An impending baby usually comes with a slew of unending questions, there's no doubt about it. However, that little life you're going to be responsible for also gives you some pretty quick insight into who you are as a person. Do you need to have every question answered -- like what your baby's gender is or -- or are you going to roll with the proverbial punches? Honestly, I thought I was the former, but as it turns out there were a whole lot of parenting questions I didn't need answered before my baby arrived.
Usually (although definitely not always) soon-to-be parents get around nine months to prepare for their baby's (or babies') arrival. As a result, I think society at large thinks it takes exactly 40 weeks, give or take a day or two, to be ready to become a parent. But what happens if you aren't allotted that amount of time? What happens when you're only a few weeks into your adoption journey when you get a call that your daughter is waiting for you in the hospital? Well, that's what happened to my partner and I, so I can tell you exactly what happens. If you're like us, you scramble just a bit, wander the aisles of Target completely overwhelmed, take a whole lot of deep breaths, and then you get to the hospital so you can meet your daughter. In other words, you do what you have to do and you figure everything else out afterwards.
My situation is extreme, of course, but there are plenty of situations in which women have their babies without answering the questions they probably wish they would have asked themselves beforehand. Whether it's due to an unexpected, premature birth, or a fostering and/or adoption scenario, parenthood is all about unanswered questions, regardless of how your journey unfolds. I think the most important thing to remember when you're facing the unknown is that most people, whether they think they're ready or not, are. Just like me, you'll figure everything else out after you have that precious baby in your arms.
Where Will My Baby Sleep?
My partner and I had only been living in our apartment barely a month when our daughter arrived. I had all but refused to get anything ready for the baby until we knew he or she was coming, but I honestly thought we would have a little more notice than a measly six hours.
We didn't, though, so we borrowed a bassinet from a friend of a friend, thankfully, she sent it with sheets. Our daughter slept in that until she grew out of it, and all was well in new-mom land.
What's My Baby's Gender?
Some people need to know what their baby's gender is, in order to visualize their impending future and really get used to the idea of parenthood. However, when you're dealing with an emergency adoption placement, you're not really going to get a "heads up" when it comes to the baby's gender.
I had visualized a boy baby in the months prior to our daughter arriving, but the moment we heard she was a she, it was like, "Well, of course she's a she! She's our daughter!"
What Will My Baby's Name Be?
Before we met our daughter, we weren't sure what her name would be. We had a shortlist, and the moment we saw her we knew she fit one of the names on that list perfectly.
So when I have friends who've waited days to name their babies because they were waiting for the name to really feel right, I totally understand. Sometimes you won't know what to name your baby until they're in your arms, and even then it could take days. I say, take your time. It'll come to you.
How Will I Feed My Baby?
Luckily, one of the many people who came into our daughter's room in the NICU was a speech therapist who was checking on our daughter's ability to suck. During her checkup, she happened to make a recommendation for bottles, and Amazon Prime could deliver them our way by the time she was released from the hospital. Did I, even once, research the type of bottles to use? Nope. Sometimes a single recommendation is enough.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a plan when it comes to feeding your baby. For example, if you want to breastfeed, try and make arrangements so breastfeeding is as easily as possible, and if you want to formula feed make sure you have bottles and formula on hand. However, you never really know what could happen (including certain breastfeeding complications) so how you feed your baby isn't as important as your baby being fed. Again, you'll figure out what you have to do to help your baby grow.
Do I Want To Vaccinate My Baby?
I always assumed we would vaccinate any children we have, but my partner and I never had the conversation before my daughter. I panicked a little when I was asked over and over again if I wanted her to have one of her first vaccinations in the hospital. It seemed like such a consequential question that I just wasn't prepared to answer.
Turns out, I didn't have to answer it right then and there. Instead, she was vaccinated a few weeks later, and we were all happier for it.
Who Will My Baby's Pediatrician Be?
Another question I had no idea I'd be asked in the hospital. In fact, if you can't answer this question your baby can't leave the hospital, you guys.
However, you can Google a pediatrician while holding your sleeping newborn, give them a call to ask if they'll take your little one, and check that off the list. Of course, you can always switch pediatricians sooner or later and if you want or need to. Just know that we had lived in our new city for five weeks, didn't know a single person who could recommend a pediatrician, and 18 months later I'm still thanking Google for sending us to my daughter's pediatrician.
Who Can Babysit?
There were days I wish my partner and I had figured out who would be able to watch our newborn, way before my daughter came along. Honestly, we just didn't think about it before she arrived. I mean, we had no idea where she was going to sleep, so who would eventually watch her when we needed a night out was low on our priority list.
Turns out, finding a babysitter is both important and relatively easy, even considering that, pre-adoption, our babysitters had to be background checked. Still, no matter whether you answer that question before or after the fact, you're going to have to let go of enough control to walk out the door one day.
What Kind Of Diapers Do I Want To Use?
As it so happens, all those burning questions you agonize over in the months before your baby arrives can go out the window pretty quickly when they're actually in your arms. I always thought I'd use cloth diapers, but when our daughter came into our lives, that plan evaporated. "Easy" and "simple" was the name of my new-mom game, and disposable diapers were both.
So, yes, it pays to be prepared, but so much of parenthood is impossible to prepare for. If you don't have it all figured out, don't worry. Like I said, you will figure it out as you go. I promise.