No one would ever suggest that someone practice medicine, file a lawsuit, or dance around a pole half-naked without some kind of training. Every year, students spend a lot of time, and most of their parent’s savings, on education.
In theory anyway.
People become experts at everything, yet show up for the birth of their children, arguably their most important job, woefully unprepared.
This is unacceptable. Not when you can totally be like me, a self-taught know-it-all.
The traditional classroom setting isn’t the way to learn about parenting. A blend of several learning models must be adapted in order to discover what works best for you and your little one.
Prepare in three important ways.
1. Read up. Long before the egg and sperm meet, you should read lots and lots of books and blogs. Mine is a good start, but there are other choices, too. Thousands of tomes and websites explain about a pregnant woman’s changing body, how baby boys differ from baby girls, which birthing plans end in catastrophe and which might be more successful, and how many diapers are needed the first month.
Wouldn’t you rather have a fully stocked medicine cabinet and game plan for emergencies before the kid swallows a mouth full of Comet?
Ignorance isn’t bliss, not in this case. Books can open up ideas you’d never otherwise consider. They are treasures. And the really thick and heavy ones come in handy years down the road when your little miracle starts talking back.
2. Learn from older family members. Books are great, but they don’t have all the answers. Only a grandmother could share the absolute best teething remedy. (Fill a shot glass with whiskey. Dip your pinky and rub the whiskey on your baby’s sore and swollen gums. Then drink what’s left. Repeat as needed.)
Parenting books might actually argue against whiskey in a baby’s mouth, but Nana knows it works. She’ll give you the remedies for a million other ills and you can pick and choose what works for you. You can’t find that sort of knowledge at the library.
3. Meet regularly with moms and dads who are going through similar experiences. When you take a birthing class (notice I did not say “if”), make eye contact and smile. Your peers are the best way to find out new information. Try online groups, too. Keep up-to-date on the latest parenting trends, both those to avoid and those to attempt, as well as recall lists, medical advancements, and government guidelines.
Then, after nine months or more of solid preparation, take everything you’ve learned and put it away.
Don’t throw it away.
Put it away.
Tuck all the books, knowledge, and advice in the same drawer where you store Astroglide and love toys. You will need this information and refer to it often. That’s why you’ve gone through the process of learning it. But parents must adjust to their baby, in flesh and blood rather than simply with theories.
When Marc and I first discovered we were pregnant, I wrote a birthing plan with my doctor. We decided it would be a natural, drug-free water birth with candlelight and Beastie Boys instrumentals playing in the background. I practiced yoga and memorized all the mantras and postures that would bring our little sentient being into the world with little or no trauma.
Then we discovered there was a second fetus inside me; a fetus whose ass faced the wrong way, thus requiring a c-section and half the hospital’s supply of Codeine.
That beautifully-planned water birth? Blown to hell.
Need another example?
After the birth, we were determined to stay and raise our children in Boston with liberal neighbors and a political scene that didn’t make us physically ill. Jacob and Zachary were born and elated relatives descended on our North End neighborhood. I welcomed their help and advice with open arms. Our newborn sons soaked up the love and after everyone left, I felt a void and wondered how to fill it.
Our friends! Our chosen family!
However, those friends were busy making families of their own, exchanging city for suburbia, leaving us with two screaming infants and no support system. Nursing my sons at night, I’d often pause at the window and gaze at city lights around me. Lights that held such promise and pride, yet no one in those busy windows loved us.
When our boys were six months old, we moved back home, to a suburb just north of Tampa. My children got to know their relatives and display the kind of confidence that only comes from support and unconditional love.
Sure, we’re surrounded by Weber grills and confederate flags…but free babysitting for life does have its advantages.
We have to adjust our thinking sometimes to fit reality. And nothing demonstrates that need to adjust more than my plans for breastfeeding.