Now that we’ve talked all about the baby’s crying, let’s talk about yours! All new parents know that if you ask five people for their advice (not that people even wait for you to ask), you’ll get ten different opinions. So, even though you didn’t ask me for my opinion, here is my list of ten sanity-saving survival tips to help you endure the challenges of your baby’s first months a little more gracefully.
1. Trust Yourself: You Are the Latest in the Unbroken Chain of the World’s Top Parents
Leslie, still in her hospital bed with four-day old Gabriel, told me: “I’m usually such an optimist, yet I’ve had weird dreams of dropping him and leaving him places. My husband jokes that some special ‘inexperienced-parent’ alarm will go off when we take Gabe home from the hospital!”
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
Dr. Benjamin Spock
If you’re like most new parents, you probably alternate between feeling like a major-league pro and an amateur. It’s enough to give a person “parental whiplash!” And, the conflicting advice given by many baby experts can deepen the confusion.
But before you lose confidence, please remember this: You are part of an unbroken chain of successful parents that stretches all the way back to the beginning of time. You and your baby have survived because you are descended from the best mothers, most protective fathers, and strongest children in the world. That’s why Dr. Spock’s advice to parents to trust themselves is so correct.
Trust your feelings. Relax and remember that all your baby really needs from you is milk and your nourishing love. And all you really need is patience, support, a little information, and perhaps a massage every once in a while.
2. Lower Your Expectations
You’ll see. Having a baby is like going to sleep in your own bed and waking up in Zimbabwe!
Sonya to her daughter Denise a month before
Denise gave birth to Aidan
Becoming a parent is filled with all sorts of misconceptions and surprises. And perhaps the biggest misconception of all is that you’ll automatically know what to do the moment your baby is born. Yet even after giving birth to her third child, Beth quipped, “At the end of my first pregnancy about the only thing I was really prepared to do was filling out forms and buying maternity dresses!”
Parenting requires some practical experience (especially when caring for challenging babies). Yet many pregnant couples today have never even touched a newborn. Despite this lack of experience, they expect themselves to instantly be able to care for the babies and manage the household and have a job and be lovers.
Unfortunately, these unrealistic expectations have been growing in our culture for at least the past fifty years. Even though people warned you when you were pregnant, “Your life will never be the same!” you probably shrugged it off. Few believe their baby will be tough. For most women, being pregnant is so close to their regular life that they get lulled into a false sense of security. Before delivery, you can still linger in a hot shower and think, “I’m ready. I’m on top of this.” It’s so automatic that many women are tricked into believing that taking care of their newborns would be just as natural, but as you now know, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s only after your baby is born that you begin to see the demands of parenthood more accurately. Suddenly, that long hot shower you took a month before the baby came looks like a Caribbean vacation.
Another expectation that may not immediately materialize is loving your baby the moment you see her. Of course, many parents do instantly fall in love with their new infant; however, one of the little-told truths about becoming a parent is that many new moms and dads don’t feel smitten right away. It makes sense that falling in love might take a little time. After all, few of us experience love at first sight. Don’t worry, like the song says, “You can’t hurry love.”
And that’s not all. You may soon notice your brain has also unexpectedly changed. Memory loss is one more proof that your life is temporarily out of your control. One new mom told me, “My best guess is that during the delivery a piece of my brain came out with the placenta.”
Lots of moms feel that giving birth turns them into complete “boobs”—and in a way it does! Lactation makes your body awash with prolactin which, along with the other massive hormonal changes going on inside you, probably is the basis for this new forgetfulness. Finally, you’ll notice your ditziness is made ten times worse by exhaustion. Clear thinking is terribly hard to hold on to in the face of prolonged sleep deprivation.
So be patient and kind to yourself. In a few short months you’ll have your feet on the ground again and, what’s more, you’ll know your baby better than anyone else in the world!