From dressing them in newborn baby clothes to feeding them and all the way through to looking after their every single need, having your own baby brings unique physical and emotional challenges that you can’t really appreciate until you have your own child. It is very very different than looking after other people’s.
From the age of eleven I have been involved with babies. One of our neighbors had a baby girl and I used to go and play with her, watch her being fed, changed and bathed. As I became a teenager I used to baby-sit for neighbors and friends, a practice I continued until I got married.
Because of my love of babies and children I decided to take it up as a career. I started my working life training to be a pediatric nurse. Unfortunately because of family illness I was not able to finish my training. However, I still continued to take care of other people’s babies and became adept at changing diapers, bathing them and giving a bottle. With all this experience you would think I would have been well prepared when I had my own first baby.
I certainly thought I knew enough to cope when I brought my daughter home from the hospital. Boy was I wrong. Yes I was capable of dealing with the practical aspects after all I’d looked after lots of very young babies over the years but what I hadn’t factored in was the emotional side of things. It’s easy to stay detached and cope when you don’t have the responsibility of the baby twenty four seven but totally different when you are the mom and dad.
After giving birth you suddenly realize that this tiny, helpless miracle is wholly dependent on you for everything and you obviously want to make sure that you do things right. The first big hurdle comes with the first feeding time. If you are breastfeeding you have to learn how to do it right to avoid frustration for both you and your baby. But even if you are bottle feeding you have to learn how to make up the formula, and the best way to hold your baby to ensure they don’t take in too much air when they are sucking.
Diaper changing is much easier these days especially if you use disposable diapers. When I had my children in the 1970s we used cloth diaper squares and even though I knew the different ways to fold them to fit the baby it somehow seemed a lot different now it was my baby. I was scared I might damage the umbilical stump or prick her with the pin, things I had never worried about before.
The same was true when it came to bathing her for the first time. I was worried I’d let her slide under the water or that I’d drop her when I was lifting her out of the bath. And was I too rough when drying her and was I making sure that she was properly dry so she wouldn’t get a rash or chapped skin?
And how much harder is it to comfort a crying baby when you are tired and have no idea why she is crying having fed her, changed her, winded her and cuddled her? The more upset and frustrated you get the more that transmits through to this screaming bundle and it seems to become a vicious circle.
I am happy to say that I very soon became as competent caring for my baby as I had been when caring for other peoples children. It was far easier the second time around as you know more what to expect and you realize you are going to make mistakes but they usually turn out okay.
The feeling of wanting to be the perfect parent and get it right all the time never goes away even when your child is grown up and has a family of their own. When I look at my grown up family today and see what they have achieved I realize we did a pretty good job. And buying newborn baby clothes was the easy bit!