Our resident advice-giver-outer Jenny True provides shouty, full-hearted answers to your niggling questions about pregnancy and parenthood in her column Dear Jenny. Warning: This is not a baby-and-me singalong, this is about yelling into the cosmos and actually hearing something back, sometimes in the form of an all-caps swear. Jenny isn't an ~expert~, but she has a lot of experience being outraged on your behalf. To submit your questions to Jenny, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am pregnant with my first (yay! but:) Do you use pacifiers? Enquiring minds want to know. Also: where do I get baby clothes? I don't know any baby brands. Does it matter? Someone told me not to worry about having everything before baby comes, and that seems sensible, but I guess I wonder: what do I need? What I'm really asking here is I have no clue what I'm doing and if I was to let myself panic, it would sound like: what if my baby hates me? What if I'm not good at this? Is it a sign? In short, I'm pregnant, tell me everything.
Signed, New Around These Parts
Dear New Around These Parts,
Everyone who's had parents knows NO ONE IS GOOD AT THIS.
When you're pregnant with your first baby, everyone has advice. Mostly it's bad, because mostly it's an excuse for other people to tell you what they did. They're panicked because the glory days of their children being newborns has slipped through their fingers. One day (soon) you'll understand.
Some people, people who are "well-adjusted" and "happy," will tell you to relax. All you need to leave the hospital is a car seat! they will say. AS IF. Show me a first-time mom who relaxes for nine months and I will send you cash money in the mail. Yes, I spent many long, wonderful evenings curled up with my husband on the couch watching The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Better Call Saul, feeling my son kick me from the inside (now he kicks me from the outside! Parenthood!). But the rest of the time, I manically prepared to have my first child.
Spending the spare moments in between Doppler tests panicking is certainly one way to prepare. Here's how you do it.
1. DO NOT RELAX. Do not. Do you know how important this is? Your first baby? The one thing you don't think about and plan for is the one thing that's going to happen in the middle of the night when you're covered in vomit or poop or both. Don't have a wipe warmer? Or a white-noise app? How about a diffuser? Don't even know what that is? YOU ARE NOT SPENDING ENOUGH TIME ON THE INTERNET. GOOGLE BINCH GOOGLE.
2. Figure out what you're most anxious about — say, choking and SIDS — and research these things every day and make everyone who comes into your house practice the infant Heimlich maneuver on your stepdaughter's baby doll.
3. Take a prenatal yoga class with your partner. It will be expensive and the instructor, who has never been through childbirth but who has dated your husband, will tell you such lies as "this will ease the pain of childbirth" and "this will make you feel more connected to your baby," and she will give you hilarious advice such as "remember this move when you are in the middle of childbirth."
Also, here are a few tips for after the baby comes from my PARENTING WITH PANIC handbook:
1. Clean angrily. Remember: Every load of laundry and bag of diapers is the perfect opportunity to express your frustration nonverbally.
2. Walk around a museum with your baby in a front carrier, looking at all the art all these other people apparently had time to make. Then treat yourself to a split of Chardonnay in the café, staring vacantly at a Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen sculpture of a giant safety pin and think, Someone had time to come up with that and then time to make it.
3. Two and a half months after squeezing a seven-pound baby out of your vagina, teach a two-day creative writing class. Announce to your students that this is probably the last class you will ever teach because you're "over it." Pump in the bathroom adjacent to the classroom while your students do a writing exercise, keeping the door open so they can hear the machine and imagine milk squirting from your breasts into plastic bottles. Express surprise when two students ask for refunds.
If none of this works for you, you can use the following Jenny True cheat sheet for first-time moms:
Car seats. All car seats have to pass safety standards, so the only thing you need to research is how to install yours correctly. They really do expire, so if a friend wants to give you a used one, get the make and model number, make sure it hasn't been involved in any accidents, look up the expiration date, and check for recalls.
Newborns do four things:
Sleep. You're either going to have your baby in the room with you or in another room.
Poop and Pee. You're either going to do cloth diapers or disposable diapers.
Cry. Your baby cries because that's the only way she has to communicate, and she cries because she's tired, she's hungry, she's wet, or she just wants to be held. Holding and wearing your baby help you both in terms of physical, emotional, and social well-being. If her crying is stressing you out, set her down and walk away until you're calm, and take it out on my husband.
Then FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T FORGET ABOUT YOURSELF.
Please: Be the first woman in America to not go back to work/go back to the gym/take on freelance clients/do other people favors in the first few months, even the first year, of your baby's life. In fact, if anyone asks you for a favor in the first year, just say NO. Also FUCK YOU ARE YOU SERIOUS I JUST HAD A BABY.
NATP, stop trying to prepare for the longest-term commitment of your life. It's not possible. Sure, there are tips, and you will learn most of them after they are relevant to you. The fun is in learning, and failing, and succeeding, in the moment. Really, when you think about it, it's only a human life that is completely dependent on you from the time it's a grub to an adult. So why stress?
BUY INFANT TYLENOL BEFORE YOUR BABY GETS HER FIRST FEVER BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DEALING WITH THAT SHIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHEN EVERYTHING'S CLOSED AND YOU WILL BE DEALING WITH THAT SHIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. ALSO, USE MEALTRAIN, AND BUY THE BABY A SUNHAT. OTHER THAN THAT LOVE ON THAT PERFECT ANGEL LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, PRIORITIZE YOUR SELF-CARE, AND IF YOU'RE NOT FEELING WELL POSTPARTUM, GET HELP.
YOU GOT THIS.
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If you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, contact the Postpartum Health Alliance warmline at (888) 724-7240, or Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773. If you are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, get help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or dialing 911. For more resources, you can visit Postpartum Support International.