Becoming a parent has provided me with the most exciting, wonderful, terrifying, and frustrating experiences of my life! Especially, during those first few weeks when exhaustion and hormones are taking their toll! I remember crying (one of the many times during those first weeks) and thinking, "I can't even sit! How in the heck am I supposed to take care of this baby? Let alone trying to feed her with these rock hard balloons attached to my chest!" Thankfully, that phase has past and things are going much more smoothly! I was recently asked by a friend, who is expecting their first baby, if I had any advice. I pulled from my experiences and from what I have observed professionally while working families to come up with a list. I came up with four main ideas that will help with this transition to parenthood.
1 - IF IT'S NOT WORKING TRY SOMETHING NEW
Sometimes we get so focused on what the experts say that we throw our common sense out the window. If forcing your baby on a schedule isn't working then stop! If your newborn grunts so loudly in their sleep that you can't get any, then co-sleeping might not be beneficial. Give something a fair try but if it’s not a good fit for you and the baby then try something new! Sometimes a trick that didn't work in the past works now and vice versa. For example, in the past we would have to wrap peanut in a blanket in order to get her to eat but now she eats better with both hands free. Our old trick stopped working so we adjusted.
2- NEVER SAY NEVER
In order to survive those early days you might find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would. Things you might have even sworn you would never do! Before peanut was born I didn't plan on giving her a bottle until I started going back to class. The Germ was very supportive and got up with me at every feeding to help when he could. Even with his support nursing was still difficult. When exhaustion and a screaming baby were taking their toll on me I had him give her a bottle. Yes I still wanted to nurse and cried because I felt like a failure for giving her a bottle, but I NEEDED A BREAK! Getting six hours of uninterrupted sleep did me wonders mentally, spiritually, and physically. Peanut didn't suffer from the dreaded "nipple confusion" and she still nurses just fine.
I believe as long as everyone is safe and healthy, then it is just fine to change your ideas. Keeping your sanity and enjoying your baby is far more important than sticking to some vision you created in your mind while pregnant. I know many people who had to have their baby sleep in a swing in order to keep their sanity.
3 - FIND JOY IN THE JOURNEY
When The Germ and I first got married we decided to enjoy whatever stage of life we were in! College students with no money - great! We will have fun doing spontaneous and cheap vacations over summer break. Yes we were impatient for the future and ready to be done with our low paying jobs but we never forgot to enjoy the journey. When Peanut was first born I remember crying in the shower because I was having a hard time adjusting. I was worried that we would have a screaming baby FOREVER! I soon realized that I wasn't enjoying being around Peanut anymore even though I loved her tremendously. That realization made me feel so sad because I wanted to enjoy being around my sweet baby! I reminded myself that I was on a new adventure going through unknown territory. Difficult times are part of every adventure and I needed to focus on the good parts of the journey. Yes, I mourned the loss of only having to worry about The Germ and myself because life seemed so simple then (it really wasn't). I also looked forward to when Peanut could sleep through the night. These feelings were completely normal and often arise when a big change occurs but I reminded myself she will only be this little 6 pound baby once. Soon the dread I felt when she started crying was replaced by small moments of joy- the smiles she gave while sleeping, how far she would arch her back when she stretched, and the little squeaks of contentment when she was done eating. Focusing on those small moments made the changes in my lifestyle easier.
4- TALK TALK TALK
Communicating honestly to your spouse/significant other helps with the transition. Asking for their help, thanking them, and expressing your love will make life more enjoyable. Hearing The Germ tell me how much he loved me and appreciated what I was doing made me feel valued. Asking The Germ to help with Peanut instead of trying to do it all on my own took some of the burden off my shoulders. There were times when we had to “tag team” the baby. I would try calming her and when I began to feel frustrated he would take over. There were nights when this would go back and forth several times until we were able to calm her. TOGETHER we found what worked best for the Peanut, NOT by doing it alone. Also, talking about our struggles and fears helped us find ways to ease these feelings.
Becoming a parent is not easy but it is worth it! Those early days may be full of tears, hormones, and no sleep but you’re not alone. Parents all over the world are taking home their newborn baby, wondering how they are going to do it. Hopefully, remembering these four things will aide you as you begin this new adventure!