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Things I Have Learned Since Becoming A Parent
Published on July 25, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

Kenzie joined our family just over two months ago. As new parents, we made sure we were ready for her: The nursery was set up, the diaper bag packed and the car seat installed. It was, nonetheless, a little surprising when they let us leave the hospital with her. Of course there have been numerous funny moments since then: helping her try to find her thumb to suck on, watching her grandparents and aunt take an endless number of pictures of her over the course of 10 minutes to capture her smiling face, waking up and realizing that she slept through the night.

Besides the importance of remembering my sense of humor and to laugh at myself, here are a few things I have learned since becoming a parent:

People love to touch babies! Maybe I’m not bubbly enough, but thankfully I never ran into a problem with people wanting to touch my pregnant belly. A newborn with strangers is a little different.

People also love to share their own labor stories. An aunt’s first question was, “How was your labor?” After avoiding this with some generalities, she then launched into the stress and agony of her own experience, which I had already heard several times. In fact, since announcing our pregnancy, my husband’s family found labor stories to be a great topic of conversation at meals. I predict Kenzie’s “firsts” will lead to many stories of “firsts” from family members.

Advice is freely given. The highlight would have to be at a wedding we attended. During the reception, a woman approached us, described herself as a baby-nurse and declared that she needed her “baby fix.” She asked us if she could change Kenzie’s diaper, disturbingly stroked her burp cloth while recommending towel dolls and made pacifier recommendations. Her visit with us just happened to prompt us to head home so as not to overstimulate our baby.

Accept people’s compliments. People like to comment on how great you look with a mixture of disbelief and dishonesty. I hear this and wonder, “Just how bad do I look right now that they feel compelled to say this and have they just calculated how much pregnancy weight I still have to lose?” These compliments do not have to be true and I do not have to believe them, but I might as well enjoy them because they are just a passing phase in the new parent world.

Find your own parenting “expert.” Between books we were given and the internet, there is no end of “do this or that to raise your perfect child.” After being scared away by Dr. Sears and rubbernecking at the community chatter on thebump.com and babycenter.com, I found Dr. Brazelton. Now my husband must endure, “Well, Dr. Brazelton says…” I quote Touchpoints, fully realizing that every baby is different and every parent is different. In reality, our parenting decisions are more like a Choose Your Own Adventure than anything else.

Remember your childbirth classmates. At our last class, our teacher kept suggesting that parents add their contact information to a sheet so that folks could stay in touch after the class ended. We were one of the last three couples to leave that evening and faced the encouraging smile of our teacher. We joined two other couples in politely adding our names and e-mails to the so-far blank sheet. Since then, we have started our own “community” chatter and gotten together so that our babies could stare at each other while sleeping. Our e-mail exchanges have been helpful and a frequent reminder to bring our sense of humor to the majority of things baby-related.

Also, first check the diaper. When Kenzie fusses, our immediate instinct is to go through our paces. Does she want to be rocked? Does she want to stand up? Is she ready for some quiet time with her mobile? Is it time to break out the white noise of the hair dryer? Is it time for some fresh air and a walk in the stroller? Is she hungry? These are all great things to do, but none will work if she’s suffering through a dirty diaper. And bring the diaper bag with you. It is when you are out on a run and skipped grabbing the diaper bag, and feel almost driven to construct a new diaper out of leaves, twigs and tree sap.

And finally, every day is different. I remember the day that Kenzie grinned back at the endless circling of her crib mobile, and the first time she seemed to return a hug while being held. I remember the weekend she became fascinated by light fixtures and shadows on the wall, when she stopped wanting to be held throughout the day, and when she first started smiling at smiling faces and funny noises. Being a parent is new, different, non-stop and ever-changing.

R.B. Austen lives in New England and is enjoying her new job.

Previous Posts by this Author: Life As a Parent Aide

Becoming a Parent Aide

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