You do not know it before hand but having a new baby gains you automatic entry into a member’s only club of families balancing their pre-existing priorities with their baby’s endless needs. You begin to realize that others seem to have forgotten or simply do not know about the reality of your unique lifestyle because of the unrealistic expectations and stereotypes that society places on new parents. I have put together a list of the most oblivious statements that commonly arise in my mommy group get togethers when we discuss this topic. If after reading this, you realize that you’ve been guilty of committing some of these blunders, you may feel inclined to refrain from doing so in the future, or at the very least I hope you have a good chuckle.
- How’s she/he sleeping?
“They are not sleeping! That’s how” This must be the most commonly asked question within the first month of bringing your baby home. I believe that more times than not, people know the answer to this question but are probably using it to gauge the severity of your madness from sleep deprivation. Who ever invented the expression “sleeping like a baby” clearly never spent the night with a newborn. Nothing prepares you for the sleep agony of those first six weeks’ postpartum and you begin to understand how it is used as an effective form of torture. It is dreadful watching the day turn into night and knowing that you will not be enjoying your precious bed or other winding down routines as you previously use to. If you are expecting a baby and want to prepare yourself for this aspect of being a new parent, I would advise you not to bother, yet I assure you, much like swimming over sinking you just somehow adjust and rise to the occasion.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps.
“Simply impossible”! As a public health nurse, I know that this is an important component of our self care recommendation but this is an area where theory does not reflect reality. As one of the mothers in my moms’ group described it, perhaps we can “vacuum when the baby vacuums?” or “do laundry when the baby does laundry?” Amidst your sleep deprivation, while your infant sleeps during the day, you find yourself catching up on neglected chores, shopping online or perusing the internet to diagnose yourself/baby with potential conditions. Then that day finally comes when you do decide to rest your weary head as your baby naps, only to completely fall so behind in life that you vow never to make that mistake again.
- Eat an extra 350-500 calories while breastfeeding.
“How?” Again, I promote this professionally as an essential requirement to ensure that women obtain enough nutrients to support breastfeeding, yet I found it is nearly impossible to achieve, especially in those first couple months. This was probably the most frustrating lifestyle change and I remember wishing I had someone to spoon feed me while I was occupied breastfeeding for hours on end or unable to prepare a meal with a baby attached to my body all day. I recall grazing my breakfast until lunch time and reheating the same cup of tea several times before eventually drinking it cold. You quickly become very skilled at eating with one hand along with dropping all types of crumbs and spills on your baby. And a large percent of the time, ceasing the opportunity to eat is the reason why many of us do not sleep when the baby sleeps
- What did you do all day?
“I kept the baby alive”. Even if you are genuinely curious, I highly recommend that you do not ask a new mom this question. So, I will do the honours and inform you that all day we repeat a cycle of feeding, burping, diaper changing, soothing, playing, putting baby to sleep and if we are lucky we manage to shower, feed ourselves and check a chore or two off the to do list. But in all honesty, it still amazes my husband and I how much time it takes to complete simple tasks with a baby in the mix and this is the main reason why you simply cannot accomplish more just meeting your baby’s needs during those first few months. If you do not want to burn out and enjoy the short time at home with your baby, then it’s necessary to adjust your expectations of what can realistically be done in a day.
- You shouldn’t bathe your baby everyday.
“Don’t worry, I couldn’t even if I wanted to”. You are a super hero in my opinion if you can bathe your newborn everyday. If you’re not in the know, let me update you that it takes a lot of accessories to bathe a baby for less than five minutes and a good amount of time to prep everything and clean it up afterwards. Not to mention that its back-breaking work since almost none of the surfaces in a home are ergonomically appropriate for standing or bending. Still, my biggest challenge to bathing Fraya regularly in the beginning was the need to plan it up to several hours beforehand to ensure that it was done before a feeding since a soiled diaper and sleep is always immediately guaranteed with a milk drunk baby. And nothing is more unsatisfying than bathing a hungry crying baby.
6.The dreaded moment when a perfect stranger proceeds to touch your baby’s hands or face.
“Internal sigh”. This is a unique example because it is not a statement but if you are someone who does this then you have forgotten or may not be aware that parents do not enjoy having strangers touch their new baby. I am also not sure if asking for permission would improve the situation because it still puts the parents in an awkward position. This is probably one of the only times in my adult life where I just stand by helplessly with a grin on my face watching a person do something that I do not approve of. After all who wants to be the person to make someone feel bad for embracing their baby. So now I simply pull out the wipes and clean Fraya’s hand/face once the culprit is out of sight. As a health care professional, I personally dislike when people do this because of the potential transfer of germs to little ones with their underdeveloped immune systems These days I think that Fraya is partly to blame for people feeling to urge to tug her little hands and cheeks as she insists on smiling and squealing at every person who glances her way.
If you are a new parent, I’m curious to know what are some of the clueless statements you hear, which makes you wonder if people understand the reality of caring for a baby.
“Steeping joy, brewed with all that life has to offer”