There’s is nothing as terrifyingly exciting as having your first baby. Nothing in this world can prepare you for what it’s going to be like the moment you walk out of the hospital with your newborn in tow. As a new parent, you’re probably going to be a bundle of nerves and afraid that you’re going to do something wrong.
Let’s be the first ones to tell you that your concerns are completely valid. Becoming a parent doesn’t come with a rule book and while your friends and loved ones may give you advice, it’s important to remember that each new parent will have their own experiences, and what may work for one parent may not work for another.
In this guide, we are going to provide you with a little insight of what to expect as a new parent, and a few tips that can help ease your mind in throughout this new stage of your life.
Pregnancy: What To Expect
Pregnancy is going to differ from woman to woman. Some women have easy pregnancies, while others will not. Even the symptoms women experience will be different through the trimesters. Even the early signs of pregnancy may differ. Some women will begin to have cramping, morning sickness, and heighten sense of smell in as little as 2 weeks after conception.
The most common symptoms for each trimester include:
· Morning sickness
· Tender or swollen breasts
· Frequent urination
· Back and leg pain
· Discomfort in hips and pelvis
· Enlarged Breasts
· Vaginal discharge
· Braxton Hicks Contractions (false contractions ranging between 30 to 60 seconds)
Create a Birth Plan
Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll want to create a birth plan. This plan is going to help you make important decisions early on so you can focus on giving birth when the time comes. The American Pregnancy Association has a few recommendations of things to include in your birth plan, such as:
· Who will be present?
· Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
· What positions will you use?
· What will be used for pain relief?
· Will you have an epidural?
· How will you stay hydrated?
· Where will you give birth?
· Who will deliver your baby?
Add anything else you can think of that will make giving birth a little easier. You want to be prepared well ahead of time, so you can ease your mind as much as possible when the time comes to give birth.
Understand the Signs of Labor
When you’re going through labor, your cervix will start to dilate and you’ll experience contractions lasting between 25 to 45 seconds over the next few hours. When those contractions increase in length and intensity, it means you’re nearing the time to give birth. You’ll have to keep in mind that the body will respond to the the event as an emergency, so additional signs to look out for include:
Fast heart rate
You will be asked to start pushing when the cervix has reached 10 centimeters. You can also wait and practice “delayed pushing,” which is when the baby begins to come through the birth canal on its own. Be sure to include this in your birth plan.
After Giving Birth
Those first few weeks can feel very hectic for new parents. KidsHealth.org suggests that even before you get home, you speak with experts who can help you decide how you’d like to feed your baby (breastfeed or bottle feeding). Don’t be afraid to ask the nursing staff how to hold your baby, how and when to burp them, how to change a diaper (if you’ve never done it before) and other questions that come to mind.
When you get home, you may want to hire a doula (a person who is trained to provide emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and shortly after giving birth) to help you navigate your new status as a parent. You can also enlist the help of family and friends who have had their own children.
How to Handle Your Newborn
Your newborn is fragile and susceptible to illness. Here are some tips for handling your newborn:
1. Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before you pick up your baby. Right now, their immune system isn’t going to be strong and they could get sick very easily.
2. Always cradle your baby’s head when you’re holding them, but also when you’re laying them down or holding them upright.
3. You never want to shake your baby, even if it’s to wake them up for feeding time, because shaking them could cause their brain to bleed and potentially injure them. Instead of shaking your baby awake, tickle their feet or stroke their cheek gently with your (clean) finger.
4. Be gentle with your baby when traveling. Your child should be fastened securely into the car seat, stroller, or carrier and you’ll want to limit any movement that’s too bouncy or rough. Again, your baby is fragile and with too much rough movement, it could harm them.
One of the most endearing parts of being a new parent is bonding time. This time gives you the opportunity to form a connection with your baby by holding them close and letting them hear your heartbeat. Some liken this special time as when they “fall in love” with their child.
To bond with your baby, you can cradle them close and gently stroke their arms, legs, and back. Both you and your partner can increase your emotional bond by creating skin to skin contact while you cradle them or even when you’re feeding them. You can also bond with them by talking to them, singing to them, or just copying the sounds they make.
It is worth noting that not all women are able to bond with their child because they’re suffering from Post-Partum Depression. In fact, 1 in 7 women suffer from this type of depression and it can cause a negative effect in the child’s emotional and mental health. If you believe you or someone you love suffers from PPD, please seek treatment right away.
Becoming a parent is one of the few joys in life that’s as nerve wracking as it is exciting. You have this new life that you have to nurture and help grow up to be a healthy, upstanding member of society. That’s a lot of pressure!
Every pregnancy is going to be different, as is every child and experience that goes along with it. However, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your loved ones who have raised their own children. While their experience isn’t going to be exactly like yours, they may have some useful tips that’ll help you along the way.
If you feel disconnected from your family, have anxiety or panic attacks, guilt, or harmful thoughts toward yourself or your baby, please – please seek help. Post-partum depression is a serious condition impacts your own mental wellbeing, but also that of your child. Being a parent can be scary, but with help, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, too.