As a new parent, you want to get things right. You want to do the right kind of feeding, whether breast or bottle, the right amount, the right products, the right process. What kind of teat, how fast the flow, normal or anti-colic, two-hourly, three-hourly, on demand? You want the right sort of nappies, the right size, the right comfort. Sleepsuit or outfit? Woolly hat or sunhat? Is she warm enough? Too hot? What’s the right thing to do?
Unfortunately, ‘right’ is a fluid concept. It changes depending on who you talk to, which books you read, the websites you consult. It changes from child to child, and no matter how much you weigh up the evidence for one thing against another, the answer remains ever elusive. Short of turning your baby into a test subject as you experiment on them with various methods and tools to see what works, which not only makes you and your child confused but damages your bank balance, you have to find some way of navigating through all this mess.
The answer seems to be a little esoteric.
I have known a few psychics in my time, mostly teenaged self-proclaimed witches and middle-aged divorcees with ‘the gift’ who go on to prove it by telling me I’m sensible when the situation calls for it, but also fun in the right circumstances, that I’m extroverted at those times when I’m not being shy, and that I am confident except for when I’m not. Wow, you should charge money for that. You are? No wonder my wallet feels so light.
Anyway, as an endlessly inquisitive and sceptical sort of fellow, I wanted to know more about the process of being, ahem, psychic. They told me they received ‘impressions’. Well then, what form did these impressions take? Did they see visions? Did they experience it as feelings? Did they hear it as voices? Thoughts? Some other sense that those of us on the non-psychic plane of existence couldn’t understand?
And how clear were these impressions? Were they vague and poorly formed? Were they a tangled jumble of thoughts and feelings? How did they sort out this bundle of interconnected data streams? How did they interpret them?
Apparently, that’s not how it works. You don’t ponder, you don’t analyse, you don’t question and evaluate and formulate. You just know.
As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome who has to think his way through everything, the idea that you can ‘just know’ is an alien concept. Like those other cliches ‘follow your heart’ and ‘go with the flow’, I can’t select a course of action without first weighing up all the available options and comparing the possible benefits and repercussions. My world is a rational world of thought.
At least, it was until last week. Lizzie and I were always averse to dummies (pacifiers for my American readers). Then one day we looked at a horribly unsettled, colicky baby, looked at one another and said in one voice, ‘Let’s get her a dummy.’ Neither rhyme nor reason, no analysis, no evaluation or assessment. We just knew, intuitively, in that moment, that it was the right thing to do.
And it was. For the past week, Izzie has been a calmer, happier baby. It isn’t lazy parenting, it’s doing what your child needs. I wouldn’t recommend it for every baby, but Izzie needed something to soothe her between feeds more than cuddles, rocking, burping and going for walks. In spite of the censure of people who don’t matter anyway, I know we made the right decision.
Loathe as I am to admit it, having a baby has made me realise you can overthink things. It is hardwired into our DNA to know what is right for us and our babies. If you’re faced with an impossible decision, switch off your brain and allow your instincts to take over. You might find that your intuition already knows the right thing to do.
But take my advice: if your instincts tell you to try the baby’s milk, they’re not to be trusted. You’ll be tasting that warm sour yoghurt tang the rest of the day.