If you’re expecting your first baby – or you’re the partner of someone who is – you’re probably experiencing a wide range of emotions. Joy, excitement, anticipation, trepidation…all of these and more could be surfacing as you prepare for a new baby. While you may be aware that your life will change once your little one arrives, you may not realise just how dramatic those changes will be. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up five things to remember as you face this new chapter in your life.
- Be kind to yourself
For all the joy and unconditional love it brings, parenting is filled with challenges. Things like juggling working and childcare, dealing with childhood illnesses, the lack of sleep and the newfound worry you have for your little one’s wellbeing…you’ll be pushed well out of your comfort zone in almost every way. To make the path smoother, try and be kind to yourself while you adjust to your new life. If your only achievement for the day as the mom of a newborn is that you manage a shower at 2pm, don’t berate yourself – be at peace with it. If you find yourself lying awake worrying about your baby when you should be sleeping, do a breathing exercise or make your favourite comforting hot drink. Staying present in the moment and doing small caring acts for yourself can go a long way to calming the anxiety.
- Build up a support system
‘It takes a village to raise a child’ isn’t just a lofty statement – it really is true that having a baby requires support for both mother and child to thrive. This isn’t just about physical support with things like cooking and cleaning – it’s also emotional support in terms of helping mom to transition to her new role as a mother, and all the mixed emotions that come with it. If you’re an expectant mom, find out how you can connect with other new parents when your baby arrives – even if it’s a Whatsapp group. When it comes to childcare, perhaps there are other family members that will be able to help you look after the baby, or maybe you have budget to start planning for a nanny or creche? Whatever situation you’re in, make plans now for the support you’ll need, rather than trying to organise it when you’re in those first hormone-fuelled, sleep deprived few weeks.
- It will pass quickly
While in those first few weeks it may feel like an eternity that you’re sleep deprived or unable to leave the house, remember that the new baby stage won’t last forever and that this too shall pass. In fact, this truth is what brings some parents a lot of comfort – many who find the newborn age extremely challenging are pleasantly surprised when they start to blossom as parents as their children get a little older – whether it’s being able to have a funny conversation with them, teaching them a certain sport, or doing something creative like painting together. Every stage is different for each child too, so you may find that while you have a fussy baby, your toddler is an angel (or vice versa!). Try not to get too attached to each stage, because it will soon morph into something else.
- Your priorities will change
Things that seemed important before you had a child will fade in importance, and things you didn’t consider crucial before will become hugely important now. Being a highflyer at work may suddenly not be as important as raising a healthy baby, or money you used to spend on holidays may now go towards child-related expenses. Above all, you’ll suddenly realise that the health of your child matters far more than anything else, so plan accordingly before baby is even here. For example, if you belong to a medical aid scheme, one way to do this is to make sure you’re on the right plan given that your life situation has changed. You may have been on a basic hospital plan beforehand, but a comprehensive plan may provide more cost-effective cover given all the new expenses you’ll be facing, whether it’s the cost of medication if your baby gets sick, or if they need to be admitted to hospital for any reason. Some medical aids also give moms-to-be added benefits and support, such as Fedhealth’s Birth and Baby benefits that cover doula services, post-natal midwife consultations and more.
5. Your child will teach you as much as you will teach them
We think as parents that we’re here to teach our children, and in many ways that is true – from table manners to talking to reading and writing. But on another level, it’s our children who are actually teaching us far deeper lessons. Learning to be more patient, looking at things from an alternative perspective, the meaning of unconditional love…all these are valuable things that being a parent will teach you. When the going gets tough, it’s worth remembering this to help you appreciate the overall experience much more.
Embarking on your new life as a parent will bring with it a range of experiences ranging from the funny and absurd to the harrowing and anxiety-fuelled. But keeping these five things in mind can help you cultivate a higher perspective through it all, which will make for a more fulfilling – and manageable – life as a new parent.