I think that many new parents feel that when they have a baby they’ll essentially remain the exact same person they were before. Only now – they have a baby. And there is great appeal in that because as human beings, most of us don’t really like change. We like things to be pretty predictable. It’s not that we’re a boring species, exactly, it’s just that we’d like to be prepared for anything different or exciting. We’d like to plan it all out a bit so that there are no hidden surprises.
Well, surprise! Parenting doesn’t really prescribe to this method – at all.
It’s no wonder, then, that it takes some time to embrace our new roles as parents. I use the word “embrace” purposefully because it’s not just about acknowledging that there’s been a change. No, embrace by definition means to “accept or support (a belief, theory or change) willingly and enthusiastically.” Hmmmm…this might take some time.
That’s okay. I want you to know that it’s okay to buck against this embracing of new parenthood – for a little while, at least. But at some point, you’ll realize that remaining the same person you were before the birth of your baby just isn’t realistic. And the longer you fight that idea, the harder this newborn period of time will be for you as an individual, a couple and new family. So how do you go from fighting this new change to truly embracing it? That can be different for different people.
Take me, for example. With my first baby, I remember in the beginning that I tried desperately to get her to nap during the day. I’d nurse her, burp her and nurse her again. She’d nod off in my arms and I would wait for her to show those signs of deep sleep before I’d even think about putting her down in the bassinet.
But the minute I tried to lay her down her eyes would pop open and she’d be wide awake! At first, I thought maybe it was the cold sheets – so I put a heating pad in the bassinet to warm it up before I laid her down. As I removed the heating pad I could feel that the sheets were toasty warm now, so this ought to work, right? Wrong. Again, the minute she was out of my arms she would wake up.
I was getting nothing done and I could feel my frustration climbing with every passing day. This had become our new pattern: baby is calm and sleeping when she’s against my body – awake, alert and fussy when she’s not.
Wait a minute…
The thought that was stuck in my head was: “The only way I’ll ever get anything done is if my baby sleeps on her own during the day.” Imagine how hard it was for me to turn that thought into: “I’ll wear my baby everywhere during the day so that she sleeps and I can get my stuff done.” That was a big stretch for me. It might not be for you. But after I embraced this idea willingly and enthusiastically, everything about that newborn stage changed for me.
I wore my baby during the day almost non-stop for the first three months of her life. And I got really good at being able to go to the bathroom with a baby strapped to my chest. I ate all of my meals with a napkin over her head so that the scraps of my food didn’t end up in her hair. I even took the heat from others who claimed that I was spoiling my child and she’d never learn to take naps or get to sleep on her own (totally not true, for the record). But I persevered in this new way of doing things because I embraced that my life had actually changed.
Whatever I thought might happen before the baby was born was replaced by the reality of what was happening now that the baby was here.
I knew that if I wanted to get things done that I’d be much more successful in that goal if I kept her close to my heart – which is where she apparently most wanted to be. Now, your baby might be a napping dream and sleeps in their bassinet during the daytime with no problem. If that’s your experience, than I’m really happy for you. But, if you’re like me, and have a baby that’s not so sure about daytime separation from you – take heart. This was a temporary solution that greatly impacted how I felt about being a new Momma.
This was the first of many things that I remember having to embrace in my role as a new parent.
You might have a different challenge or struggle that’s keeping you from embracing your new role. How could you change your perspective to help you lessen the grip on your fear of change? Does it help to place whatever it might be into the status of temporary? “This will probably not have to happen forever, but right now what’s working for us as a family is _______________.”
All I can tell you is that my transition with each subsequent baby was so much easier when I realized from the very beginning that I’d just be wearing my baby during the day until they were about three months old.
I didn’t waste any time fighting or resisting this change – I embraced it wholeheartedly.
Are you finding it hard to embrace your role as new parent? What has been the biggest challenge for you? How do you think you could embrace this challenge instead of continuing to fight it?
(PS – I look at this picture and my back screams NO WAY! But secretly, I want to see this in real-life. I would love to watch this studly guy try to take two steps with a baby strapped to his hip like that. Totally cracks me up!)