For those of you who only know me through Cannonball Reads (as opposed to my blog, or Twitter or Tumblr or wherever), you may not know that the Sister Who Lives In My House* and her husband recently had a baby. An adorable, Auntie-melting, bundle of joy. Who also cries a lot and decided not to eat all that much for his first weeks on earth, thereby scaring the crap out of his first time, already anxious and definitely not prepared for this, no matter how much they thought they were, parents. You know: like babies do.
He’s fine and fit now, but it was a rough go there in the beginning. And my sister’s doctor was less than understanding of her nerves, her troubles with breastfeeding, her “what the hell does that cry even MEAN” fears, and her and her husband’s – entirely reasonable and justifiable – “Holy Shit: WHAT HAVE WE DONE??” feelings. Luckily, Au-NTE is prepared (as she is the fourth of my siblings, and the third of my sisters, to have children), and had on hand a few standbys, and a few new favorites, to smooth things out a bit.
First up: The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg. Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that anybody can quiet a baby every single time they cry. I don’t believe that there aren’t things you can’t learn – either by doing, and redoing, or by reading about them. I also don’t believe in shaming mothers for things that don’t come as naturally to them as they do to others. And, from what I’ve read of Hogg’s work, she doesn’t really either. I don’t think that most of what Hogg talks about is revolutionary, but it is reassuring. To be able to read to my sister something that says ‘hey, it’s ok if what your doing isn’t working… let’s try something else,’ and doesn’t feel like it’s scolding her for picking one thing over any other (I mean, do not even try to google breastfeeding difficulties, unless you want someone to call you names via your computer. Because that is what will happen) has been exceedingly helpful. Sure, she’s a little bit patronizing, but I’ve yet to read something aimed at new mothers that doesn’t include just a tinge of ‘you should already know this, but I’ll tell you anyways.’ Not in book form, at least.
Next, the old stand-byes, and nobody’s favorites: the What to Expect When… books. I … can’t with these. I have personally never been expecting, but if someone gave me these condescending tomes as a gift when I was, I think I would be justified in smacking them over the head with them. It has freaked out every.single. new mother-to-be that I know has read it. I get that they’re trying to guide you to as close to a perfect pregnancy as possible, but it seems like every thing that a normal pregnant lady might do is bad in some way (are you exercising too much? too little? are you eating the right amount of the right foods?), and I apparently didn’t know any pregnant Goldilockses who would appreciate these books.
And, lastly, two new picture books to add to your rotation (that got some giggles out of some very exhausted parents in some very rough weeks, so you know they’re worth reading). We Just Had a Baby by Stephen Krensky, and A Baby’s Guide To Surviving Dad by Benjamin Bird, both of which I got through Netgalley. A Baby’s Guide to Surviving Dad includes an adorably big-eyed baby and his bespectacled, bearded, hipster of a dad. The text is simple and silly (“You are a baby. Like it or not you need others to survive. Luckily, life gave you a dad. Unluckily, he’s only been your dad as long as you’ve been a baby. So in order to survive, you’ll need to teach him a thing or two.”) The illustrations are super-cute and colorful, and the rules are entertaining and easy for little kids (toddler age, especially) to get a kick out of.
A kid who’s not getting so much of a kick out of his life is the big brother that’s telling the story in Krensky’s We Just Had a Baby. At least, not at first (“We just had a baby: It wasn’t my idea.”). Like all books that take on the challenge of incorporating a new sibling into the family, the book deals with jealousy and admiration, the similarities and differences between big kids and smaller siblings, and all of the things that go into making sibling relationships so special – yes, even when we don’t want them there. It’s lighthearted, but deals with difficult subjects in a humorous, head-on way, and I really liked it. I’ll make sure my newest nephew has a copy around some number of years from now, when his parents have forgotten all the first frantic months and decide to grace him with a sibling or two. I know from experience that being the bigger kid isn’t always easy, but it can pay off eventually (I mean, I am just drowning in nephews & a niece now, so I suppose it was a good decision not to send their parents back all those years ago.)
*As opposed to the Sister Who Lives Souther, the Sister who Lives Norther, and the Sister Who Moved to Cali-freaking-fornia. Not to mention the Brother Whose Couch I’m Living On Right Now.