Six months into parenthood, I’ve come to realize nothing- and I mean no book, resource, or well-meaning family member- can prepare you for when a newborn screams relentlessly at 2 AM and she cannot fall back asleep. Or what to do when your baby has a major blowout while you’re in the mall. Or the countless challenges and situations that having a baby brings.
Luckily, we eventually learn to adapt and adjust- coming up with solutions on the fly becomes second nature. I mean I don’t even flinch anymore when a poopie diaper is the first thing I have to take care of in the morning, even before my coffee.
And I guess that’s one of the most important lessons a new parent can learn, that you will always figure it out. A lesson I wish I’d been told before we welcomed Raneem.
Here a few other lessons I’ve learned from these long nights and challenging days.
SIDS Guidelines Are Difficult To Follow
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a very, very terrifying thing and is bound to strike fear in any parent’s heart. I won’t deny that I’ve hovered over Raneem’s crib, staring intently at her chest rising and falling to make sure she’s breathing okay.
Fortunately, there’s been a wealth of resources available on prevention and best practices that have been proven to decrease the risk- practices that I scrutinized while pregnant, making sure I had them committed to memory for when the baby was born.
Within a few weeks of Raneem’s birth, though, I found myself breaking a couple of those “rules,” because ultimately sanity had to prevail.
The guidelines make it very clear that when putting baby to bed, you cannot have anything in the crib with her- no stuffed toys, no crib bumpers, not even a blanket.
But we had a winter baby and figuring out how to keep her in a sleeping bag in a sleep-deprived middle-of-the-night haze was harder than high school calculus. So a blanket was my only option- a well tucked blanket that started below her chest level, but still a blanket.
Another rule we broke was putting the baby to sleep in a firm, completely flat surface- that’s what the crib is there for after all.
Well, until the 9 week marker, Raneem hated her crib and would shriek wildly anytime she sensed she was even near the thing. In her opinion, sleep could only be achieved if someone held her or if she were in the rocker that transformed into a bassinet- both not safe sleep options.
Needless to say, Ahmad and I had many arguments on the subject and I was constantly irritated and worried we weren’t following the rules- but I just had no other choice until she finally started liking her crib again.
Baby Clothing Sizes Are Just As Random As the Adult Ones
Who would have thought that just as is the case with adult clothing, baby sizes vary from brand to brand and aren’t based on a some kind of rigid metric? Not this new mom!
While preparing for baby’s arrival, I took everyone’s advice and didn’t buy a lot of clothes in the newborn size. Raneem was projected to be on the larger side and would probably outgrow the outfits in a blink of an eye. Instead, I made sure she had plenty in the 0-3 months bracket, thinking she’d use those the most. I could have never imagined we’d struggle with her weight and that at eight weeks, she was still wearing the smallest size.
I also couldn’t have imagined that there was such a variation in babies’ pjs: Mamas and Papas and anything French runs small, Mothercare imagines newborns to be huge, and Carter’s is somewhere in the middle. This I largely figured out by trial and error, while snapping and unsnapping them on a fussy baby.
The same applies to other items of clothing, explaining why my 6 month old can still fit comfortably in dresses she was “supposed” to wear and outgrow two months ago.
You Will Always Need More Than You Thought
I really wanted to be minimalist and believe that babies don’t need a lot of things to grow and thrive. Then I realized that this approach, especially with clothes, meant I’d have to do laundry every day and I just don’t have the time or energy to go through that. Accidents and spit-ups happen too frequently and there have been days when Raneem has had no less than three outfit changes. I would have been a lot more frustrated if those happened while she didn’t have a closet full of options (all in random sizes of course!)
Like many parents-to-be, I read so many “baby must have lists” before purchasing any gear, often finding them to be contradictory. So at the end of the day, I based my selections on what we thought would actually make our lives easier and do things faster.
We also needed to consider that Raneem would be spending weekdays at my parents’ and we couldn’t lug equipment around: we ended up buying two sets of bottles, pacifiers, blankets, clothes, and so on.
I enjoy having a few unitaskers even though they may have been on the pricer side for what they actually do. We bought a bottle warmer and a sterlizer after boiling the bottles in a pan over the stove proved to take too much time, especially with a hungry baby waiting.
On the other hand, I thought that investing in a steamer/blender contraption to make baby food was useless because I already own a barely used food processer and hand blender.
And let’s not forget how quickly babies outgrow things. I held off on buying a high chair and feeding supplies for as long as I could, but eventually she started solids and these items became more essential than expected.
A Good Relationship With Your Pediatrician Makes A World of Difference
I really wanted to like Raneem’s first pediatrician: she was recommended by coworkers, had been at the institution for some time, and visits were covered under our insurance plan.
But how could I like someone who didn’t seem at all invested in my child: failing to recognize that Raneem was not getting enough food and thus not sleeping and hadn’t regained her birth weight even by one month. She didn’t even read my messages when I was concerned something was wrong and didn’t bother to remember us even though we came to her clinic three weeks in a row.
I’d always imagined the pediatrician to be the ultimate resource on my daughter’s well-being: someone I could come to with any question or concern I had, no matter how stupid, for guidance and even validation that I was doing what was best for her. This was not the case here and I found myself frantically resorting to the internet with all its conflicting opinions and horrible mommy groups to figure out what was going on. No one should have to go through that, and especially frustrated new mothers!
By Raneem’s third month, and after too much anxiety, we decided to get a second opinion and we haven’t looked back. Her current doctor is kind, welcoming, non-judgmental and exactly the resource I’d imagined myself having. Most of all, we don’t have to constantly introduce ourselves to her and the whole family now looks forward to the check-ups.
Breastfeeding is Really, REALLY Hard and Formula is not Evil
This has been my biggest realization of motherhood so far that I’ll be writing a whole post about it. But let me just say that if I’d known this much earlier on, my mental health and mom guilt would have been significantly reduced to the point where I would have actually enjoyed the newborn phase.