An old friend of mine recently sent out a message asking around for baby tips. She lives across the country and is in similar parent pioneering shoes as Jordan and I found ourselves, where you’re one of the first couples in your circle of friends to have a baby.
I’m not the best with advice, and don’t generally like to give it because when you are a new mom, you will be inundated with it and likely start to resent it – like the lady in the muumuu that told Jordan it was child abuse to keep Carter in his car seat while we grocery shopped. Yeah, that happened. But I’ll tell you what I’ve learned, and maybe ya’ll can add to it.
1. Every mama will find their own “must-haves”. In fact, a blog I follow posted her list today — and I didn’t use any of that stuff (except the pre-fold cloth diapers – they are perfect burp rags, and you can stitch ribbon on the outsides really easily and make cute burp clothes). That’s not to say they aren’t fantastic items, they just wouldn’t have worked for me. Anyway, some people will tell you that you absolutelypositivelyneed certain items to survive. That’s probably not true. “Must-haves” for a newborn are food and diapers and something to keep them warm. I could have saved a lot of money and time if I hadn’t bought a bunch of stuff I barely use now, and just waited (I know, it’s against our planning nature) and figured out what works best for me and my baby. That said, as far as stuff goes, here’s some of my experience:
- Baby monitors are great… but we don’t use ours. There’s nowhere in my house that I can’t hear my baby if he’s fussing. I used it the first month or two for reassurance, but mostly it just served as a fun way for my husband to make fun of the baby convos I was having in the nursery when he was downstairs.
- Most babies love to be swaddled. My baby can break out of even the tightest swaddle. We’ve had a couple of swaddle blankets from Babies R Us or Target that had Velcro straps. Lifesavers.
- Have a diaper raffle at your baby shower if you’re having one. In the invite, tell everyone to bring a package of diapers (any size, since you’ll end up using ‘em all eventually) and then give them a numbered “ticket” for each package they bring. Draw for a prize as one of your games. Even if you plan on cloth diapering, having disposables is reallllly nice for times when you go out. We use disposables, and Carter is 6 months old and I still have not had to buy a single package of diapers. Awesome.
- Don’t buy too many clothes in one size, especially newborn. This wasn’t the case for us (Carter is a little guy), but most newborns only stay in newborn clothes for a couple of weeks, max.
- Things like swings, bouncy chairs, exersaucers, Bumbos – whatever – will buy you time to eat, go to the bathroom, shower, etc. So they are worthy investments in my book.
2. Breathe deep and accept that there will be things that do not go as planned. I had a super easy pregnancy and then got very sick and had a horrible labor and delivery. After reading all the books, I had an image of just how my delivery was gonna go. Didn’t happen. Also, I spent all 9 months researching and planning for breastfeeding, only to find out I couldn’t. I was heartbroken and still have awful guilt and disappointment over it. I’ve learned that some things are just not going to go as planned or dreamed – and I’m learning to be ok with that.
3. The advice you hear all the time – that’s probably the stuff that’s best to listen to. Here are some examples off the top of my brain:
- Nap when your newborn is napping. This is one I chose not follow. I felt wired after Carter was born and spent his nap times cooking, cleaning, catching up on work from home… I should have napped. No one is going to give you an award for having a newborn and a clean house. They are just going to rightfully think you are crazy.
- Let your baby learn to self-soothe when you’re ready. I read the infamous book Babywise, and it did help to follow a couple of their guidelines (a lot of that book just made me want to lash out at the men who wrote it…another story). A lot of moms are against letting a baby cry it out, but a lot of moms don’t have babies that are as happy as Carter and get 12 hours of straight sleep through the night since they were 3 months old and love being in their crib.
- Time goes too fast, so enjoy every second. I seriously can’t believe how fast Carter has grown. He has gone from this to this to this with seemingly no warning. Love every second. We tend to take on a lot at once in our lives, but through it all, it’s important to remember that these are the days that we will look back on and crave years from now. Just hold your baby.Take lots of pictures and videos. More than you think a sane person would.
4. You are going to feel totally stressed out and overwhelmed and underprepared no matter what. Your hormonal rollercoaster ride from being pregnant does not go away right after that baby. Planning for baby should be planning for you, too. Here’s some ideas that worked for me:
- Refrigerated cabbage leaves. I learned this from an Asian nurse after delivery. About three days after you give birth, your milk will come in, and it is super painful. Your husband will be pleased because you will look like Pam Anderson, but that’s the only nice part I can think of. They will be huge, hard, unmoving rocks of leakage. Cold compresses work ok, but ripping up cabbage leaves and refrigerating them (freezing them if you’re a badass) and putting them in your bra will help tons.
