I don’t claim to know everything about babies. In fact, I’m still learning so much and we’re onto number two! However, these are some things I wish someone had told me before Tiny was born, things which would have made our first foray into parenthood perhaps a little easier.
Everyone tells you that having a baby will change everything, but until it happens, you really can’t comprehend exactly what that means. Everything will change, and the best thing to do is embrace the changes and let go of your former life, because life will never be the same again.
And if that means you’re still in your pyjamas when your partner comes home, and that your baby is wearing nothing but a nappy and a vest, so be it. Roll with it, and know that it does get easier.
Things I wish I’d known first time around:
~ that you really can trust your own instincts. You know your baby best of all, and if you feel that something isn’t right, you shouldn’t question yourself. I’ve heard of too many mums who were scoffed at when they said something wasn’t quite right, and then later it was discovered that they were spot on. Our doctor once told me that as a parent, there are no stupid questions or concerns, and that is always better to ask and be reassured, than to not ask at all.
~ that the only person expecting you to be supermum is you. No one else expects you to do it all, especially in the first few months. If the washing to be folded piles up, so what? Call your laundry basket your new wardrobe. If you eat pasta and a jar of sauce every night for a week, think of the money you’re probably saving. If the kitchen floor is sticky because you haven’t had time to mop it, wear slippers and rejoice in the sound of them peeling off the lino. The most important thing is that your baby is loved and fed, and that you look after yourself. Visitors won’t care about your housekeeping – they’ve come to cuddle your little person and bring you baking, not comment on your dusting habits or the cleanliness of your loo.
~ babies sometimes need the chance to self-settle. I spent so much time forcing Tiny to feed when he cried, but now I realise there were times when all he would have wanted was to be put into bed. Especially seeing he had reflux; my constant feeding of him wouldn’t have helped at all! I learned very quickly with Pickle that when he’s fussing at the breast, most of the time it means he just wants to be left alone so he can drift off to sleep without having a nipple shoved in his face.
~ some babies need a good grizzle when they’re tired. Even now, at two-and-a-half, Tiny needs to unwind in bed before he can drift off to sleep, so he spends five minutes chatting away to himself. Babies can’t talk, so being able to grizzle is often all they need to get over their busy day. If Pickle is grizzling, I tend to leave him to it, as 95% of the time, he’ll be asleep in a few minutes. However, if he starts to cry, I won’t leave him, as that usually means he’s still hungry or needs one more cuddle.
~ if you take the time to listen to your baby’s cries, you’ll quickly recognise what each one means. Pickle has a very distinctive tired cry, which is very high pitched and squealy; his hungry cry is deeper and follows a consistent rise-and-fall of tone. I didn’t take the time to work this out with Tiny, and I probably should have
~ it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Just like no one expects you to be supermum, your family and friends want to help. It’s better to ask for help than get weighed down and sad because you feel like you’re faltering, and no one will think any less of you. It’s hard to admit you need help, but also very brave and very smart. If someone offers to make you a meal or do your vacuuming or hang out your washing, gratefully accept. No one ever offers if they don’t want to help, so don’t feel guilty about saying yes, or for asking.
~ if you’re feeling sad or emotional, talk about it with your partner or friends you can trust. Don’t put on a brave face and pretend everything’s okay; becoming a parent is a huge deal, and adjusting can take a while. It doesn’t matter what end of the scale you feel you’re on – whether you’re just having a rough day, or feel like you might be suffering from PND, let people know so that they can help you however they can.
~ you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money at the beginning. It’s nice to have new things for your new baby, but all they really need to begin with is somewhere to sleep, warm clothes and blankets, a car seat, nappies and some wraps or swaddles. Little babies don’t need any toys – their hands and feet and the world around them is stimulation enough – and they don’t care if you’ve bought their bassinet or cot from Trade Me or eBay. They care that you give them cuddles and smiles and love them and feed them.
~ every baby has different needs when it comes to feeding and sleeping, and no routine will work for every baby, or every family. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Sleep training with Tiny took months and months, and lots of tears; for some babies, they’ve got it sussed in three nights.
~ resist the urge to read too much about development, because chances are your baby won’t do what he’s supposed to at the “right” age. Tiny rolled over once when he was seven months old, bum-shuffled at nine months, and didn’t walk until he was 17 months old. However, he was talking in sentences at 18 months, and crawled after he learned to walk.
~ surround yourself with like-minded mums with bubs of a similar age, and similar parenting ideas. Don’t get caught up in the world of comparisons – just because their baby walks at 10 months doesn’t make them a cleverer baby, or a cleverer parent. Your baby will be rocking some other developmental miracle, and by the time they are five, none of it will matter anyway. I’m so lucky that my coffee group are all amazing, supportive, uncompetitive women who I’d like to think I’d be friends with even if we didn’t have children.
~ try and enjoy every moment, because it really does go so fast. One day you’ll be reading a story to your newborn, and the next, he’ll be “reading” it to you!
Does anyone have anything to add to this little list? There’s probably so much more that I haven’t considered, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.