating that the pediatrician prescribe medication for him. During dinner on our last night there, I had to leave the dinner table to administer his evening dose of medication. When I announced the reason for my departure, my father made some judgy statement along the lines of, “Meds?! Who puts such a tiny baby on MEDS?!” as though it was the first time he had heard about it and clearly didn’t approve. I continued to administer the medication and when I had completed, even though the conversation had already moved onto other topics, I brought the subject back up. I said, “I told you all of the reasons why this child is on medication and i don’t appreciate you questioning my parental decisions on the matter.” He made another comment about whether or not it was really necessary, and I said, “If you’d watched your baby writhing in pain for days in a row and changed multiple outfits each day because of projectile vomiting, you’d make the same decision.”

I was infuriated by their questions, unsolicited advice and judgment of our decisions, and was very glad that we were leaving that very next morning. When texting back and forth with a very dear friend about the problems with my folks, I told her that the experience was extraordinarily triggering to me, given past conflict with my parents about these very matters. I also told her that, in advocating for our little one, it felt like I was also standing up for the little C inside me.

Important note: Baby E ate twice during the time I was drafting this post. Yes, Mom and Dad, TWICE.

A random, early morning update

K has been taking the majority of the middle of the night feedings and sleeping longer in the morning while I get up with Baby E for his first few morning feedings. My body has gotten used to being “on” at around 5 a.m., but for some reason, baby’s feeding schedule was slightly off last night, leaving me with no official reason to be awake as early as I am right now. I figured it was one of the few opportunities I seem to have these days to post an update.

We convinced the pediatrician to “try” Zantac for a month for E’s reflux, which has gotten increasingly worse. She said that it typically takes about four days to notice an improvement, but several other sources I’ve ready indicate it could take up to two weeks. We’ve already noticed about a 50% improvement in symptoms, especially as it relates to spitting up, but he still has long stretches of inconsolable crying/fussing about every other day. It’s exhausting to watch our baby be in such discomfort and not be able to do anything about it, and the constant need is also draining, leaving us as not our best selves (ok, mostly me. K is a gem). I ordered a hazelwood necklace yesterday, which many say has the ability to improve reflux symptoms by absorbing acid from one’s body. Let’s just say I’m desperate enough to try anything, evidence based or not.

Everyone in our lives, sans the pediatrician, seems to think we need to try E on a different formula. I think part of this stems from the commonplace assumptions in the late 70’s through the 80’s that babies had dairy problems if they showed even the slightest sign of gastrointestinal issues, promptly switching kiddles to lactose-free varieties. Couple that with increased current awareness around food sensitivities in general (which is a great thing, really), and you have the perfect storm for unsolicited advice around what we should be feeding our child. Sadly, not much of this advice is based on anything scientific I’ve researched, as our baby shows zero symptoms related to dairy sensitivity, unless these symptoms happen to be shared (or are even MORE commonly exhibited) with reflux issues. So reflux it is.

On a more upbeat note, Baby E is starting to show signs of social smiling (vs. the common early infancy gas/poo-related smiles). It’s as though he knows the exact right thing to do with his exasperated parents, who want nothing more than to see their baby happy and comfortable… and he truly is most of the time. Even when his reflux issues pop up, he can go from being smiley one minute, to a full on reflux-related meltdown, and back to smiley. I really feel like he’s a happy baby trapped in an unhappy body. His gummy, lopsided grins make my heart melt.

I think we’ve gotten past the point in which the skeptics in our lives, who thankfully held their tongues, had assumed we’d have long since given up on our hippy idealism as it relates to cloth diapering. Sorry, haters, but I’m even more invested in it than I was when it was all still a theoretical plan. Baby E is starting to fit into more of his pockets, which have way cuter designs than anything else in our cloth diaper stash, and it’s fun to try to pick out which diaper to put on him at every diaper change. I think even E likes them – and I can’t imagine a baby preferring a wad of absorbent chemicals next to their body instead of something so soft and fluffy. Even the laundry has been a breeze! I’m sure it’ll get slightly hairier as I make my transition back to work at the beginning of June, but perhaps not. I was handling it just fine when I temporarily suspended my leave to deal with a much more stressful work pace and project than I’ll be facing upon my return.

K and I earned another new parenting merit badge this week when we went on a date without E for the first time. He stayed with his grandparents (K’s parents), who fed him and changed his cloth diapers without incident. Wouldn’t it figure that he also didn’t really exhibit many reflux signs while with him. (I swear this kid wants to make us look like hysterical new parents who are exaggerating his symptoms!) A good time was had by all and it increased my confidence around carving out the very crucial time for K and I to continue to have an adult relationship that doesn’t entirely revolve around our roles as parents.

As I am anticipating a hunger wail pretty much any minute now, I should probably conclude for now. At some point, I will have to update you all about our recent visit to my parents’ place, which was, at many times, stressful and infuriating.