It has come to my attention that I know quite a few people who are either pregnant right now or thinking about getting pregnant in the near future. And having experience in the whole pushing out a human via my vagina I figure that makes me qualified enough to give some advice.
1. Be prepared. By this I mean, don't be a dumb ass and have your baby shower right before you have your baby. No. I know people say it's early but if you are a procrastinator, lazy or have a brain, have a shower around your six month mark. That gives you THREE months to unpack, organize and buy what you think you are actually going to need. Have as much done for your baby's surrounding as possible because you could give birth at any time really. Most women don't have a premature baby, but you never know.
2. Think ahead. Let's face it, when you have a baby you take on a shit load of expenses that quite frankly, you can't really prepare for. You think you're going to breastfeed but what if it's too hard and you end up bottle feeding? No shame in that game but look at the prices of formula. It's like $15 for a can of generic. Then you need bottles. Lots of bottles. So my suggestion is to stock up on the stuff you know without a doubt you will need, diapers and wipes primarily. But then stock up your other house supplies: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, etc. The best thing I can tell a new parent is get used to planning for things in advance. It will make your life easier. Especially when you spend your last $20 on formula at 2am only to find you are out of shampoo.
3. Know how to work your stuff. There is nothing more humiliating than not knowing how to use an infant car seat. Particularly when you get it stuck in the front part of a shopping cart and have a mini breakdown in the grocery store parking lot at 3pm in your pajamas and have to have an old guy come and help you. Only to realize half way home you left your groceries in the shopping cart. Trust me, I have been there. So when you get all your new and fancy baby stuff, try it out. Make sure you know how to open, close, latch, clean, etc every thing. And I say clean because babies poop. And sometimes it oozes onto everything around it in (hopefully only) a 1 foot circle around it. It happens. And it doesn't always happen on a changing table. So you might have to take the covers off of infant seats and activity things to clean it. Know how to do it.
4. Changing tables are for newbies. You can tell an experienced parent versus a new parent easily by where they change their babies. Experienced parents can change a diaper anywhere and on any surface. New parents put their kid on changing tables and strap them in. Experienced parents can change a diaper in 5 seconds flat, new parents take their time. Time is of the essence, especially if you have a boy. He will pee on you. And your wall. And ceiling. Save yourself some money and just put a blanket on the floor and get it done. I've changed a diaper in a moving vehicle, in an elevator, on an escalator, on an airplane in my lap, etc.
5. I'm pro bottle feeding. And you know why? Because then the dad can get up at midnight with the baby. Equal opportunity. I really get annoyed when women are all, "Aw, but he works and he needs sleep and I'm on maternity leave." Um, bitch? Taking care of a baby is work too. And if I'm sorry, but a very sleep deprived person should not be caring for a newborn. As far as I'm concerned, you need to be on your A game when you are watching babies. They spit up, poop, roll around, put things in their mouth, etc. So many things can happen if you doze off for even a second. So take turns. (But ladies? Offer the first shift of night feedings because that is usually the first to go.)
6. Ignore baby books, growth charts, and WebMD. Why? Because they will terrify a new parent. Go with your damn gut. When Olivia was 10 months old I started her on table foods. Why? Because she'd cry hysterically if I didn't give her some. I had to mash stuff with a fork or cut it into micro pieces but who cares? She wanted to try- give it to her. When Jackson was 7 months old he demanded table foods. He was no happy with pissy baby food in jars. He wanted chunks and he wanted them now. They both did awesome with it. Kids will let you know they are ready to try something new. And for god sake- never go onto WebMD to see what is wrong with your kid.
7. Just because your baby has a cold, you don't have to call the pediatrician. They make baby Tylenol for a reason, folks. Your pediatrician does not wants to hear about every bout of boogers and coughing. Obviously, if they have a high fever or other bizarre thing happening, you should call. But don't run to Urgent Care because they are crying with a cold. How do YOU feel with a cold, people? You feel like shit. Well babies don't get it and they cry because it's an automatic response. Just leave them be and suck out the boogers. You'll be fine.
8. Get used to leaving your baby. I know. It's new, it's cute, it's fun, you love it. I get it. But I am a big believer that it is healthy for both you AND the baby to get used to being without each other. Will it make your kid less clingy? Maybe, maybe not. But I will tell you that I really think my kids are better for it. Matt and I try to do as much as we can together (without the kids) and we each spend time individually away from the kids. But to counter that, we do a lot with them, we give them lots of opportunities and it balances out. Your kid can't be loved by too many people, so find people you trust to help you. I even say go on a date with your partner in the first few weeks, without baby. It'll give you time to be together and be a couple, AND you can make people happy who want to see your baby.
9. Before getting pregnant, make sure your marriage is ready. One thing Matt and I have learned is that our marriage wasn't ready for kids when we had them. We thought we were since we had been together for a few years, but a baby changes everything. Every little pet peeve, every little nuance of your partner will grate on your nerves to the point where you have visions of smothering them in your sleep. This happens because you are under high stress from learning about your baby and their needs and then on top of it? Your sleep deprived, you probably aren't showering regularly, you're eating like shit because it's hard to cook and carry a baby, etc. It's totally normal. Matt and I were really good for a few months and it just got harder and harder and harder.
10. What you think you know and want might change. So before you get married you had the talk about how many kids you want (or you should have) and let's say that's two. Well, after you have a baby you or your partner might change their mind. You might think, "Holy shit I can't do any more" and your partner might feel let down because they wanted two or more. But here's the hard knocks. Kids are a lot of work. They are expensive and it just gets harder and harder as you go. If one partner doesn't want any more kids, you have to respect that even if it is different from what you want. You know why? Because if you keep having kids you might feel the same, but maybe your partner has a hard time dealing with the extra load. I've seen so many couples divorce for this reason. Matt and I have struggled with this. I want more and he doesn't. That means my uterus feels sad and empty when it is near a baby. But you know what? I have to deal with it. Because it isn't fair to force Matt to work more overtime or take on more stress because of my wants. It's selfish to do that. So it's very important that you are constantly communicating about this with your partner.
So by no means am I a marriage or kid expert. I'm not. I'm winging it by the ass of my pants like every other person out there. But what I do know is that Matt and I have had some serious struggles and I have learned a lot. I hope none of you have to ever deal with what I've had to but I want you to be practical and know that it'll be ok. Nobody knows if they are doing a good job. Maybe you'll be the best parent and your kid will still end up a serial killer. It's ok, as long as you did the best you could. People have to realize that there is more that makes you who you are than your childhood. Quite frankly, I think using your childhood and parents as an excuse is the easy way out. So just do the best that you can do. Don't be ashamed to say you're struggling and need help. And for god sake- if you feel depressed or down on life, get on some damn medication. I've been there and done that and it is not normal to feel like that all of the time.
SO. For all of my readers who are parents now, what piece of advice would you give to first time parents?