A new baby is one of the most incredible things that can happen to anyone who wants to be a parent. Unfortunately, like all good things, it requires endless work, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and other effluvium that it’s hard to believe nature ever intended. As difficult as pregnancy is, the reality of that little bundle of – well, gunk with tiny moments of – joy is that it’s a very cute headache that will test you to your very limits.
All the books and articles and newsletters and advice from friends won’t prepare you for the, let’s say “blessed” event to keep it clean. So, before you set to knocking up your partner, head down to the adoption agency, or go to the maternity ward with a mask and a bag, here’s a few things you should know before having a baby.
Make Yourself Happy
Happy children most commonly come from happy environments. If you have a partner(s) or co-parent(s), be kind, loving, and supportive of one another. Take time to connect with each other and the baby. It sets a good example, creates a positive atmosphere, and reduces the stress on you, the other people in your life, and the baby. Neglecting you means more problems ahead.
Kiss Your Sleep Goodbye
Books will tell you that babies sleep 12-16 hours a day. That’s generally true, but not always. More than that, even if they are sleeping that much, they aren’t doing it in nice, convenient blocks. They don’t care about your work schedule, your sleep schedule, or your anything schedule. Your life is now attending to their needs.
Ignore Your Responsibilities
The only way to get any rest is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Don’t try to clean, or do laundry, or take dance lessons, or cook. If you can avoid working, don’t do that either. The second that little screaming bucket of wonderful hits the sack, you do too. You can do other things when they’re awake, which will be happening in 5…4…3…2…
Take Advice With a Grain of Salt
Everyone will have advice. All of it is terrible. Sure, it’s also great, but having a baby is like going to war. As the famous quote goes “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” People will tell you things, and you can try them or not, but usually you’re going to need to experiment like mad, make it up as you go, and hope for the best. Learn to politely say “Thanks, we’ll think about that!” to all the unwanted, unwarranted advice that friends, neighbors, family, and websites try to give you.
Babies Bounce Back
Babies only look fragile. The fact is that you’re more prone to injury than they are. See, the younger a child is, the more flexible their bones are, the higher their metabolism, and the better their capacity for regeneration. They have healing properties like Wolverine, which means they can handle a lot of bumps, falls, trips, and damage. Pain is part of exploration, and babies love to explore. Pain is also a great teacher, so let them make those mistakes. Your job is to be there to support them, help them learn from their missteps, and guide them. Kids can survive being raised by wolves, literally, so don’t envelop them in bubble wrap.
Hold Onto Your Memories
Every picture you can snap, video you can take, or keepsake you can hold onto is precious. Babies grow up incredibly fast and you’ll want to recall every moment of it. Your tired brain won’t be able to hang onto a lot of it, so have physical proof to jog your memory. But, keep it off social media unless you want everyone to unfriend you.
You need all the help you can get to rear your children. Exploit everyone who offers to take the kid off your hands for an evening, let anyone you trust play with the baby, and find support groups of other parents. Anyone who offers to cook or clean or help in any way should be used. Don’t try to do it yourself. Hell, if possible, try not to do any of it yourself. You’ve got 25 years – 18 is a joke – of this thing living with you, so pace yourself gently.
Parents love to compete, and it’s obnoxious and unhelpful. If your kid isn’t walking yet, don’t worry. If they aren’t reading, fine. If they’re cryptanalysis is only at a level 6 and their deductive algorithmic reasoning isn’t even at Cold War levels, you’re still doing fine. Just expose them to as much stimulus as you can and they’ll eventually get it. Pressure makes their life worse, so ease off the gas.
Get Through The First 3 Months
The so-called “4th Trimester” is the toughest one, because the baby is adapting to this new and strange world. Imagine if you were suddenly ripped out of your safe, warm bed and thrust into a world of light and noise and chaos. You’d be a screaming, crying wreck as well, especially if you’d only known safety, solitude, and comfort. That’s what they’re experiencing. After a few months, they’ll have the hang of it, and so will you. Then things will settle down.
Babies Need Next to Nothing
Babies require naps, they require food, and they require attention. Oh, and miles of diapers. Don’t bombard them with gadgets or toys, no matter what those things promise. You’ll waste a ton of money and won’t teach your child nearly as much as you would by just sitting with them, reading to them, or interacting. Teach them to deal with people, not gadgets, and they’ll have emotional and social survival skills, which are far more valuable.
Write Everything Down
You are going to be running on no sleep, which impairs cognitive function. You should have on hand a list of stuff that you need at the store, a list of things to help out babysitters, a list of duties you need to perform, a list of things that go into the diaper bag, and on and on and on. Don’t trust your brain, trust the lists.
Meet the basic needs of the child – food, shelter, warmth, cleanliness, affection – and let the rest go. If they’re fed and have been changed, you’ve cleared the bar. If they’re still having issues, just spend time with them. Check if they’re teething, but mostly let nature take its course and savor the moments of goodness. You’ll miss the baby months when they’re being brought home by the cops at 2am down the road.