Being a new parent is the most joyful, frustrating, heart opening, messy, happy thing a person can ever experience. Yet unlike being a fireman or a doctor there is very little real guidance offered by society on what to expect, what pitfalls to avoid, etc. Usually family and friends will tell new or expecting parents some imagined to be important things to help them along their way, like what to expect during labor (as if anyone can predict that), what kind of classes might help with the birthing process (as if all birthing processes are the same), what the best deals you can find for baby food are, information about baby clothes and who the best pediatrician in your neck of the woods is.
Truth is though, that information is already all over the internet, including opinions about whether to vaccinate, when to vaccinate and of course the ultimate question of all: whether or not to circumcise if the child happens to be male. This white noise about what parents should do or not do, as well as the mass of information today’s parents are expected to know actually deflects from some very basic practical advice that can be helpful.
Since being a new parent already leads to amnesia due to lack of sleep, and being an expecting parent holds levels of anxiety reminiscent of being in a dentist chair while getting a root canal, it’s important to keep this kind of advice simple and easy, so here are 6 things you want to know BEFORE becoming a parent:
How long that will be depends on the kindness of that stranger who is now your baby, their emotional whims and feeding habits, none of which anyone can predict. Plan your life accordingly for the indefinite future in line with the fact that you will not be getting any sleep. And if you do get sleep, cherish it because there is no guarantee that the lovely baby who sleeps all night at 9 weeks will not become like a shark in a feeding frenzy every 90 minutes from 8pm to 7am when they are 12 weeks or older. Growth spurts, room lighting, smells, even the astrological transits of the baby’s birth chart can be studied until the end of time and still there is no formula to accurately predict when a new born will sleep or not. So, get used to being sleep deprived, or at least accept the possibility that it may happen to you.
Comfort for the mother is of utmost importance in the days and weeks after childbirth. A mother of a newborn child needs time for her body to recover from the rigors of giving birth, and also being sleep deprived means that it is much easier to breastfeed or bottle feed while sitting in a cozy glider chair that rocks back and forth. This small investment is worth it! If you risk not getting one be prepared for the mental anguish which will ensue, as well as the massage bills, chiropractic bills and other activities that will need to happen to offset the lack of comfort that is now part of this new mother’s world. Be kind! Make getting a glider chair a top priority, right up there with buying diapers and baby clothes.
That’s what adults do, we pretend to know stuff even if we don’t. In past generations it was the case that most adults had children, often many children, and so any advice given was usually from the place of real life experience. But in today’s world that is not the case, so learning how to deflect advice from those who have no idea what being a parent is like is a real and important skill.
Also, it is often the case that these non-parents make huge assumptions based on their non-existent parenting experience and say things which can be offensive to anyone who is actually raising a newborn child. One simple technique is to ignore unrequested and potentially offensive advice entirely, which often works because you are so obviously sleep deprived people think you simply didn’t hear what they just said. Another technique is to turn the advice back on the person who asked it. If they recommend you breastfeed, or which side of the vaccine coin flip you should be on, ask them what they did when raising their own children. Oh yeah, they don’t have kids. Let the awkward silence pass as you both digest this moment similar to someone who has never driven a car trying to telling you how to drive.
As with any major life change, being a parent can have many unexpected results. Some people love children and others have no idea how to relate to children, especially a newborn child. You might expect a congratulations from someone who you have thought a dear friend only to rarely hear from them again once you have announced the birth of your child. The opposite is also true, someone who you knew only casually might shower you and your baby with gifts, offering to be helpful such as cooking food for you and helping you do chores that were once easy but now a challenge, such as clean your house while watching a newborn.
The bright love that comes through with these new friendships usually outweighs that sense of hurt that happens when someone decides to no longer be your friend because you now have a child. When you do lose friends because of your baby know it is simply an initiation, a hazing from the universe for you to join this age old society of parents, and not something to take personally or go into therapy about. Embrace the new friendships, and simply let the old ones go.
You may have taken classes before the birth in Baby CPR, Breastfeeding, and watched numerous videos to help you cope with the challenges of being a parent. What to do when complete strangers ask to hold your beautiful child is the one issue no book or video ever dares to mention. As a society, we like to pretend this will never happen but it actually happens quite often. The request is rarely even verbal. The assailant simply stands in front of your newborn child, and reaches their arms out towards the child, perhaps pouting too as if regressing into their own babyhood form of consciousness. This form of non-verbal communication is almost an act of violence to some parents. What to do? Simply smile at them, hold your baby tight, and walk away.
Don’t let this article scare you into deciding against having a baby. Having a child stare into your eyes, drool on you, and pee all over you when you try to change their diaper is an experience not to be missed. Seeing the odd behaviors, the nuances of a baby’s personality emerge, is probably the closest thing you’ll ever know to wondering what the Divine Creator must have felt when the universe was first created, a feeling kind of like Wow, I did this? Lots of problems yet somehow still perfect!
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