Two weeks ago my darling husband and I, along with the baby duck, spent an hour with a prenatal class offered through the Ottawa Childbirth Education Association. The parents-to-be were interested in talking to parents about bringing a newborn home and the transition to parenthood.
After doing it three times you’d think we’d have something to offer but in trying to figure out what we were going to say we were stumped.
Every birth is different so how do you give advice about labour and delivery. I had three c-sections and have never been in labour: what do I know about a vaginal delivery?
I have breastfed all three boys: the first time was easy; the second was tough but I never got help and just suffered; the third has been the hardest but at least this time I got help from experienced friends and several lactation consultants. I’ve breastfed three babies and yet every experience was completely different.
The firefighter hated our swing. The monkey loved it. The baby duck is ambivalent but 50% of the time screeches in protest. We love our wipes warmer and baby monitor and co-sleeper bassinet but every family has different needs when it comes to baby equipment.
Our boys all sleep in our room for the first 6 months of their lives. For some people that’s not long enough, for others it’s 6 months too long. Newborn sleep habits seem to be a lot like sex: discussions about are best left in the bedroom.
We cloth diapered the firefighter from 6 weeks until he was potty trained, the monkey from 3 weeks until 18 months, and the baby duck started in cloth when he was 2 weeks old. We use pocket diapers but you can also use prefolds and covers or all-in-ones or fitteds and covers. Or disposables.
What I realized is that I know a lot but I don’t know a lot about what will work for you. I can tell you what worked for us but it might not be in line with your parenting philosophies or beliefs or what works for your baby. Because lets face it: you can have all the beliefs in the world about how you’ll parent your baby but he/she may present you with a very different reality.
The only thing I’m sure is that according to someone, everything I do as a parent is wrong. No matter how well it works for us or our baby someone will judge a decision we’ve made or how we do things and so I’ve learned to (a) not care (b) lie. “Yes of course my baby sleeps though the night. No I’d never let him sleep in our bed. Did you see the weather forecast for tomorrow?”
After all that uncertainty here is what we shared:
- The first time your baby sleeps through the night you’ll think they died. You’ll race down the hall in a complete panic but don’t worry, we’ve all done it (this gem from my husband who had been warned by me not to scare them)
- Even if you’re not a joiner make an effort to meet other parents. Having friends who have kids makes parenthood so much more fun and a lot less stressful. You have people to hang out with, vent to, and it’s wonderful to watch your kids grow up together. But keep in mind you can’t be friends with someone just because they’re also a parent: it’s a lot like dating, there are plenty more fish in the sea.
- If you’re organized prepare food before the baby comes. If you’re not organized then welcome people into your home and make sure to drop hints about meals being appreciated. This resulted in a lot of taken-aback glances but no I’m not kidding. You feed the baby, let other people feed you.
- Step back (leave the room if you need to) and let your partner figure out how to do things his/her way with the baby. He/she may do it differently, not as well, the baby may cry a little more, but it’s important that he/she do their way. If you can’t bite your tongue then go for a long walk.
- When your baby is young and portable take time to reconnect as a couple. Babies are portable so bring them along to coffee date or restaurants. Have a screamer or a crier? Long walks on beautiful days are just as good.
- People will judge your parenting skills and decisions no matter what you do so do what’s best for you and your family (and safe) and learn to lie to other people about what you’re doing or just smile and nod when people tsk or criticize or make helpful suggestions.
They were curious about what we would do differently looking back on our experiences with a newborn and the resounding ‘ah-ha’ for me since the baby duck was born is to enjoy it. It is chaotic and confusing and overwhelming but I was too stressed as a new mom to really and truly enjoy the firefighter’s first year (always worrying about what I was doing right/wrong, what was coming next, what milestone was around the corner). With the monkey I was too busy chasing the firefighter around to savour the newborn stage. With the baby duck I am relishing every minute. He is my loudest and fussiest baby and I don’t care. I don’t feel frustrated or exhausted by the sleeplessness and endless breastfeeding. As the mom to 4 and 6 year old I’ve realized that the time passes WAY too fast. I also have the benefit of hindsight. They change and grow more in the first year than at any other time and this time I’m content to block out the doubt and worry and stress and just enjoy him.
What warmed my heart is that when the group debriefed after we left the consensus is that we are really, really enjoying our baby. And I can’t even begin to tell you how true this is.
What’s piece of advice (or two or three) would you have for parents-to-be?