A friend of mine is expecting her first child, and I’m reminded of many things I wish I'd known before I became a parent.
Be prepared to receive loads of unsolicited advice. Sometimes people are well-meaning while others are just insensitive. I have one friend who had multiple people tell her that the baby sling she was wearing her child in was unsafe. They would list off some other type of baby carrier that had been recalled. One couple I know had a woman following them around on the cruise ship they took for their baby moon, criticizing the baby name they’d chosen and insisting they name their son what she had named hers.
Be careful which baby books and magazines you read. I read a few baby books while I was pregnant, and all they did was stress me out by listing every possible bad thing that could happen to me or my baby, or describing the “one right way” to take care of your baby. It’s possible to safely go through an entire pregnancy without reading a single book or magazine.
If I were pregnant for the first time, I’d go to the local park and chat with the mothers or nannies of kids who are already crawling or toddling. They’ve already gone through the newborn stage, so they’re less tired or cranky, and they’ll have loads of suggestions. BabyCenter.com
has useful information, especially about your baby’s development without inundating you with scary stories.
People will likely try to touch your belly. I was lucky in that it only happened a few times with strangers, and they asked first. It was usually dads of older children who missed their kids being babies. It sounds creepy, but they barely touched my belly, and I didn’t get any weird vibe from them.
You’re certainly under no obligation to let anyone touch your baby. It’s awkward how people lose their inhibitions around a pregnant woman, but consider that maybe it’s something that’s evolved from us being social creatures used to living in groups. Or get a bunch of T-shirts with red blotches that read, “The last person who touched my belly without asking pulled back a bloody stump.”
Some people will outright glare at you. This often happens with business travelers on airplanes, but many people who either haven’t had children or who had them a really long time ago will either silently or even openly criticize you for not being able to “control your child.” Anyone who has recently cared for a child, especially a newborn, or is still capable of compassion, will know that you’re doing the best you can, and babies just fuss and cry sometimes. If you can, try to imagine how helpless and chubby they were when they were babies. Or just tell them, “Your face looks stupid.”
There’s nothing natural about becoming a new parent. It’s all romanticized like your baby slides right out of you during labor, your baby breastfeeds instantly without any difficulty, and your baby sleeps through the night right on time.
Parenting is a skill, don’t believe anyone who tells you different. You will have intuition about some things, but don’t beat yourself up when things are rough, because it’s rough for everybody. Hang in there, and get other people to help you.
What other warnings would you offer to new parents?