When I was pregnant, I would sometimes call my mom and wine a little about how sick I felt, how tired I was and how much I was panicking about how things would be with a baby. My mom would usually respond by asking how often I had thrown up, or how long I had slept, and when I would say that I hadn’t really thrown up yet, but I felt really sick all day, she would tell me that there were tons of other people that felt a lot worse than me (usually with anecdotes of people she knew that had experienced something a lot worse). This did not usually make me feel better.
However, I noticed that I do the same thing myself. Recently I read “Our babies, ourselves” from Meredith Small. It’s a really good book that talks about how your cultural background shapes the way you parent, and that a lot of things that we find perfectly normal (like have a baby cry a little, or have a baby sleep by herself), is found absurd in other cultures. In this book I read about the Ache, a group of hunter-gatherers in Paraguay. The Ache mothers will for the first year of their babies’ lives have them sleep in their laps, hunched over to protect their babies from danger. Not only during the day, but also during the entire night. So that means that that year, they only sleep sitting up with a baby in their laps . Often when I’m awake at night because 7 month old BlueEyes is awake or wants to nurse I think about those women, who completely sacrifice themselves for their baby. To me, that has been one of the hardest parts of being a mother: the fact that often you have to ignore your own needs, or at least have your babies’ needs come first. But whenever I feel sorry for myself that instead of hanging on the couch I am nursing a baby to sleep, I think about those women and imagine them sitting on a hard floor with baby in their lap the whole night and I feel better.