One question that my wife and I started asking as her due date came closer and closer, was “are we ready to take care of a child?” We’d been doing a lot of reading, talked to people who were already parents, done our initial baby gear shopping. But, those nagging questions were still there. “Are we ready?” “Do we have what it takes?”
We’re now a few months further on, our newborn baby is no longer newborn, and we’re getting close to the end of the so-called “fourth trimester” (i.e., the first three months after birth). I can now tell you that no, we weren’t quite ready. There’s no way that we could have been fully prepared, regardless of how many books and blog posts we read, or how much advice we got.
The simple fact is that every pregnancy, every child is unique. Sure, there’s also a lot that’s common to all children, but you don’t quite know which combination of blessings and challenges you’re going to face. Here are a few of the surprises we had.
Giving Birth Never Goes to Plan
In my mind, my wife’s water would break, we’d go to the maternity centre, our baby would be born, they’d stay overnight, and then we’d all go home. My wife’s bag was packed and ready for that scenario to play out. Nice dream, eh?
Then reality said hello, and I had to drive back home from the maternity centre to pack my own bag, because we ended up staying overnight before my wife gave birth. Sleeping at home wasn’t an option, because there was no way I was going to risk missing the birth of my first child.
Despite this, we had it easy. There are so many things that could go wrong before and during pregnancy, and some women have quite an ordeal.
Sleep Deprivation is Real and Intense
I’d heard plenty about lack of sleep during the first few months after birth, but knowing about it didn’t prepare me for the sheer feeling of exhaustion. It’s only now that I know what it feels like. The only thing that kept me going was the strong love for my wife and child, and the desire to do what’s best for them.
Some Pediatricians are Great; Others are Not
Without going into details, some pediatricians (doctors for children) and nurses we encountered were blatantly disrespectful toward us as parents, exhibited bullyish behaviour, and also unnecessarily freaked my wife out with blunt alarmist statements over what could be wrong with our baby. Medicine is about more than just medication. Emotions, psychology, and doctor-patient relationships all matter.
The clinical guidelines in some countries include entries such as “reassure the mother.” These are there for a very good reason. Hormonal changes after childbirth make women very sensitive emotionally, and for new mothers there’s the added uncertainty of being new to parenting. So, it’s easy to scare and/or upset them. Added to that, babies can sense when mother is upset, and get anxious. Do this too often, and it can be the start of future anxiety issues which can take years to solve, or even continue on into adulthood.
We experienced this first-hand, with our daughter becoming very clingy and going on a frenzy feed for at least a day each time a doctor or nurse told my wife that something is (or could be) wrong with our child. In some cases it felt like they were trying to scare us into submission, as in “do this, or else…” It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re emotional.
Fortunately, other pediatricians were much better. They listened, asked appropriate questions, and then calmly explained what could be and what they recommend. These doctors were reassuring. Needless to say, we trust these doctors, not the others.
Babies Are So Cute… Even When They’re Angry
As a kid I hated people not taking my complaints seriously. Now I’ve caught myself laughing at my newborn daughter’s indignant face. I couldn’t help it, she’s soooo cute, even when indignant. Plus, her complaint was that I was a few seconds too slow in handing her to Mama for feeding.
Sorry for laughing dear, we love you.
Can’t Help But Imitate Our Little Baby
Yes, I’m talking about a grown adult man (me) making noises, pulling faces, and babbling like a little girl. It’s impossible not to, because you instinctively want to connect with your little baby at his/her level. Plus, everything she does is so cute. And, before you judge me, my wife does it too. 😛
Newborn Baby Poop Doesn’t Smell
I heard plenty about men finding diaper changing gross and difficult. I even heard of some men using face masks the first few times. So, I was pleasantly surprised that I found it rather easy. Most likely, that’s because I started helping at birth. Newborn babies poop a little at a time, and it doesn’t smell. So, diaper changing and washing is relatively easy.
A few months down the road, and the poop volume and smell have both grown. I can see why people would be grossed out if diaper changing a 2-3 month old baby was their first time. As for me, I’m a veteran at this, so I can handle it just fine.
Yes, Unsolicited Parenting Advice Can be Annoying
“Welcome to parenthood. For the rest of your life you will be doing it all wrong, according to someone, somewhere.” No idea who that quote’s from, but there’s truth to it. We’ve received enough “advice” from others, a lot of which we’ve politely listened to and ignored. The one that got me the most, is people thinking my baby is too cold… in a tropical country… while I’m sweating while sitting down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m open to advice, and could definitely learn from others. It’s just annoying to receive advice that we either disagree with, and/or is phrased more as an accusation that you’re “doing it wrong.” Plus, there’s a lot of questionable to bad. For example, we’ve been told not to hold our child too much, and to let her “cry it out,” but today’s child psychologists warn of the dangers of doing so. Some parents we know listened to such advice, and now regret it.
So Much To Learn…
I started by saying that we weren’t quite prepared, which is true but doesn’t matter. No book could possibly document everything you might need to know. And even if such a book existed, you’d never be able to read it all. Nor could you predict ahead of time exactly what you’ll need.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to know it all up-front, you just need the ability to learn. And trust me, you’ll learn fast because you’ve got the best motivation in the world: a tiny baby that’s utterly and totally dependent on you. We’ve learnt a lot in the last few months, and are continually figuring new things out. Our latest new skill: changing diapers in our little car after a poop explosion plus diaper leak. We felt quite clever after successfully changing diapers without dirtying the car.
No doubt, we’ll continue learning even more as our baby continues growing.
How about you? Learn anything surprising as a parent recently? Share it in the comments section below…