Having a Baby: The Day Your Life Changes Forever
By Simon Gornick
Life is full of surprises, some good, some not so good, but believe it or not there are also a few cast-iron guarantees too.
Like this one.
The day your first baby comes into the world is the first day of a totally different life. There will be denial and disbelief, but you can’t buck a sure thing. Your life will never be the same. And that’s a promise.
In fact, within weeks you’ll start looking back at your old “pre-baby life” and hardly remember it in the haze. Perhaps you enjoyed an occasional night out at the movies or dining at the hottest restaurants. Well, that was then. Or you and your buddies would gather around the flat-screen to watch football games and eat nachos. Rain check on the nachos. There’s a baby in the game now – they need you, all the time.
Of course, most of the adventures of every new mother and father can be filed under the ‘fantastic’, even if some of them are a little, well, messy. The voyage of parental discovery is almost always exhausting but most of the time new parents successfully climb the steep learning curve with a smile, even if they can hardly keep their eyes open. Each new triumph is an opportunity to laugh, share and fistbump. Each mishap is just a minor stumble on the road to success. (Yes, there are times when burping your baby can seem almost as complicated as brain surgery). And every step along the way you’ll have questions about what to do. In fact, knowing the right questions to ask and getting the right answers play a huge role in successful parenting.
It’s inevitable though, that some situations will lead to out and out, but usually needless, panic. “Did I get it right?” is a frequent question that echoes in the minds of most new parents, often followed by a worried, “Suppose I didn’t…” In other words, anxiety is never far away when you’re learning how to care for a new baby. Those doubts and anxieties can be made worse by consulting the unfiltered internet for advice, which can create more confusion and concern.
The Before and After Baby moment can also impact your relationship with your partner. To put it bluntly, you’re no longer alone. And that bundle of joy that’s just a few days old absolutely will not take “no” for an answer. In fact, it doesn’t even understand the word “no”. Negotiation with a newborn is not an option. The idea that you and your partner might get a little privacy becomes a pipedream, and even if you’re lucky enough to get some, you’ll probably only have just enough strength to flick the “on” button on your remote. Your time is essentially no longer your own. In every part of your life, having a baby means true sacrifice. And sacrifices can be a struggle that’s hard to manage especially within a couple.
For men, those sacrifices can mean strains on relationships, misunderstandings, even alienation from long time social groups. It can mean internal conflict too, as you battle to maintain your former life despite the inevitability of your new reality. And when your partner is making new demands on your time, it can cause arguments where before there was mostly harmony. In other words, guys don’t get off easy, and have to work hard to adjust, to accept, to be supportive, and to simply understand.
In most new families, the lion’s share of the pressure falls on the new mother. And babies don’t come with instruction manuals (imagine what a brick that would be!). You’re expected to know what to do from day one. And if that pressure isn’t enough, you want to get it right while you’re sleep-deprived! If you live in a big city like New York, suddenly even getting around isn’t so easy. What to buy? Where to buy it? There’s so much to know and the do’s and don’ts never seem to stop. If your support network isn’t deep you can quickly start feeling alone and disconnected, even from your baby. Small problems can balloon into dramas, and tempers can grow very short.
Maternity leave is often a luxury, so if both parents work, how are you going to cope? If one or both parents work from home, the baby comes first, the sheer exhaustion comes second, and your work can suffer. How do you afford childcare? Can you still work a full day? Can you trust the caretaker?
The list of questions and concerns about your “new life” can be endless, and having someone to turn to for answers and advice can be priceless. If they are available, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters can be vital components in any support network. Reliable, trained Parent Volunteers from Guiding Parents can also help. We carefully match new parents with the right Parent Volunteers so they can connect with intelligent, impartial, meaningful advice just as your “new life” begins.