Wednesday, April 19th, 2006
Advice for Parents-To-Be
We know three first-time parents giving birth soon. One said this today, "Any advice you have for newborns is greatly appreciated." Wha… wha… whaaat? Open the floodgates why don’t ya? Here are ten things I came up with before asking the mother to narrow the scope of her question.
1) Don’t idealize the birth. Sure, it may go perfectly, or you may require interventions or even a c-section. In other words, don’t be a wreck if the hospital experience doesn’t live up to your expectations.
2) You may not remember much of the labor. Photos and video help. I shot some photos, but they are few and far between because I was assisting my wife most of the time.
3) You get lots of attention before the birth, but mothers often complain of being ignored by hospital staff afterward. It makes sense, right? The major urgent situation is over and there are other major urgent situations in other birthing rooms needing attention.
Because the baby rooms in with you at the hospital, you’ll want a family member there who can hold the baby, etc. while you sleep, although the baby will do its fair share of sleeping.
The dad or whomever assists with the labor is likely to be wiped out too. We had a close friend who has kids assist, and it turned out to be a tag team effort. One person would talk to my wife as she squeezed the person’s hand into juice and the other person would apply back pressure or whatever, then we switched places when someone got exhausted. In lieu of that, a doula is another way to go if you can find someone you like.
4) If finances allow, don’t be in a rush to leave the hospital. Some parents leave the same day. I can’t imagine that because the hospital is separate world where they feed you and provide support. Once home, you’re on your own, kid.
5) There is a learning curve with breastfeeding. Hopefully the nurses will help you with technique. Hopefully your hospital has a lactation consultant on staff and a weekly drop-in period to ask questions. If not, try Le Leche League. Or pay a lactation consultant.
6) Sleep whenever you can.
7) Lean on friends and family for help. Routine housekeeping, food preparation, etc. can become overwhelming, even for dad. Well, entirely for dad. That’s one of his jobs now. Do everything.
8) Take lots of photos. I know they grow up quick, but they really do! It helps to have a digital camera with a flash mount. You point the flash toward the ceiling and you get an illuminated picture without the washed out sterile faces that a built-in flash creates.
9) The whole experience is stressful, but beware of unnatural stress. We went through postpartum (and really, pre-birth) depression and it was devastating. It’s totally manageable once identified and treated and you can then get on with enjoying the happiest time in your life.
10) Get dad in there changing diapers on Day One. By Day Three he’ll be doing it in his sleep. Literally, of course.
OK all you parents who just read this, what advice or information would you tell a couple about to give birth?