Unsolicited Advice for Parents-to-be

Unsolicited Advice for Parents-to-be

Alternative title: things I wish people had told me about becoming a parent.

1. Don’t sweat the messy stuff

I wasn’t sure how cleaning up vomit, poop, dealing with the rotting-off cord, etc., would be. Four weeks in, I have had so many different bodily fluids on me that I have generally stopped caring. The biggest one was the huge blowout diaper that filled the diaper, got all through the onesie and went onto my pants. I was surprised at how little I cared. In fact, I was happy, because it meant the baby was getting enough to eat. If you’ve never changed a diaper, you will learn almost immediately after the child is born, and before long, you’ll be fine with any level of gross. You will likely be coated in vomit at some point. It’s cool.

2. Breastfeeding, for the first little while, really sucks

There, I said it. Don’t go into breastfeeding with any expectation that it’s going to be easy or even feel worth it for the first few weeks. It will be worth it, and you are amazing for doing it. Also, you’re amazing for NOT doing it, because parenting is hard enough without having to learn and simultaneously teach how breastfeeding works. It is natural, but it doesn’t come naturally, for either of you. I’m glad I’m doing it, and I will continue to do it, but I can completely understand why some women choose not to do it, and especially why so many decide to stop in the first few weeks. It’s okay to be frustrated and it’s okay to cry. It will get better. The advice that my doula Elise gave me was to get through the first day, then the first week, then the first month. Taking it day by day is the easiest way to do it. I’ve gotten through a month of it, and it has definitely gotten much easier. Also, your baby may gain birth weight back at a slower rate than formula-fed babies at first. Do not see it as a failing if your baby hasn’t gained birth weight back in the first two weeks. All babies are different. You’re doing a great job.

3. Forget sleep–enjoy SHOWERS while you can

Enjoy long, hot showers. Enjoy hot meals and hot coffee. Enjoy the feeling of being clean, because it will likely become a distant memory. If you’re at home alone with the baby to any degree, prepare to forfeit mealtimes, or to graze sporadically over several hours. Have a nice dinner out together before the baby arrives, and maybe even create a fond memory in the process. Do something you’ll remember, because chances are you won’t be wishing you got more sleep before the baby arrived when you’re sleep deprived. You can’t bank sleep. You can bank memories, and you’ll be happy you did. Brad and I had a really nice dinner together at the Schnitzel Parlour for our anniversary in October, when I was about seven months pregnant, and we’ll remember that for the rest of our lives. You won’t remember that one really great night of sleep you got.

(A note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a good night’s sleep! Continue to sleep as you normally would before the baby arrives. Just, you know, don’t make a point of getting extra sleep.)

4. Find something fun, but low-key, to do together

Days with a newborn go by very quickly, and are filled with, mainly, taking care of said newborn. A great way to unwind during a nap or a feeding is to watch a movie or a series together, or read a book to each other. Brad and I normally would play video games together, but lately that’s been impossible. Instead, we’ve been watching Community together, and it’s been awesome. Added bonus: read a long book to each other, and to your baby. We plan on doing this when Amelia’s more consistently alert.

5. It’s okay if you don’t sleep when the baby sleeps

Honestly, you may find it exceedingly difficult to do so. The first week or so, everything is still brand new and you’re learning a lot about each other. While I do think I would have benefited from getting a few winks while the baby was out, I wouldn’t have gotten to eat, I wouldn’t have been able to sterilize baby things, and I would have been wearing the same clothes all week. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s not as easy as it sounds! You are not a robot. You don’t have an off switch. You’ll be overtired, but you might expect that, anyway. Try to sleep, but don’t stress about it. Most likely, you’ll get to a state that you’ll fall asleep anytime, anyway. Little naps throughout the day, even five minute ones, will do you a world of good.

6. Ask for help

Ask friends, ask family. It’s fine to do it, and you’ll be glad you did. Also, get used to issuing commands (politely). If your hands are full of baby, you’ll want to issue those commands. There is no shame. You’re new at this. And if you don’t want to ask for help, then get people to hold the child while you do things. People love holding babies. Your life has changed, but it doesn’t mean everything else has to stop.

7. You can never be too full or too caffeinated

This is my new mantra. Whether or not to drink coffee is a personal choice during breastfeeding, and it’s one that I’ve, quite frankly, decided to exercise, because I’m pretty sure I would straight up die if I didn’t have a morning coffee. Even if you’ve just eaten and someone offers you food, unless you feel like you’re going to explode (this is unlikely), EAT. Fill yer belly. It probably doesn’t even matter what with. For a little while, have no shame. A belly filled with empty calories is far better than a belly void of anything. Eat. Eeeeat. The end.

8. The first two weeks really are the hardest

This isn’t to say the subsequent weeks aren’t hard, but after those first two weeks are over, you’ve gotten to know your baby a bit. You’re getting settled into somewhat of a routine. You can start seeing patterns emerge, such as what a certain tone of crying means. After four weeks, you’ll notice the baby having better, longer sleeps–and you’ll probably start sleeping better, too. I’m told months 0-3 are the hardest, but I’m feeling a lot more confident now that the first two weeks are in the past.

9. Water, water, everywhere

This goes alongside point number seven: you can also never be too hydrated. Leave glasses or bottles of water everywhere around the home, especially if you’re breastfeeding. In fact, you might also want to leave non-perishable snacks around. You never know when you may end up in a part of the house for 2-hour blocks (or more!), so a bag of trail mix or some dried fruit may well save your life. I tend to get hungry during the very early morning feedings–around 4:30 AM–and these feedings also happen to be ones that the little one doesn’t settle down well after. I have a fistful of granola bars and other grab-and-eat snacks next to the rocker for that purpose. Popping downstairs to the kitchen isn’t an option.

10. You will never want to do housework more

And you won’t be able to, most likely. This goes hand-in-hand with “asking for help”. There is something really satisfying about doing any housework at all when you spend the day with a newborn. Clean something quickly when you have a second. It feels awesome.

I didn’t want to be cliché and have “it is completely and utterly worth it” as point 10, because, to be honest, everyone does tell you that. And you know what? They’re all right. Being a parent is awesome. Every little milestone reached is an incredible feeling. Watching this little person growing, changing, and learning is indescribable. And time goes by so quickly–another thing I knew going into it, but still have a hard time grasping. How is this little creature already a month old?!

I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a parent before I discovered I was pregnant, and now I’m having trouble imagining my life without it. It’s been a crazy adventure so far, and it’s only just begun. My last piece of unsolicited advice is to just go along for the ride. For the first little while, it’s the little creature’s schedule, not yours. Enjoy it–it doesn’t last long.

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  1. I loved reading this 🙂 I’m so terrified of parenthood, but I’m more excited than scared. In 3 months this will be me!

    • I was terrified, too! But, you know, everything came so naturally after she was here. I haven’t felt any of that fear since. 🙂 Hope it’s the same for you!

  2. Wonderful read Katie. My niece Meaghan is due in 6 days for her first baby. I hope she read this.

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