By JASON TARASI
Becoming a new parent is one of the most exhilarating and apprehensive times that any of us will ever face. I’ve always wanted to have children of my own, but it was just as important to me to wait until the time was right. However, as I soon found out, there is no ideal time to have a baby. Of course being a guy, I never actually talked to my wife about when we would have a baby. I was just hoping it would kind of… happen. Then one day my wife told me that she could hear her biological clock ticking and attacked me. Fearing for my life, I held as still as possible; before I knew it, my wife told me she was pregnant!
I was really excited when my wife’s pregnancy test came back positive and I started to dream what it would be like to have a child of my own. Of course, my friends and family had other ideas about letting us enjoy the experience. Suddenly, all of them formed a secret pact that was designed to torture my wife and me. Apparently, once you are expecting a child of your own, this gives everyone in your life a green light to share their pregnancy horror stories. We were also delighted to find out how hard things were going to be once the baby did arrive—that we would never have another moment of privacy ever again and that both of us would have to learn how to sleep standing up. I especially appreciated the people who would share their frightening stories about all of the things that went wrong during the birth of their children. I suggested to my wife that maybe we should rent a cave somewhere for the next nine months, but she gave some totally lame excuse about lack of electricity and heat.
Thankfully, my wife did end up having a very normal pregnancy, with a few scares along the way. My daughter was born happy and healthy, after a difficult delivery. I, of course, thought I had everything under control because I read just about every baby book I could get my hands on. I figured I had all of my bases covered, including how to change a diaper and bottle-feed my daughter. Besides, I had my wife. What could possibly go wrong?
I slowly started to realize that everything I had read in the baby books really didn’t have me quite prepared for what it was like to deal with a newborn. There was no chapter titled “How To Walk Straight St 3 AM” or “Origami Baby Wipe Folding.” Just about every night for three straight weeks, I was startled awake by my daughter’s cries and I would stumble to the crib and try in vain to get her back to sleep. The only thing that would send her back to a peaceful slumber was to walk her—again and again and again. On most of these nights, you would find me with my daughter cradled in one arm and a can of Pepsi in the other just to keep me going. I became the “caffeine monster” and threw away all of my healthy eating habits that I had grown accustomed to over the last decade.
I was also starting to resent all of the visitors who came to our house and would giggle when they saw how exhausted my wife and I were. If I had a dime for every time someone told me, “I remember those days!” or “Maybe you should try it this way,” I probably would have been able to hire a full-time nanny. Unfortunately, throwing people out of a window is illegal in most states, so I would just smile and complain to my new imaginary friend.
Somehow, my wife and I made it through those first couple of months, but things slowly started to get better and better. The two of us became a well-oiled machine and eventually settled into a set of routines that made our lives tolerable. We finally could breathe a sigh of relief whenever our daughter started to sleep through the night, around four months. So needless to say, the first couple of months were easily the most trying.
By now I am sure you must be dying to hear all of my groundbreaking secrets to raising a newborn, right? Believe it or not, having a newborn is not something you can really prepare yourself for. The first month or two, you will just need to be in survival mode and hope your newborn doesn’t drive you mental. If you can wake up and remember your name and age, you are doing well. The biggest trick is not to turn on your significant other (believe me, you will want to), because he or she is your best ally in this “war.”
You will have to educate yourself as much as possible about newborns and sometimes you will get good advice from friends or family members, but not always. If Aunt Sally, who has three kids in jail, offers you advice, it is probably a good idea to ignore what she says. Everyone wants to try and help, but that doesn’t necessarily make them right. The main thing is learning how to handle your newborn, and realizing that you will not break him or her in half. You will also have to learn how to trust yourself to make important decisions and do what you feel is best for your baby.
As an example, my daughter had a growth spurt around three weeks and she was being exclusively breastfed at the time. She kept screaming nonstop throughout the day because my wife wasn’t producing enough breast milk to keep up with her growth spurt. Around 1 AM, my wife had to make a decision whether or not to give her some formula. She was fearful of giving her formula because we had read how important it is to exclusively breastfeed for the first several months. However, I told my wife that she had to do what she thought was best. Once we gave our daughter the formula, she settled down almost immediately (Duh! She was starving!).
This was the first moment that we had to make an important decision on our own regarding our newborn. It was then that we started to have confidence in our ability to be good parents and we continued to build off of that in the months ahead.
Hopefully, you will have a similar epiphany as you begin to learn how to trust yourself and make the best decisions possible for your baby, with the information you have at hand. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that every decision you make is going to be the right one, but the goal is to make as few mistakes as you possibly can. Having a newborn is a challenge for anyone, and the first two months are going to be difficult. However, establishing routines and having confidence in yourself along with your significant other will go a long way towards helping you survive the first year of your baby’s life.
JASON TARASI is a loving parent who begs you to read what he has to say about car seats and why your child’s life could be in danger by visiting his site, BabyDollStroller.net. There, you’ll also find plenty of helpful articles about childrearing, plus simple answers to the many pregnancy questions expecting couples commonly wonder about.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.