I can still remember all the worries we had welcoming our first baby. There were so many unknowns and we wanted to do everything just right. The unsolicited advice from family, friends and strangers was overwhelming and honestly, not very helpful. I wish someone had told me that not everything would come naturally – sometimes you just need some time to figure things out.
There will be worries at each stage of parenting, but after 16 years and 10 kids, I’ve learned to trust myself. I hope I can provide a little perspective and experience on some of the most common worries – that really will be okay.
1. How can I afford to have all the newest best gear for my baby?
With our first, we got an expensive infant car seat. We didn’t pay attention to the weight and height limits of the seat. Our first baby was 9lbs 4oz and 23 inches long, she was technically out of the car seat by 4 months. After that we got a mid-priced seat with a bigger height and weight limit.
All of the baby gear checklists can seem daunting with the number of items listed. There are key things that your baby will need but you might be surprised at all things you don’t (like a wipe warmer or a changing table).
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get safe and high-quality gear. There are many ways to buy gently used baby gear for a fraction of the original cost, you can ask friends and search Facebook MarketPlace, local secondhand stores, just to name a few. Don’t let social media make you think you need to have the newest, most expensive baby gear. Also, Kirkland (Costco) wipes are the best!
2. What if my labor and delivery don’t go according to my birth plan?
I had planned to have an un-medicated birth, and really tried to stick to that, however, 10 hours of back labor and I needed an epidural. It is okay to change and adjust your plan mid-labor.
After delivering 10 babies, I can tell you to be prepared for the unexpected. Having a birth plan is good, but babies have a knack for doing things their own way, so keeping a flexible mindset is better. And if things don’t go as planned, know that it’s okay to grieve the birth experience you didn’t have and take time to process it.
3. What if I can’t breastfeed?
Sixteen years ago when I had my first, the mantra was “Breast is Best, period. No one talked about what happens if you have trouble breastfeeding. I took all the breastfeeding classes and couldn’t wait to breastfeed my baby. I was devastated when I couldn’t. I felt like less of a mom and it really affected my relationship with my baby. I felt like formula was a bad word, when in reality it was life giving and life saving to my babies. I found out with my second baby that I wasn’t physically able to breastfeed, as I had Insufficient Glandular Tissue and would never be able to produce enough milk.
I wish someone had told me: whether you breastfeed, pump, formula feed or do all three you are a GOOD mother. As long as your baby is fed and healthy and you are healthy mentally and physically the method you use to feed your baby doesn’t matter. Every mother’s feeding journey is going to look different.
4. Will I bond with my baby?
As I mentioned before I struggled to breastfeed, and it really affected my bond with my baby. I dreaded feeding time because it was miserable for both of us. Once I figured out the feeding portion of things, I could really concentrate on enjoying my baby and looking into her eyes and singing to her.
I realized that bonding with my baby wasn’t going to look like a Disney movie. It happens over days, weeks or months. If you had a hard, complicated labor and delivery, feeding is challenging, you have a high needs baby, or you are struggling with PPD or PPA bonding with your baby may take some time.
5. Will I ever sleep again?
Sleep deprivation is HARD; it made me irritable, angry, and depressed. I quickly learned to prioritize sleep, as much as you can with a new baby.
You will sleep again but it might not feel that way, especially at first. When you have your first baby, you realize how important and precious sleep is. Thankfully that newborn stage doesn’t last forever, and your baby will start to sleep for longer stretches as they get older.
Make sure to prioritize your own sleep. Go to sleep at night after you put the baby down, take a nap when your partner can watch the baby, if possible, have your partner take one of the nighttime feedings so you can get a few hours stretch of sleep. One night a week my husband would stay up and take both of the night time feeds, having that one night to recharge made a huge difference for me and being able to function.
6. How will I juggle everything? New baby, partner, work, household duties?
When my husband went back to work after our first, I cried so hard and had no clue how I was going to manage. Through trial and error, I figured it out, how to make a meal while holding a baby, get to the grocery store and other tasks. I am so glad there are options for grocery delivery and pick up – that would have saved my sanity back then.
It will take time and some bumps in the road to figure it out, but you’ll get there. Start by sticking to the basics, take care of your baby and yourself. You don’t need to be camera ready or even out of your PJ’s those first few weeks. Delegate anything that you can. Have groceries delivered, accept meals from friends and family, and ask for help from your partner and village to get other things done.
7. My friend’s baby is…
As a new mom, I definitely fell into the trap of worrying that I was doing something wrong when my friend’s baby was sleeping through the night and mine wasn’t. Maybe my friend’s baby was crawling already and my baby was just learning to sit up. It was with our second baby and experience that I learned not to compare. Every baby is different, even siblings.
It is really tempting but don’t compare your baby or yourself to others. What each family has, what they do, how they do it, and when – that’s their business. Comparison will make you sad and will cause you to constantly question yourself. And remember, social media is a highlight reel – not real life.
8. Why is my baby not meeting the developmental milestones on the exact day/month that the book/website says?
I can tell you from experience that each of my babies developed on their OWN timelines. Half my babies were later walkers, I had some babies that hardly crawled and went straight to walking. There were several that I was concerned about delays and now when you look at them you couldn’t tell who walked and talked first.
Milestone guidelines are there to give you an idea of what developmentally happens with babies at that time. There is a several months window that these milestones will occur. It’s not a competition and it’s not a big deal if your baby hits them a little early or a little late. It is good to be aware of the milestone windows and to talk with your pediatrician during well checks.
9. What if I am not doing “IT” (parenting) right?
I wish I would have trusted my instincts more and worried less about others judgment and advice. Parenting is one of those things that you learn as you go. As you learn your baby’s personality and needs, you’ll develop your skills as a parent.
Be patient with yourself, give yourself grace and trust your instincts – there is no one right way to parent. We spend a lot of time talking about preparing and caring for newborns, but not much about preparing new parents On a related note, the birth of new parents is important too and they need to be nurtured. As a new parent you’ll have an onslaught of unsolicited advice, let most of it wash over you and take in only what is helpful for you and your baby. Ask for help and do your research (from trusted sources).
10. Why isn’t my body “bouncing back” quickly?
My postpartum recovery has been different with each baby. After my first was born it was like my body was foreign to me, it took me a long time to get used to it and love it. Healthy habits may not make the physical changes as quickly as you might want, but prioritizing my physical and mental health was so important. It took nine months to grow your baby, and it will take time for your body to heal. Every mom’s postpartum journey is different.
So, 10 Kids Later, Here’s What I Think
I have learned that it doesn’t matter which brand of diapers you buy, whether you had a c-section or vaginal birth, whether you formula feed or breastfeed; what matters is that you love your baby, comfort them and take care of them (and you) to the best of your ability.
Parenthood is the most wonderful and hardest job that I have ever had. There will be days that you feel like you have it together and other days you will feel like you are crawling through. You aren’t doing “IT” wrong – parenting is that hard and 100% worth it.