Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Parents Don't Tell You

Recently a friend of mine posted a link to this column about what they don't tell you about pregnancy. To be honest I didn't find being pregnant to be all that bad. I was lucky and had virtually no morning sickness, and I had a c-section so the labor portions didn't apply to me either. I read it and thought that actually they needed to write a column about what parents don't tell you about your infant.

If you are like me, you knew people who had babies before you got around to it. They'd all say how wonderful it is and encourage you to join their little club. Your parents and in-laws tell you how wonderful it is to have kids. But later you find out it's all selfishness. Your friends want to be able to share horror stories with you - misery loves company. And your in-laws and parents want a child they can selfishly spoil knowing they don't have to put up with the fits when you don't give your little one everything he wants like they do.

I love my son. I enjoy being his mom. He is sweet and cute and I'm glad I have him in my life. But it's not easy. Being a parent is the toughest job I have ever had, both physically and emotionally, and I've only had the job for 14.5 months. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy or it comes naturally. It isn't, especially if this is your first baby. Let me tell you what parents don't tell you...

It is E X H A U S T I N G ! Sleep when the baby sleeps they tell parents of infants. But they don't tell you what to do when the baby won't sleep. The first few nights are a shock to his little system. The world outside is harsh and cold and not at all like his previous home. Truth be told those first few nights there will be very little sleeping for anyone. I don't care if you rock, swaddle, sing... there is an adjustment period. And once that goes by the little guy is still going to wake up every couple of hours, day and night. Just when you're falling asleep there will be another cry and you are back up feeding and rocking and fighting to keep yourself awake at 3 am as you try to feed or change or soothe your new little bundle.

And these wake up calls may continue for months. Sure, some parents will tell you that after a few weeks or a couple of months their little one slept through the night. But to be honest I think they are lying. I don't believe it happens! It didn't for me! Even your child's pediatrician will give you a look at the month 6 appointment when you admit that no, he does not sleep through the night yet. People will tell you to let y0ur baby cry it out for a night or two at the most and then he will sleep through the night. Well, the first part of that is nearly impossible and if you do manage to do it there is NO guarantee that after a night or two he won't go right back to waking up crying at 12 am and 3 am. NONE!

Do yourself a favor and stock up on coffee when it's on sale. You will need it.

Breast feeding is NOT easy! Sure, wild animals do it. Yes, it's the body's natural function when the baby is born. But if this is your first child you have no idea what you are doing. Your baby may also be quite confused. I managed to get through it and eventually successfully breastfeed, but I had several meetings with a lactation consultant and many struggles. No one would have blamed me for quitting. Even after you figure it out it's hard because holding the baby and keeping him in position and latched and not cramping up yourself is a constant battle. Just when one thing works the baby outgrows that and you have to come up with a new position or pillow.

Your family WILL drive you crazy. You are exhausted and if you breast feed you'll be popping out a breast every hour or two. Being tired and half naked and having a baby with little immunity to anything really doesn't make this a great time to visit or be visited. But you have this cute little darling and they will all want to see it. They will knock on your door at unexpected times. They will make you feel guilty if you don't come out with the baby after a few weeks. Even though the infant has no knowledge of what a phone is or the ability to generate a single syllable they will want to speak to him on the phone. They will not understand why you insist that they use the antibacterial hand gel and get flu shots and not kiss him on the mouth. When your breasts are ready to burst they will give you a look of either sadness or irritation when you take him into a different room so you can nurse him. You will hear about how they did it different and stories about yourself or your husband or cousin or sister as a baby and you will get advice that you will not listen to.

Then there's your husband. You love him. He gave you this little darling baby to share. You remember how you got that baby to begin with, right? Well, he's going to want more of that. He probably has been waiting over a month since your little bundle was born, per the doctor's orders. Now he wants a little lovin. Never mind the fact that you are exhausted and have had someone else, your child, sucking on your breasts all day. Maybe you're ready and willing to jump back on the horse and ride. I wasn't. I did it, but it was just one more thing I had to do in a long list of chores.

You will have no idea what's wrong with him. Babies have very little immunity. Their systems are all still developing after they come out. I read in one of my baby books that the human species is one of few mammals whose babies are born so incomplete and incapable of survival without an adult of the species. There will be fevers, stuffy noses, rashes, coughs, poops or no poops, nights where the crying won't stop... and in each of these cases you will wonder what is wrong. This is especially true if this is your first baby and you are not a doctor yourself. When you take the baby to the doctor there is a very good chance that Ms. Pediatrician will tell you there isn't anything wrong. That it's too soon for allergies, that a fever of 100 isn't anything to worry about, that it's normal for his nose to be stuffy for weeks on end just get a humidifier, that you need to eat less onion and your baby's gas will go away. But you will still think that something is wrong!

I know there are more things. But it's bed time for me. You parents out there feel free to expand on this. Let's let those expectant parents know what they're in for.

1 comment:

  1. From RL via Facebook which I re posted here:

    I think the best advice I received when I was pregnant was to focus on the first six weeks after the baby is born. Those were by far the toughest for me. I do have to say that I had it a little bit easier than you describe though. My baby did sleep pretty much through the night by 6 months (8pm-6am) and has kept that schedule since.

    I'd say the other thing to add that you implied but didn't go into is the complete shift in identity that occurs when you become a mom. I thought it would just be an additional identity. I didn't realize that it would subsume all my other identities and become my principal identity (at least until I got the feedings down to just twice a day). The baby is completely dependent on us and that does take a lot of getting used to for previously independent and active women.