Pixabay

My Midwife Gave Me The Best Advice For Parenting A Newborn

Ad failed to load

I was one of those ladies who had really always wanted to be a mom, and yet when it came time to really do it, I found myself suddenly terrified. It turns out that desperately wanting to be a parent does not actually automatically make you believe in your own ability to parent. I'd babysat when I was younger, sure, but those were older babies or even young children, and I had no idea how to take care of a newborn. Newborns, as far as I was concerned, were the scary unknown. They were beautiful and mysterious, and also completely helpless, and as my terrible pregnancy wore on, I became more and more positive that I wasn’t up to the task of taking care of one. When I admitted at one of my regularly scheduled prenatal appointments that I was having these kinds of worries, that’s when my midwife, an incredibly no-nonsense woman whom I’ve since developed something of a friendship with, stepped in to give maybe the best piece of advice I’ve ever received for parenting a newborn.

“Newborns are pretty easy,” she said, giving me that serious look that always reassured me that she knew what the hell she was talking about, “the thing about babies is that they increase the difficulty level gradually.” I don’t play many video games, but being a millennial of a certain level of nerdiness, I understand video-game analogies pretty well. I don’t know if that’s exactly what she was trying to say, but that’s definitely how I took it. I grew up playing Super Mario Brothers and Sonic The Hedgehog so I can appreciate that there’s a reason the first couple of levels are always easier and simpler, and then once you get a handle on the controls, the later levels become more and more challenging. It turns out parenting is just like that. Well, it’s less pixelated, but you get the idea.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
Ad failed to load

My midwife sort of shrugged at me, adding, “with newborns, they don’t have complex emotional needs, [so] you’re pretty much dealing with putting in food, and removing poop and pee, and like, keeping them warm and dry. Once you get used to that, your kid will start needing more different things.”

When my kid was born, he was beautiful and amazing, but he was always everything that I feared: a helpless blob of needs with no ability to communicate effectively.

I won’t lie to you and pretend that any of that calmed me down at the time. At the time, I was eight months pregnant, and becoming increasingly nervous with each uncomfortable day. But today, on the other side of a year of parenting, I can honestly say that she was totally right. And I’ve reminded myself of that little tidbit of wisdom more times than I can count. Even though it didn’t do much to give me any ease at the time, it at least made some of the weird turns parenting can take feel a little more expected for me.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

When my kid was born, he was beautiful and amazing, but he was always everything that I feared: a helpless blob of needs with no ability to communicate effectively. My wife and I definitely felt like we were in over our heads. We spent the first three days of his life in a hospital room while I recovered from my c-section and we both got a crash course in sleep deprivation, diaper changing, and breastfeeding (I did the breastfeeding, my wife supported me). But then, much to my surprise, we did find our sea legs, and many parenting tasks that felt awkward at first became commonplace and ordinary in our lives. I was weirdly afraid that I would be “no good” at changing diapers, even if that made no sense at all. But when you have a newborn, you change so many diapers every single day that before you know it, you can (and often times do) change even the grossest of diapers while half asleep.

As though that was the cue he was waiting for, our child abruptly let us know that the rules were changing. Suddenly, he required not only regular diaper changes, breastfeeding sessions, and snuggles, but also a new level of mental and emotional engagement.
Ad failed to load

I had some medical complications after giving birth that made those early weeks a little harder than they might have otherwise been, but before long we’d at least settled into a pattern. My partner and I were looking at each other going “wow, Stacia was right, newborns really are sort of simple!” And, as though that was the cue he was waiting for, our child abruptly let us know that the rules were changing. Suddenly, he required not only regular diaper changes, breastfeeding sessions, and snuggles, but also a new level of mental and emotional engagement. I had to learn how to play with him, and during that same phase he also wouldn’t nap unless I sang to him softly. So when he was alert, I dangled toys for him to swipe at, bicycled his legs while he giggled and cooed, and blew endless raspberries. When he was sleepy, I sang the same three songs over and over again until his tiny eyes finally closed.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover

The peace of mastering a new developmental stage never seemed to last long, but I comforted myself with the idea that we were “leveling up” at this whole parenting thing. It happened like clockwork: I’d begin to feel comfortable and at ease, start to establish a routine, and then it would feel like a wrench thrown suddenly into the gears of my life. I went through it with the 4-month-old sleep regression, and then again when he suddenly stopped co-sleeping, as well as when he learned how to crawl. His needs and abilities would change suddenly because of all the rapid development going on inside his brain and body, and I’d think, “what fresh hell is this?!” then I'd take a deep breath and go back to the words of our wise midwife.

Ad failed to load

Caring for babies, it turns out, becomes more complex and difficult gradually. And that can feel totally unfair, like every time you start to figure things out the universe snatches that good feeling away from you. But the fact that babies get harder to care for gradually is also a blessing. It would've been so much harder for me to learn everything at once. Instead, I got to master new parenting skills over time, just as my child is mastering new skills over time.

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
I’d think, “what fresh hell is this?!” then I'd take a deep breath and go back to the words of our wise midwife.
Ad failed to load

The first year of a kid’s life (and a parent’s life) is a whirlwind of changes and growth. He weighs over three times what he weighed at birth now, he’s just started to walk, and he’s pretty much learning a new word every day. With all of those changes comes rapidly changing emotional needs. Whereas once a few rattles were plenty of entertainment, now he wants me to read him books. He gets bored of hanging out in our living room, and it's my job to switch things up. Of course I’m overwhelmed many days, but I don’t know a single mom of a 1 year old who isn’t.

But as we — my wife, my kid, and I — bravely enter the toddler years together, as everything changes for the 5,000 time, I circle back to those words: “The thing about babies is that they increase the difficulty level gradually,”and I remind myself that even though it’s really freaking hard, this is the truth that is getting us through it.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

13 Unique (& Totally Not Mainstream) Mother's Day Gifts For The Hipster Mom

Hipsters thrive on being outside the norm and not really digging anything considered "mainstream." Whether it's in their fashion, what music they listen to, the books they read, or how they enjoy beverages, there's just something that makes them dist…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}