- Loose PJS. After giving birth, there are a couple reasons you will want comfy jammies. One, during the first couple of nights, you can sweat a lot in your sleep. For me, you can sweat out the buckets of magnesium you had pumped into your system. But you’ll likely be sweaty when sleepy. And leaking and bleeding who knows where else both night and day. Basically, you’ll be a super hot mess. Two, your body is likely not going to fit into your pre-preg clothes OR your maternity wear right after birth. PJs are typically elastic and fabulous that way.
- When you have a break, have a good book, a hobby (I knit…poorly), trashy magazines, an iPod… whatever on hand. Take a little time to check out here and there for your sanity. Let the mister take baby for a walk while you chill.
5. Aside from being stressed to the max, other weird stuff happens to your body after you’ve had the baby (as if pregnancy wasn’t enough). Everyone is different, of course, but here’s a few things that happened to me that just… seem… weird.
- I didn’t get any stretch marks the entire pregnancy. I was so proud. Then I had Carter and lost all 26 ½ pounds I had gained during pregnancy in – get this – six days. Most people think that’s a dream come true for a postpartum woman, but it was way too fast and probably happened because my body had been through so much trauma during the labor. Annnnd losing that much weight in less than a week gave me – yup – stretch marks. Awesome.
- My hair is still falling out six months later. It’s getting better, but right about the four month mark I literally would have 1-2 full hair brushes of hair when I brushed it (ever so gently) after showering. Great.
- I never used to get freckles (though I always thought they were cute!), and the first time I got out in the sun after having Carter, I got a sprinkling across my chest and shoulders. Weird.
- The makeup of my skin has changed. I get monstrous zits twice the size of any pubescent girl. Again, awesome.
Anyway, make time to pamper yourself. You’ll need it in order to feel human.
6. Nurture your marriage. Six months into this parenting business, I can not imagine doing it alone. I have such a newfound awe for single parents. Your partner will be your saving grace.
That said, cut him a little slack. It goes against all of my philosophies, but it’s true – (99.999% of) men do not have the same nurturing instincts as women. The whole business of parenting does not come as naturally to them, and they will need you to guide them. We become mamas when we become pregnant – we make prenatal decisions that impact our babies from day one. We obsess over how to eat and sleep for it, we feel it squirm and roll and kick, we talk to what lies under the bump when no one’s around, and we wonder if it can hear our favorite song on the radio.
Dads, not so much. I remember the first ultrasound and Jordan’s face. He was so concerned, looking at that black and white screen. But now I understand. Those appointments were his lifelines to a baby he might not have otherwise felt a real connection to. Out of the two of us, he was far more excited when it came time to find out if it was a boy or a girl – it was a tangible, real connection to what otherwise might just have appeared to be the donut-filled belly of a moody wife. The first time he held Carter, I remember him looking so joyful and so confused at the same time. It took him longer to make that bond with our son that he loved, but did not know.
There are tons of resources out there for mamas, and not a whole lot for dads. Poor Jordan. He had to search high and low for “dad” books about parenting and supporting his partner. He laments how few “dad blogs” there are, and you should see his face when people make assuming comments to him – “So nice of you to give your wife a break” – “Babysitting your kid? What a good dad!” Infuriates him. It’s really important to give your partner credit, because it’s true that they often go without it in lieu of the mom.
7. Everyone’s got something to say to you. There are a lot of different parenting “styles”. Crunchy, attachment, green, natural – and each “style” seems to come with an elitist attitude. What I’ve learned is that it’s perfectly ok to borrow a page from multiple books, and only you are going to know what is alright for your family. We use disposable diapers and formula feed, but I also buy/make organic and local foods and use earth and child-friendly products. You are the boss, the one in charge. You are your child’s advocate. What works for someone else might not work for you, and screw ‘em if they get uppity over it.
Also, the internet is a great resource. There are so many places to get support. I really like thebump.com. Fantastic. I’m also a LiveJournal nerd and joined a bunch of communities there. But take the internet with a grain a large chunk of salt. And when you or your babe are not feeling well, try not to Google symptoms. It’ll give you many heart attacks in rapid succession.
8. Your baby is different than other babies. It’s really easy to fall into comparing Carter’s size and abilities to other babies. I read too many blogs in which I want to reach through the computer and slap moms. “Oh, your two-month old is almost crawling, holding their own bottle, and playing peek-a-boo? Well Carter puts his dishes in the sink after meals, and he starts medical school next week.” My kid is perfect – in some ways, he’s ahead, in others, he’s not. But he’s doing everything at his own pace.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got and it just went waaaaay longer than I thought it would.