Monday, October 12, 2009

Shifting gears: help! baby!

I’ve been told by more than one person that my increasingly erratic posts here have been trending negative since my arrival in Los Angeles. That’s not at all why I started this thing – there’s plenty of cranky people elsewhere on the internet, after all – so today, I’ll try and switch gears.

As I mentioned here to zero fanfare a few months ago, Amynah and I are expecting a baby girl sometime in December (I say “sometime” as our various French medical professionals gave us two different dates, our calculations gave us a third, and our new American doctor gave us a fourth. I feel that I should start a betting pool).

Like most new parents, Amynah and I have absolutely no idea what we’re in for, or what we’re doing. We’ve picked up a couple of stuffed animals, and a meager selection of clothes, and a couple of things like a bassinet and some sort of vibrating baby-massage chair doohickey that I wish was ten times larger.

We’re many thousands of kilometers away from our immediate families and closest friends, and I, for one, am terrified. So I’m throwing this one out to you, dear readers. After all, all you are parents, or had them, have kids or were kids.

Give me your advice, both technical, emotional, practical and philosophical. What courses/videos/books were helpful? What advice did you get that was helpful? What was useless? How did you get through labour? What do you wish you had known, getting into parenting? What do you wish your parents had known, when they got into it? What are the frustrations? What are unexpected joys? What gets you through the long nights of crying (please assume that “coffee” and “love” have already occurred to us). How do you change a diaper? How do you trick your spouse into taking your turn to change the diaper?

How do you raise a good person?

I realize nobody is born to be a “Mom” or “Dad” – you’re born to be whoever you are, and the Parent/Role Model part is figured out as you go along. But as long as I have readers – even if most of you never comment – I figured I’d try to learn from your collective wisdom.

So please, whether you have kids or not, or normally read me hear or not - leave a comment, or email me your thoughts –big picture, small picture, whatever you got. It’s either you, or my daughter will be raised according to the wisdom of Wikipedia.


Kiki said...

We know very well the feeling of first baby/far from family panic! It's still hard (Max is 16 months), but a routine does set in.

Most of the advice I received (and didn't always follow) was good: SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS is number one on my list. My other two would be to start using a bottle early on (gives the papa some bonding time) and DO use a pacifier. No bottle feedings = no mama relief (in the beginning, when they nurse every 2-3 hrs) and the pacifier, well, that's self-explanatory.

Travis said...

For the book-oriented, as I know both you and Amynah are: the best advice I ever heard was buy just ONE parenting book. It doesn't matter WHICH one, but ONLY one.

Seriously. Throw darts at the appropriate bookshelf in Chapters.

Maeve said...

Travis, I'd say buy lots of books. You're bound to find something you'd like. Or buy no books (escept maybe one to research medical stuff), and google furiously. is great for all kinds of general advice, archived. Of particular note are the developmental stages, which explain why your baby goes all wiggy at months 4, 6, etc.
Also, expect your expectations to change. You may do a 180 on your plans. I didn't expect to co-sleep past a couple of months and, well, that changed. A friend loved the idea of a "family bed" but then found they all slept better with the baby in a different room.
2) You will be appalled to find that just holding your baby will not be enough to stop her from crying. What about all those movies? It will help, but not enough. Or not until she's past that newborn "fourth trimester" phase.
3) Your baby is programmed to cry longer and harder and louder over the first 6 weeks or so. You are not sucking as parents, that's how they're designed as they become more aware and stronger. This is minimized by carrying/holding her lots, acc to research (McGill, I think).
4) When they cry, they are probably hungry. Watch Dunstan Baby Language video to interpret baby's cries earlier than you might otherwise.
5) Happiest Baby on the Block.
6) Put your parent friends on speed dial. They will not mind you calling at pretty much any time.
7) Lactation consultant. Breastfeeding hurts (a lot!) at first, even when doing it right. And it's not easy to do right first off.
8) Worth mentioning again.

Zack said...

I'm glad to piggyback on this advice, folks! Keep it coming!

dmchenail said...

First of all - a delayed congrats! Somehow managed to miss your July posting about the news...

Secondly, I have zero advice to offer but I know you will suck no more than other parents and will be better than most (at least that's what Doug and I tell ourselves about our future parenting skills). At least you've got great genetics on your side...

I ran into enough panicky moments with a puppy, so I can only imagine what you're feeling. Please, please keep detailed notes in case Doug and I get in the family way in the next couple of years :)

Shannon said...

Don't worry about the books and getting baby on a schedule...there is no right way, just find something that works for you. But be flexible, as soon as baby realizes you may have figured her out, she'll change.

If you find baby settles for Amynah easier in the newborn stage, well that's to be expected. Try cuddling baby with one of Amynah's worn shirts, so baby still gets her scent.

Most useful baby thing I had: Moby Wrap ( didn't get it until Max was 3 months old, wish I'd had one sooner. Most useless thing: baby swing. Max hated it. But for some babies it's a godsend.

belsohni said...

I'm with Maeve on the developmental books. I found just understanding what's happening in their busy little minds and bodies helped me figure out how to respond (and gave me a bit more patience when there was nothing to do except hold them and rock them some more). I also liked developmental books better than advice books which always made me feel inept if I didn't follow the program.

Remember that you grow with the baby so you'll be the experts on this particular child. Eventually, you'll be able to know what's amiss and whether she needs a cuddle, a tickle, or a nap.

It's too intimidating if you focus on the enormity of raising a human being. A part of me was always surprised to find a baby in my home for the first couple of weeks! I felt like an imposter. When she was a toddler and I first heard my partner's "Daddy voice" as he was laying down the law I had to fight back the giggles.

You will do just fine. Sometimes you'll muddle through as all of us do, and other times you'll feel really confident. Especially as your little girl grows and thrives. You'll take it stage by stage.

Brian Busby said...

I'll begin by echoing dmchenail, congratulations are in order and, in my case, overdue. Advice? The most important is to recognize that you'll be experiencing things that, while new, are in no way unique. By all means, purchase a book if it makes you feel better... but don't feel bad or guilty if it gathers dust on your night table. You'll see that much comes naturally. Kiki is right about sleep... but, then, I suspect you'd have fallen into this habit regardless. In short, much will just makes sense.

And, for your own sanity: assuming you're blessed with a baby that doesn't cry much (not as rare as you might think), treat yourself to the same restaurants you would as a childless couple. You'll find that as she grows your daughter will appreciate good food and proper behaviour. Besides, you'll deserve it.

Jane Kramers said...

My best advice is to find an antenatal class where the two of you can meet other couples expecting babies at about the same time as you are. Todd and I met 10 other new families this way who proved to be our best support in the absence of our families. We're still socialising with them now, three years later.

My other advice is mostly for Amynah... No one will ever know your baby as well as you, so when your mum/medical advisor/stranger on the bus are offering their advice remember that your instincts are probably right ( and they are probably not)

Oh, and if you need to call someone in the middle of the night, you can always call me.

Xx Jane

Christopher Moore said...

Sure, all that stuff. But brace yourself for the unexpected joys. My kids are in their late teens and twenties and I still feel how wonderful it was having a baby in the house. The fear, the work, the heavy lifting, the sleeplessness... ah, that passes.