Lil’ Z draws Mama
At 37 weeks pregnant, it’s about time I start acting like a baby is on the way. My birthing bag is mostly packed. We have an in-bed bassinet for our co-sleeping arrangement. I’ve got a stash of coconut water and dates for my labor snacks. The appropriate pads are on deck for all of that lovely post-partum leaking I anticipate and I’m taking all of the herbs and supplements I can tolerate. Most mornings, I’m still able to do a bit of yoga, light cardio exercise, or walk in the park. But I’ve mostly reached my threshold of preparation that I can currently sustain.
When pregnant with Lil’ Z, I had lots of time to fill with reciting Qur’an, reading parenting books, and doing lengthy yoga workouts but now, time is less abundant and I have to find resolve with what I’m able to do and not do. As a parent, worship is not only what you do in quietude but also who you are and what you cultivate in your children. We try to sow seeds in our daughter’s life and faith that will blossom into character and actions and that’s a big priority for us everyday.
Thankfully, we resolved a lot of our parenting decisions on round one, so now we’re mostly updating our positions and perspectives on the childrearing matters we grappled with more than four years ago. Seeing the fruits of our choices in Lil’ Z affirms what worked really well for our family but we’ve been also taking mental notes of what we would do differently with our second baby. This is what we’ve come up with so far:
- Birth Outside of the Hospital
We preferred the idea of birthing at home or a birthing center with Lil’ Z but didn’t have the opportunity to do so in Oman. Part of our leaving Morocco was to have the option to birth outside of a hospital, and this is our hope for round two.
- Oral Vitamin K drops
With Lil’ Z, we didn’t want any needles puncturing her delicate skin in the early moments and days of her life. In fact, it wasn’t until she reached the age of one that she first had blood drawn for lab tests. Instead, I took alfalfa supplements to deliver Vitamin K to our baby via nursing, but we plan to use oral Vitamin K drops to guarantee adequate blood levels this time around.
- Reconsider Newborn Screening
Attached to the no-needle policy, we didn’t want Lil’ Z screened for Phenylketonuria (PKU), a dangerous though rare disease not commonly found in people of African descent. Currently in Florida, the routine newborn screening tests for thirty four different diseases that have no immediate outward manifestation but can be immediately treated. Our midwife would do this during our two-day visit while the baby is nursing or comforted in some other way.
I didn’t really get the point of mobiles until I read Maria Montessori’s work and vowed not to miss out on this valuable developmental tool for the next baby. Mobiles are not for mere entertainment: immature eyes can be strengthened and learn to track moving objects by looking at mobiles. Later on, mobiles can foster the eye-hand coordination required to bat, grab, and pull.
- Splitting Up Sometimes
With Lil’ Z, we reveled in the newness of being parents and did everything as a family. Every walk, outing, or adventure was attended by all. In retrospect, it would’ve been better for us to occasionally do some activities apart so either of us can have much-needed alone time or rest, while the other enjoys one-on-one bonding time. When we’re apart, I do miss my people and worry about their safety, but I entrust them to Allah’s care and look forward to the warm hugs and stories that will accompany them upon their return.
- More Floor Time
Lil’ Z spent a lot of her early days on mattresses or beds; both of which carry the fear of falling. Instead, we could’ve invested in soft, comfy rugs and a good vacuum cleaner to support early scooting, rocking, and crawling.
- Hold off on the Potty Seat
Elimination Communication worked really well for us, but we spent way too much with Lil’ Z sitting on the potty. Instead, we plan to hold the little one over a toilet seat. When the little one is walking, then we can introduce the potty as a step towards toilet independence.
- Give more space for exploration, germs, and dirt
We were mostly fine with Lil’ Z playing in sand but had difficulty letting her roam in parks filled with debris, bugs, and dirt. It’s natural to fear the first insect bite, cold, or infection but immunity does not build itself in a cocoon. Resilience is bred from exposure.
- Don’t Obsess over Sleep
I spent too much of my time rocking, singing, and nursing Lil’ Z to sleep, all for the sake of keeping to a schedule. I was so uptight about maintaining a schedule that I was slow to see how her sleep needs were changing and adjust accordingly. Instead, I hope to set up a restful environment when signs of sleepiness arise—a restful and relaxing environment for both me and baby. In that way, even if sleep is not achieved, we can both still have some much needed quiet time where I can recite Qur’an, read a book, or just take some deep breaths alongside my little one. If it takes more than thirty minutes for the little one to fall sleep, maybe that nap needs to be skipped or that bedtime needs to be pushed back. At this stage in my life, I want our days to end peacefully and our nights to be restful. Even if our nights start at the same time, I can make up for my own quiet time in the early morning. I’ve personally found more blessing and productivity in my time when I wake up early, as opposed to staying up late.
- Don’t Fear Food
We were so convinced that breastmilk is the best food for babies that we almost feared the introduction of solid foods. At some point late into Lil’ Z’s eight month of life, we started to introduce foods and she wasn’t so interested. This made us overly anxious, fearing that she would not be eating enough after her first birthday. This time around, we’re hoping to start offering different foods to taste after the first six or seven months and support the baby-led weaning approach thereafter.
Even with these matters resolved, I still feel at times that I’m not yet ready to give birth or to bring a new life into our home. There is nothing static about parenting. It is constantly stretching, evolving, and throwing all kinds of curve balls. But much like this pregnancy that we prayed our way through, we will continue to pray through our parenting, day by day and season by season.