You and your spouse are expecting a bundle of joy and feel more than ready for his arrival. You have a labor plan, you've read all the baby books on what to expect that first year and you've gleaned friends and family for their advice on what worked for them.
Well, don't pack that hospital bag yet. There still may be a few things you aren't aware of as a newbie parent.
Tammy Gold, a New York-based psychotherapist, and a certified parenting coach and mother, says this about learning the ropes of parenthood, "There are nannies, doulas, and lactation specialists," she says, "but no service helps parents with this gigantic change. Everybody's learning, everybody's struggling."
The next six tips will give you a heads up on what many parents learned during on-the-job training.
Both mom and dad can experience postpartum depression
. It's not news that some women are hit with the "baby blues" after having a baby. Postpartum depression is different. It affects one in every 10 women and has much more severe symptoms such as strong feelings of anxiety or worthlessness, trouble bonding with baby, uncontrollable crying and lack of interest in friends, family or activities.
Did you know daddy's can have these feelings as well? They can. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, up to 10 percent of menexperience depression after the birth of their child. If you sense you or your spouse have symptoms of postpartum depression, be sure to consult with your doctor for ways to cope during such a difficult and stressful time in your life.
Not all smiles, not at first anyway
As you get ready to welcome your new baby, you might have pictured the precious newborn days much like those smiley, care-free baby lotion commercials. Well, he will smile back at you — but not as soon as you think. The first little while all you will hear from junior are burps, toots, grunts and shrieks. But right around 6 weeks of age, you will receive payment for your hard work in the form of smiles and coos.
So, be patient during those first weeks of late nights and early mornings. One day while you routinely change his diaper he will look up at you and grace you with a sweet smile that will melt your heart and give you strength to push through nights of five hours of broken sleep.
Parenting takes a team effort
You may have preconceived notions on who will be doing the diaper changes and night feedings. Truth be told, if you want a happy marriage, both mom and dad should be helping with fulfilling the needs of the new tiny human in your home.
Unlike an eight to five job where you clock out at the of the day, when caring for an infant, something always needs to be washed, changed, cleaned, wiped, wrapped, cuddled, and soothed. Particularly in the first few months when both of you are walking zombies, make sure you and your spouse jump into this new adventure with a "we" approach. You will stay connected as husband and wife and avoid recurring arguments about who had night duty and who got a shower that day.
Sleeping through the night doesn't really mean sleeping through the night
Many new parents long for those eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, but for a new baby, sleeping five hours straight is actually considered sleeping through the night. Take heart though, there really is an end to the middle of the night feedings. As the baby grows and matures she will, eventually, be able to sleep for longer stretches. And so will you.
There is no one right way to be a good parent
A common saying about having a baby is, "They don't come with an instruction manual." You can have everything mapped out from your birth plan to insisting on cloth diapers to banning bottles — and then this little one makes her début and your plans do a 180º.
Babies come with their own personalities and temperaments. Be open to changing things if it's not working for you and junior. Be gracious with advice overload, but be in tune with what feels right for your baby. Because, in the end, will it really matter if your baby used a pacifier, or whether he was tenderly cared for, nurtured and brought up with love? Your top parenting goal should be wanting a healthy and happy relationship with your little one and doing what works for you and your family to make that happen. Period.
Your life will never be the same — but that's a good thing
Instead of pining for the days of going to midnight movies or taking spontaneous getaways, try to take stock of what you've gained by giving your time and love to this new little person in your life. For me, when I look at my children and see them thriving and happy because of the service I've rendered day in and day out, I feel an overwhelming joy from my role as their parent. I think the quote by family advocate Gordon B. Hinckley sums up a new parent's role nicely. He said "Tremendous happiness and peace of mind are the results of loving service to others. Nobody can live fully and happily who lives only unto himself.”
I've heard it said that the care of an infant can show the best of us our limitations and our own small greatness. How true that is! Remember to be sensitive to a spouse's depression, make sure you parent as a team, know you will sleep again, and remember to be open to taking a different approach if something's not working for you and baby. Above all, soak it in. It really does go by so fast.