Over the past year, I've gotten personal in a few posts here about my journey as a new parent. As we prepare to welcome another baby in less than two months (whoa; it feels weird typing that), and as Essley's second birthday approaches, I've been thinking more and more about what I've learned so far. And although there are certainly no guarantees from one child to the next, I've been using my experiences - from pregnancy to birth to the newborn months to the first couple of years - to compile a sort of mental list of tips to remember as I start the process all over again. Today I thought I'd share ten of these tips with you guys, in hopes that they might prove useful to those of you who are expecting or have new babes of your own.
1. Take advice with a grain of salt. This first tip is kind of funny, since here I am, basically giving you advice on parenting, while telling you not to take advice too seriously. Truly though, while pregnant with Essley and during the first few months of her life, I probably got more suggestions on the right and wrong way to do things than all other advice I've gotten over the rest of my life combined. At first, I would feel stressed if I was doing things differently than others who I looked up to in terms of their parenting skills. I also felt overwhelmed by all of the suggestions that contradicted one another. Eventually I learned to listen to and be grateful for tips from others, but to also try a variety of things and figure out what worked for us as a family based on what I learned on my own. With baby #2, I will do the exact same.
2. Don't go overboard with the "baby stuff." This is actually one tip that was given to me that I wish I'd listened to a little better while I was pregnant with Essley. I was so excited to have my first little one that I convinced myself I needed alllll the fancy baby products. And that's fine, but in the end, all we really used during the first few months were pajamas, diapers, blankets, a pacifier, a swing, and my breast pump/bottles. That's it. We do admittedly still have a lot of stuff leftover that we've kept in case baby #2 does use any of it, but the only things I'll be pulling out in advance are from the list above.
3. Be open minded about your birth plan. This is a touchy subject, and I know a lot of parents feel very strongly about sticking with their exact birth plans. That said, my birth experience was much different than I anticipated due to my issues with gestational hypertension, and had I not been open to the possibility of my plan changing last minute, I think it would have been a much more traumatic experience. What I did with Essley, and plan to do with this baby as well, was to type up a basic plan, but to put a note at the top that I was willing to deviate from it if it was in the best interest of the baby's (and/or my) health and well-being. I just asked them to please get my permission before doing anything that wasn't on the plan, and it worked out great.
4. Be open minded about parenting. This isn't easy to admit, but before I had a child, I would look at the way parents did certain things and with all certainty think to myself that I would never do them that way. Ha. Hahaha. It turns out I'm a totally different parent than I thought I would be, in many ways. It's been a good lesson for me in how judging of other parents is toxic, and it's also allowed me to learn to be easier on myself and appreciate how things turn out when they're not what I planned or expected.
5. Befriend the zipper. Buy zippered pajamas/play-and-sleeps. Newborns pee/poop/vomit. A lot. You will get blisters from too many snaps you guys, and the process of unsnapping and re-snapping will make you insane. Zippers are your new best friend. Trust me on this.
6. Trust your instincts. This sounds so vague, I know, and it's also kind of included in tip #1, but I had to include it, because it took me forever to accept it as being okay. After filling an entire pregnancy and the first several months of having a child with worries that I was doing something wrong, I learned to trust my instincts. That is when things started getting easier. Whether you decide to co-sleep or do cry-it-out, breast or formula feed, put your toddler in preschool early or wait until they're older, use time out or different discipline methods, just do what feels right for you and your child. It has made all the difference for our family to finally trust these feelings and go with them.
7. Take time for yourself. This tip used to annoy me (almost as much as "sleep when the baby sleeps"), because it felt so impossible to do this with a newborn (then with a baby, and now with a toddler while pregnant!). But once I forced myself to actually schedule in a little "me time," I started feeling much less tired and stressed out in general. Taking some intentional time for myself also makes me appreciate my time with my daughter even more. Sometimes this just means taking a work break during her naps and reading a magazine for a few minutes. Sometimes it means going and getting my nails done or meeting a girlfriend for coffee for an hour or two. And sometimes it means getting a sitter and having a nice, normal date night with my husband. I'm fully aware of how much more challenging this will be once this baby arrives, but I am vowing to continue to make it a priority.
8. Consider Cord Blood banking. This isn't something we did with Essley, but we have been researching it as a possibility for this baby. For those who aren't familiar, cord blood banking is the process of collecting and storing the blood remaining in your newborn's umbilical cord. The blood within your baby's cord contains young stem cells that have an amazing power to heal. Cord blood has been proven in treatment to help children replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones, and to strengthen their immune systems. As of today, it can be used in the treatment of approximately 80 diseases, including certain cancers, genetic diseases and blood disorders (pretty cool, huh?). Check out this quick video to see how it works. ViaCord has been collecting and storing cord blood stem cells for families for over 20 years. One thing I recently learned that I wished I'd looked into more last time is the fact that collecting umbilical cord blood is actually a pretty simple process that is safe and painless, and won't disrupt you, your baby, or your birth plan. You can collect even if you choose delayed cord clamping or are having a c-section. I also learned that it's more affordable than I'd guessed, and that ViaCord has several payment plan options. If you are expecting, cord blood banking is definitely something to keep in mind.
9. Keep extra supplies in your car. This is actually a tip I got from another parent when I was pregnant the first time, and it turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten. I forgot my diaper bag for Essley's first doctor appointment. That was pretty funny. And a little embarrassing when she pooped and I didn't even have a diaper on me. If I'd just had an extra diaper in the car, the problem would have been solved. (And of course, the doctor had a diaper, but it was two sizes two big. Again, hilarious.) I can't tell you how many times, even into the toddler period, that a diaper and/or extra outfit stashed in the car has saved me. I also keep a couple of organic food pouches in the car too, just in case. This is a priceless tip my friends.
10. Appreciate it. All of it. I know, I know, everybody says and "make sure you appreciate every moment" and "it goes by so fast," blah blah blah. But you guys, it really does. I look at pictures of Essley from even a few months ago and tear up because dude, what happened to my little baby? The first few months of having a newborn are hard. They just are. I loved Essley more than I ever loved anything, but I also could not wait for those unpredictable, sleepless newborn months to pass, to the point where I almost wished them away. This time around, I'm going to remind myself to appreciate the very limited time when this baby is new and little, because you really do basically blink and wake up to a toddler. And having a toddler is awesome, but looking back, having a newborn was too. Becoming a parent is truly the most incredible, wonderful, beautiful thing that has ever happened in my life, times, like, a million, and I really do want to be grateful for every moment.
So there you have it - my top ten tips for the new parent. I'm actually really glad I have them written out now, because I can reference them myself in these last weeks of pregnancy and when I start to feel overwhelmed as I start the newborn process again in early January! If you have kids, did any of these tips ring true for you as a new mom or dad? Do any of you have any other tips for new parents that I missed?
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