The What-Ifs of Parenting: Our Worry Expectations Vs. Our Parenting Reality
When we were expecting our first little one, we got exceptionally good at worrying. After all, with well-meaning friends and family, thousands of blog posts and message boards, and a whole stack of recommended reading tossing advice, caution, and best practices our way for 40 weeks, it was nearly impossible not to feel overwhelmed.
Would we have the right sleep set up and strategy? What if breastfeeding didn’t go well? Screen time or no screen time? How much tummy time is too much tummy time? Can I spoil a newborn? Which car seat is the best one, and how do I know if I’ve latched it correctly, and where should it be in the car? What if I don’t have enough diapers? What if, what if, what if…
Becoming a parent is exhausting.
Now that we’re on the other side parenthood, with some real-life experience raising a newborn or two, we’ve learned that a lot of that worry wasn’t necessary. And while we don’t imagine for a minute that we can stop you from worrying and wondering while you wait for your little one, we can share a few ways our reality was different than what we expected. Maybe they’ll offer you a little peace of mind, a deep breath, and permission to get excited about the adventure you’re about to begin.
The worry: What if I don’t have a perfect birth plan?
The reality: While having a birth plan to communicate your desires and hopes is a great strategy, the reality is that most labors are unpredictable, and so are the humans experiencing them. It’s pretty common to go into labor thinking you’ll want to be in the tub, only to find your body demanding that you squat and pace in the hallway. What you and baby need may change as your labor progresses, and that’s totally okay. Surround yourself with caretakers that you trust, and give yourself permission to be flexible, trust your body, and follow your birth story wherever it leads.
The worry: What if I mess up baby’s sleep?
The reality: Every baby, and every family, is different! What worked for your sister, your BFF, or your mom when they were navigating infant sleep might not feel right to you, or work for your baby. There are a few things that are consistent: babies have a biological need to sleep in shorter stints in the beginning, so your usual sleep patterns will be disrupted, and every family handles sleep changes a different way. Consult your doctor, midwife, or trusted resources to find a plan that meets YOUR families needs, and don’t worry too much about whether your plan makes sense to anyone other than you and your care provider. As long as you and baby are getting rest safely and feeling cared for, you’re golden. It WILL take time to find a rhythm. And you WILL find one.
The worry: What if breastfeeding is difficult?
The reality: It might be! Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone. The good news is that by taking the time to assemble the right team now, you can make sure that if you do run into any feeding hurdles along the way, you’ll be able to overcome them with confidence and support. Find a lactation consultant you trust and meet with them several times over the first few months. Stock up on supplies like breast pumps, nipple cream, gel packs, and Epsom salts so you have them on hand if needed. Talk to your friends and family about your intention to breastfeed so they can offer you support, and seek out a few friends who have done things differently (formula or combo fed) to reassure you that even if things don’t go perfectly, you and baby have a lot of options, and you’re going to find your way.
The worry: What if I don’t have all the right gear?
The reality: You already have nearly everything you need. Despite the abundance of adorable gear available (and don’t get us wrong – we LOVE adorable gear), newborns really have very few essentials: someone to love them, somewhere to sleep, regular feedings, and a whole lot of diapers. Your instincts and attention are the number one best asset your little one will have – anything else can be acquired as you go! That’s what curbside pickup is for. ;)
Remember: welcoming your first baby into the world is a huge event in your life, but you aren’t in it alone. Whether in person or online, there is an abundance of support and community available to provide late-night support, reassurance, advice, and help if you need it. And it is absolutely normal to need a little help in your first few months of parenting. In fact, if there’s one piece of advice we absolutely stand by, it’s this: reach out for help if you need it. There are so many of us out here cheering you on.
So while you wait, and read, and prepare, and, yes, worry, don’t forget to celebrate! While parenthood won’t be easy, it will be full of incredible moments and a whole lot of joy. Your expectations and your reality might not be in perfect alignment, but there will be a beautiful surprise for every messy and imperfect one. We can’t wait to share them with you!