Planning to have a baby will be one of the most exciting events in your life. The feeling you get upon seeing that “pregnant” sign on your test is indescribable. I know that for me, I lived on a high for quite some time after coming to terms with the fact that we were finally going to have a baby.
While this feeling of elation is great, there are some things I wish I had known about pregnancy and caring for a newborn. This is why I’ve come up with my top 5 things I think parents should know about having kids. While these may not have changed how I prepared myself or how I handled certain situations, it sure would have helped me be a bit more realistic about what it’s really like to have a baby!
#1 – Sleeping like a baby is a myth
You know the saying “sleeping like a baby”. Well, let me tell you – there is no such thing as sleeping like a baby (at least in this household). While I have heard of some babies sleeping for hours during the daytime and starting to sleep through the night at a young age, this is not how it usually goes. Babies tend to have very sporadic sleeping patterns with no set routines, at least for the first few months. At best, my oldest would sleep in increments of 15 to 30 minutes during the daytime and stretches of 2 hours at night for a long while. My youngest is a better sleeper but he still wakes up about every 2 to 3 hours at night. His daytime naps usually last between 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is important to remember that each baby has its own rhythm and that eventually, he or she will start sleeping for longer stretches. I’ve lived to tell the tale! My toddler now sleeps 12-hour nights and close to 2-hour naps.
#2 – Be prepared for an advice avalanche
As soon as family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even strangers hear or see that you are expecting, they will feel compelled to divulge their best advice. Be prepared to hear the good, the bad, the ugly, and the plain inappropriate. I remember feeling so overwhelmed during my first pregnancy and for the first few months caring for my baby. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how you should do things without any regards for the fact that you are actually a competent individual. Some advice is given more subtlety, as in “I started sleep training my baby at 2 months and it worked great. Maybe you should give it a try” to the very blunt “You’re not doing this right. He’ll definitely catch a cold without an extra blanket on”.
To anyone besides the parents, all of this advice giving can seem pretty inoffensive. But, throw in some pregnancy hormones, a hormonal roller coaster post-birth, and the new parents jitters, and you have a recipe for disaster. Trust me on this – you will get better at deflecting all of this advice with time. It takes practice, most likely some tears and long rants with your partner, but you will get through it.
#3 – Your baby will grow up to be a well-adjusted toddler even with insane amounts of inconsolable crying
This one is for parents who may get colicky babies. Out of all our friends who had babies prior to us, we were the lucky ones to have our first colicky baby. Colics are defined as episodes of crying that last for at least 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks. With our first born, it was more like 20 hours of crying a day for 4 months straight. If you just went “oh, that’s not possible”, believe me. It happened. To us. And it was horrible. The good news is we got through it and our now 2 and a half year old is as happy as can be.
It is disturbing to see your baby cry so much and there’s nothing you can do. We literally tried everything that books and the internet had to offer in terms of tips and tricks and nothing worked. In the end, it came down to our son simply growing out of it.
So many things went through my mind during colicky times. I was afraid he was in excruciating pain, maybe he had a serious illness that was undiagnosed. I was afraid he would have mental and psychological repercussions. But most of all, I was afraid that I wasn’t being a good mom – surely, if my baby cried that much, it was because I was doing something wrong. It turns out that no, I was not a terrible mom – just that my baby had awful colic.
The only thing I can say to parents going through the same thing is hang in there, it will pass with time. And your child will be OK.
#4 – Is there such a thing as maternal instinct?
I’ve never really liked the term maternal instinct because it seems to imply that we, mothers, are supposed to know exactly what to do with our baby. More so than the dads. When it came time for us to care for our newborn, I was not better prepared than my husband and we both had to learn the ropes together. Other than the fact that I had babysat many babies when I was young, I had no idea how to care for a newborn.
I think this term puts unnecessary pressure on mothers to “know what to do and do it right”. While I believe that most parents do know what is best for their kids, everyone has to learn. If you have never changed a diaper, no instinct will tell you exactly how to do it well the first time.
#5 – It’s OK to miss your pre-baby life
My husband and I have discussed this many times and we always come to the same conclusion: While we would not change anything about our current family life, we do, sometimes, miss how things used to be before we had kids.
I’ve felt – and still feel – so much guilt around this thought but over time, I have come to accept that it is normal. Your life changes drastically when you have kids – there’s no more going to the cinema on a lazy Saturday afternoon, no more impromptu date night, and even less spontaneous sex. Everything needs a bit more planning and scheduling. It is human nature to crave what we don’t/no longer have – parents are no different, no matter how much they love their children.