Preparing for the birth of your child is so much fun. Gallivanting through the aisles of Babies R’ Us eyeballing the million-and-one gadgets a 8lb human could ever need; it’s exciting and a bit nerve wracking.
I started preparing for my tiny human’s arrival long before I even knew her gender. I had monitors, cradles, bouncing seats, books, bottles, breast-pumps, outfits, shoes; I gathered nearly everything I could get my hands on. However, it took me about 6 hours upon arriving home from the hospital to realize there are only a select few things you actually need for this new tiny person, and most of them are not located down the aisles of Babies R’ Us.
1. Sanity. Every parent needs an overload of sanity to make it through the first few months with an infant. Every book I’d read explained things fairly simply. Babies need food, love, a clean diaper, and *wahla*; happy baby! WRONG. Babies don’t make a whole lot of sense. You can feed them, bathe them, snuggle them, and for reasons that are beyond you, they shriek. However, on the flip side, at 4:00AM, they can appear happy as a clam babbling and cooing sitting in a soaked diaper.
2. Patience. Things become a lot more complicated when you bring a newborn into the mix. Pre-child you are accustomed to going through life with people who are capable of hopping in the car themselves, feeding themselves, and using the bathroom on their own. Obviously you know this is a given bringing a baby into the picture; there will be diapers to change and a baby to feed every few hours. However, what you don’t recognize is that every single task once this baby is brought into your life is a wee bit more complicated. A ‘quick’ trip to Target where you once grabbed your handbag and car keys now results in a diaper bag filled to the brim with bottles, pacifiers, back up pacifiers, toys to distract, back up toys to distract, wipes, changing pads, etc. Once you finally make it to Target, you’ve, nine times out of ten, forgotten what you came for in the first place. You head straight to the bathroom to change the bomb your baby dropped en route to Target only to realize you are nearly out of wipes. In essence, each trip to Target, or anywhere for that matter, will result in your purchasing more baby items and forgetting the loaf of bread and paper towels you came for in the first place. Remind yourself to take a deep breathe and, for the record, I highly recommend purchasing all paper products in bulk. Actually, anything you can purchase in bulk is a grand idea.
3. Sleep. Something I wish that was located down the aisles of Babies R’s Us. Every parent before you will tell you to sleep when the baby is sleeping; to take a nap when the baby is napping. LISTEN TO THEM. Avoid the urge to clean out the refrigerator, to read your e-mail, and sometimes even, shower. Yes, I am telling you that sometimes a few minutes of shut-eye is far wiser than freshly shaved legs and a shampooed head of hair.
4. Food. EAT. Don’t forget to eat! You’ll find that you put this new person in your life before yourself. It is easy to get caught up in their routine, or lack thereof, and forget to pass on important staples; food being one of them. If you have to breastfeed with your baby in your left arm and chow down on a ham sandwich in your right hand, so be it! And don’t worry about that dollop of mayonnaise that drops on your baby, we all drop food on our baby’s head at some point; no better time to start than the present!
5. Help. Accept the help of anyone willing, seeing you know them. At first you want to handle it all on your own. This new baby is yours and you are proud and want to show the universe that you can take care of her on your own! If someone wants to watch your newborn for a couple hours so you can run errands or get something done around the house, take them up on it! Then, go upstairs, put your most comfortable pair of pajamas on and go to sleep. When my daughter was first born, our in-laws came over to watch her so my husband and I could have a night out. They came over, we showed them to the frozen breastmilk, diapers, wipes, and then hightailed it upstairs and indulged in a four-hour nap. It was the best date we’ve ever had.
6. Earplugs. Buy yourself a nice set of earplugs, unless you are excellent at tuning people out. No, I don’t mean this in reference to your new infant. Obviously you need to hear their cries in order to respond to their needs. Wear your new earplugs when you’re around other people who have birthed children. Every parent before you will have about nineteen different suggestions of ways you can change what you are currently doing or trying to do. Guess what? There is no right way. Every ‘way’ has a fault. Do what works best for you an ignore anyone else who tries to tell you otherwise. The only exception to that rule would be if they have a PhD in ‘How To Raise a Child’. However, I don’t think that degree exists, so, earplugs it is!
There is absolutely no way to prepare for a baby, not mentally at least. Stock up on all the essentials and remind yourself daily that you are doing the best job you can. These humans don’t pop out with an ‘how to operate’ manual. However, over time you learn their needs, what works for your family, and things seem to fall into sync. It’s the most wild ride I’ve ever been on, but one I’m surely glad I grabbed the ticket for.