No course, parenting book or how-to article can prepare you for the extreme life changing moment of becoming a parent. All the advice in the world cannot prepare you, because being a parent comes with learning.
As a woman, and soon to be mother, the stages are pretty typical. First there is shock and fear of becoming a parent, and the responsibilities that will soon follow. Then comes acceptance, joy and excitement as you experience the life growing inside you. It is a phenomenal thing, what our bodies can do! Finally, as the weeks start winding down, fear, nervousness and anxiety come back, as you maybe second guess your preparedness. This is all a natural part of preparing our mind and body for the changes happening, and what it will be like once baby has arrived.
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This post isn’t for giving advice, this is Brett and I sharing what we learned, our accomplishments and struggles, during the first few months of bringing Jack home.
Routines: getting into a routine is paramount
If you have never been a person of routine, this can be a fairly difficult thing to adjust to. I jokingly suggest you get a day planner for all the things you need to do and remember! From the new born days when Jack would wake up every 1-2 hours to eat, to bath time and diaper changes; it gets overwhelming trying to remember everything! But do not worry; if you forget to do something, they will remind you! We found that getting Jack into a routine from day one has not only helped with his sleeping, but is crucial for our sanity! From around the 2 month mark, he was sleeping through the night with just one wake up around 4 am. We both agree how important it is to start a routine. Something as simple as creating a calming bedtime routine can have a lasting effect on babies.
Eczema is something both Jack and I struggle with, so he has daily baths despite common misconception. This is to open his pores with a quick warm bath, so an eczema moisturizer can be absorbed into his skin better than if we put it on dry. The first time he had a bath, he screamed bloody murder, and now he loves baths! He knows that after a bath, he gets a massage using Aveeno Eczema Baby Cream, fresh jammies, cuddles, then he’s asleep shortly after. We notice the difference when we skip baths; he wakes up more during the night. However, what works for us, won’t work for another family.
Co-sleeping: advantages and disadvantages
We are not medical professionals, nor are we telling you to co-sleep. The term is often frowned upon and can be the subject of heated arguments between parents, and the peanut gallery. It is also a broad, misused term. What one mom thinks is co-sleep, will be completely different to another mom.
There is “co-sleeping” and “bed-sharing”. We have done, and continue to do both. It works for us. You’ll often here all of the negatives of co-sleeping. But often times the negativity is being referred to bed-sharing, not co-sleeping. Having a bassinet in the same room as the parents is considered co-sleeping, and personally, I would not sleep if we didn’t do this.
Bed-sharing is exactly what it sounds like, the child sleeps in your bed. When Jack first came home, he slept in a Finnish Baby Box in between Brett and I, until we were used to having him there with us. Then the box came out of our bed, and Jack just slept between us. I found this extremely useful when he was waking up 1-2 hours a night for feeding or changes. It is important to note that we have a king size bed, and Jack had his own space free of pillows or blankets, and was in a swaddle (I recommend these). He was safe from either of us rolling over, but I could just roll over to tend to him when he was crying.
Then when he started sleeping through the night, or for at least 3 hours at a time, we moved him to his safe sleeping pack and play that was in our room. Jack will probably sleep in our room for a few more months, but I will want to make the transition to his own room as soon as he is sleeping through the night. Again, we are not recommending that this is what you should do; we are simply sharing what worked for us.
Friendships and relationships: they change
This was probably one of the hardest things for us to adjust to, the change in your social circle. It came as no surprise that weekends would no longer be spent at the local watering hole, and that date night would almost always be spent at home. This wasn’t completely a bad thing though, your circle of friends might dwindle when you have to constantly decline boozy brunches, and late night parties, but your circle also grows in a new way. We started connecting with new friends that were in similar situations.
New parents need to be around other new parents who share what you are going through. Those brunches become coffee dates; late nights out become afternoon play dates. This isn’t the only change though, suddenly family and friends whom you may not have been as close with, want to help and be apart of the new baby’s life! This is the most amazing part of social change with having a new baby, and you need that extra help. Even a phone call is amazing when you’re going on day 6 of wearing the same PJ’s having only a baby to talk to!
Maintaining social relationships is so important, for new moms especially. And I am the first to admit how hard it is to make new friends as a grown adult. If your partner works, and you are luck enough to take time off from work, it is extremely important to maintain even a small social life for your sanity. Putting myself out there, even though Facebook mom groups, has introduced me to an entire new tribe of women and friends who are going through exactly what I am going through. Pushing through insecurities is something that comes with time and patience, but is ultimately best for baby. Which brings me to our next learning experience.
You become extremely selfless and sacrifice endlessly
I care more about what my son wears than what I do. Seriously. I’m still wearing my maternity clothing, not going to lie (it is really comfortable, can you say Thanksgiving turkey pants?!). This one might seem so obvious, and if you don’t become selfless then you are a terrible parent. But it is so much more than that. When you see your baby giggle and smile at you for the first time, you’ll understand. It makes you realize that there is nothing more important than seeing that smile. 6/7 nights I eat a cold dinner, and drink a cold morning coffee in the afternoon, but I am not complaining, at all!
Brett recently went on parental leave because I needed support caring for Jack, and to recover from postpartum depression. Taking time off of work long term for Brett would have been completely off the table under almost any circumstance before we had Jack. It was something we needed to do as a family, and a sacrifice Brett knew he needed to make. Work was no longer the top priority for him; family took the lead.
Advice is a guideline
Every baby and family is unique; take everything with a grain of salt. There is nothing like getting that unsolicited piece of advice that just drives you nuts! Everyone wants to tell you how to be a parent, point out your flaws and make sure you are doing it the “right” way. There is no right way, but there certainly is a wrong way! Parenting is such a learning experience and what works for one family won’t work for another. I can imagine that I won’t be nearly as uptight with a second baby as I have been with Jack. I am by no means a “helicopter parent”, but I am very caution with everything we do with Jack and expose him to. They are little sponges, especially during their first 3 years.
We constantly have to remind ourselves that we are doing an excellent job at being parents, and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. Jack knows we are doing our best, that giggly little smile tells us so constantly. We took everyone’s recommendations, and we parent the way we want to parent, the way we want Jack to be raised.
Brett and I have been through many obstacles in our relationship, and some seemed impossible to overcome. There is no obstacle greater than becoming a parent, and there is no greater reward than becoming one too. Watching your baby grow is the greatest accomplishment anyone can ever feel. Knowing you created this little human, it is indescribable.