When my baby, Annabelle, was born last year, I had never changed a diaper. Never. Even my childhood dolls were potty trained. I thought Pat the Bunny was about a bunny named Pat, and I’m embarrassed to admit how old Annabelle was before I finally figured out that the nipple comes out of the screw-on top so you can clean it.
Somehow, we made it through the first two weeks, all the way to the first visit to the pediatrician. The doctor patiently answered my long list
of questions, pronounced Annabelle perfectly healthy and sent us home. “See you back in six weeks,” he said, closing the chart.
Six weeks?! An eternity. “Are you sure you want to wait that long?” I asked.
He laughed. I cried. Couldn’t he see that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing?
I realized I needed help. So I did what many new
mothers do: I started looking for a guru. You know, the quintessential baby expert. That one person who will tell you just what to do, all the time. Follow the instructions and the dough will rise. The baby will grow. But whose recipe do you follow?
I chose the flavor of the month, a book called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg, a nurse and mother who looked very kind and understanding in her picture on the book cover. When I got to the part where she advocates putting your baby on a schedule from day 1, I knew she wasn’t for me. Annabelle was 4 weeks old and nowhere close to a schedule. So I did the mature thing. I chucked the book across the bedroom.
The real expert: you> T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., a longtime pediatrician and author of several child-care books, says that today’s flood of advice from baby gurus—and the frustration it causes—is nothing new. Mothers have always had to struggle against feeling ignorant when it comes to raising their babies. “I think that [moms] feel like … the experts know so much that they must be very stupid not to know it,” Brazelton says.
Mothers are inherently smarter than they realize, Brazelton adds. “It seems like you’re making up your mind in a vacuum, but you’re not,” he says. “The truth is that you’ve got your own reasons for doing things and they’re not just instincts, but reasons.”
In the end, Brazelton says, all that advice can be a help. But you just have to try your own thing.
Ultimately, that’s what I did. It’s taking a village to raise Annabelle, with advice from the pediatrician, friends and family—and, yes, even a little from the gurus.