7 Things to Know When You Have a Baby

October 15th, 2009 by Jane

I have been reminiscing about early parenthood because an old friend just had his first child and my neighbor is due with a little girl any day now. My eldest daughter is nine, the twins are five and I don’t know how we got here so fast. People warned me of the speed with which the universe propels you through parenthood. I guess, in the early days when it seemed that the days were an endless loop of diapers, sleepless nights and breast milk-stained clothing, it didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t always be infants. Or that I would barely have time to enjoy it.


I think it takes an incredible amount of grace to be a baby born into this world. Think about it, what if we, as adults, were dropped somewhere that we didn’t know the language, we were forced to live with people we didn’t know and we depended on them for our every need. I believe this is why we do not remember our infant hood; it would just be too painful. And yet, each baby looks at her parent with utter trust and eventually unconditional love.

I certainly don’t have many answers, but I’ve learned a few things. I have assembled the seven best pieces of advice, in my opinion, for new parents.

1. Lower Your Standards
I ‘m not kidding. Do not expect to have a clean house, clean clothes on your body or your teeth brushed, for at least the first three months. Your life will be much more enjoyable if you consider these things to be more like delightful hobbies you will resume when the baby is older, say around fifteen.

2. Follow Your Instincts
Everyone has some sort of parenting instinct, even those who say they don’t. If it seems wrong to take your newborn to that family reunion-listen to that voice. Then do not apologize for it.

3. Honor Your Baby’s Birth Story
In current pregnancy books, women are encouraged to write a birth plan to give to their doctor or midwife. This is a fine idea, but save yourself some grief and be flexible. Babies do not take anyone’s plans seriously. Especially their parents. Babies get here however they can and I will pretty much guarantee you that there is not one on the planet that has arrived according to plan. The birth story of your baby is the first of many wonderful stories your child will give to you and should be honored, not lamented.

4. Pay Attention
Isn’t it interesting that the phrase we use is “pay” attention? You give something to get something. Paying attention costs you some time and probably some patience, but here is what you might get: noticing the exact moment the eyelashes on your baby become lush, learning what makes  your child’s eyes light up, watching your child discover her toes. In other words, the good stuff.

5. Find Friends Who Keep It Real
If all of your friends with children arrive at a play date with perfect hair and clothes on their person, as well as their children-keep an eye on them. It is entirely possible that they cannot be trusted to have a real relationship. If their homes are in the same state of constant perfection-run! These are not people with whom you can build a nurturing, supportive friendship and they will wear you out in the interim.

Instead, seek out the moms who have other interests outside of motherhood, the moms who tell you when things aren’t going perfectly, the ones who feel no shame in taking store-bought cupcakes to school. They will become your support system.

6. Make No Plans
After the twins were born, I was commenting to someone that every time I made a plan to go somewhere, someone in my house started throwing up. This woman, who happened to have a set of 30 year old twins, very gently put her hand upon my arm and said “Jane, stop making plans. You will get back to that one day, but not right now. You will feel better if you just take it one day at a time.” Her words were like an elixir for my battered being.

7. It Doesn’t Last Long
Each stage your child goes through seems like it might be endless. Colic. Teething. Potty-training. Learning to drive.  One of my favorite quotes about parenthood is “The days are long, but the years are short.” When I was able to step back and view my children’s stages in six month increments, I could look at all of those frustrating moments with perspective and grace.

My favorite aunt (also a mother of grown twins) once said to me after I recounted a terrible day with toddler twins,  ”Sweetie, I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but you will never again expend this much energy.” That gives me hope, how about you?

6 Responses to “7 Things to Know When You Have a Baby”

  1. Danielle Says:

    # 5–glad to be clear now on exactly why we’re friends! (-:

    # 7–Best advice I ever received from a fellow mother of twins (hers were over 50 at the time)–

    “Honey, with twins you’re not going to have time for charts and books and all that. Just feed the one that that’s screaming and change the one that stinks!”

  2. Sister Sue Says:

    Thank you for helping me keep it in perspective, especially since your neice will not sleep through the night and would rather drink milk than eat. I am forwarding to all my friends.

    Love you, Sister

  3. Woody Bombay Says:

    Thanks for the tips! We’re hitting most of them. Especially #1 and #6, and doing our best on #4. That one is the parents’ reward.

  4. Amy Says:

    Good Stuff! Love them.

  5. Amy Says:

    GORGEOUS!
    Your usual mix of generosity and grace!

  6. Peggy Says:

    What a fantastic list!!!! As a Labor and Delivery nurse, extra kudos to #3. What a beautiful thought- that the birth of your baby is one of the many stories your child will give you! I have seen so many mothers disappointed that their “plan” for the birth of their baby was altered after the first contraction. Babies do have their own plans- it starts from the beginning and doesn’t change as they grow. I am constantly reminded of this even now as mine are teens–they have their own interests, ideas and plans…and their own stories to make and to share.

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