Q.My son and his wife expect their first child in a few months and I'm worried. Although they wanted children, they haven't been married even a year and they're terribly insecure about parenthood.
They are both warm and loving people, and my husband and I have a real kinship with our daughter-in-law, but she has no family to give her advice and she's never asked for any from us or from our daughter, who is a pediatrician and the mother of two. We'd love to share our thoughts and our experience with her, but we don't want to be pushy, so she has relied on her obstetrician and an old friend for information. I'm afraid they have given her some weird child-rearing ideas.
Our poor son is caught in the middle. He wants to be completely supportive of his wife, but we are a close family and he has told us things that make us shudder. Among them: She is very opposed to nursing. And when I said that we would give them a bassinet, our son told us that the obstetrician said no. The baby must go directly to its crib in another room and stay there.
We are even more upset because our daughter-in-law is hiring a baby nurse for four or five hours a day for the first two weeks so she can put the baby on a schedule -- as if a 2-week-old can be put on a schedule. I don't know why she must hire someone to tell her how to be a mother, why she thinks my husband and I can't do the job, and whether she will always hire people to solve her parenting problems.
I also worry that the mother and child won't bond sufficiently in those first vital weeks. Am I being too negative and pessimistic? Can we help without causing a major family rift?
A.It sounds as if your feelings are pretty hurt and understandably so.
Every mother longs to talk about those delicious moments when her baby was born or how his smile always lit up the world.
But don't feel shut out. Some expectant mothers will ask even strangers what they know about pregnancy and child-rearing while others want to figure it out for themselves. Either way, parents have the right to rear their children in their own style, even the ones who think that bassinets are silly and nursing is unnecessary.
You can bet that at least some of your daughter-in-law's ideas will change in the next few months.
Although the OB is almost a goddess to the pregnant woman, her influence disappears as soon as the pediatrician arrives.
Since your daughter is in the same field, she might give her sister-in-law the names of a couple of progressive pediatricians she could interview before the baby is born. They will not only give her printed information but also probably encourage her to breast-feed -- for the health of the baby -- and might even tell her to get a bassinet. Any family with a two-story house and a newborn should have a baby bed, diapers and wipes on each floor so the parents aren't running up and down stairs all day.
If your daughter-in-law doesn't want you and your husband to attend her at first, a baby nurse could be a real help, and if it makes her happy, why not? Together they can chart the times that the baby wakes up, sleeps and eats and when they see the slightest pattern, they can convince themselves that the baby is on a schedule. If nothing else, it will make the new mother feel like she's in control.
And as for bonding -- don't worry. Your daughter-in-law will still bond with her baby, nurse or not, and so will you, especially if you offer to care for the baby at your house once a week for the whole day and for years to come. You couldn't give this couple a greater gift.
You can also give your daughter-in-law some fresh insights into pregnancy and parenthood -- without being pushy -- by sending her some books, including the amusing, if somewhat crude, "Belly Laughs" by Jenny McCarthy (Da Capo, $18); "Your Amazing Newborn" by Marshall H. Klaus (Perseus, $20); "The Birth of a Mother" by Daniel N. Stern, Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern and Alison Freeland (Basic, $18); "The Year After Childbirth" by Sheila Kitzinger (Fireside, $13); and "The 7 Stages of Motherhood" by Ann Pleshette Murphy (Knopf, $22.95). Each of these books will broaden her knowledge, which is just what your daughter-in-law needs.
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.