Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you could go back in time to an earlier point in your life?
Maybe you would tell your 16 year old self that all the moping over your curfew/that band-member/having to go to summer school was a waste? Or perhaps you would tell 19 year old you not to stress out about picking a major and just enjoy the process of going to college and getting a degree! Or maybe you’d tell your 20-something self to stop wasting anymore time with a certain someone who you thought you couldn’t live without, even though they treated you poorly?
I think we all have those coulda-woulda-shoulda moments, right?
I was in a baby store the other day (picking up a new diaper bag to replace the one that is quite literally falling apart after 3 years and two littles’ worth of stuff) and I saw lots of first-time parents and parents-to-be looking at all the gear for their new arrivals. For once, I managed to stop myself from butting in and making suggestions.
But I did start thinking about what I’d tell my pre-baby self if I could go back in time:
I was always a bit superstitious about prepping a nursery for a baby’s arrival. Especially with adoption, there’s a good chance that you will come home from the hospital not with a wriggling baby but empty arms and a broken heart.
With the first little guy, I was reluctant to do anything by way of preparation that I might have to face should things not turn out the way we hoped.
Now though, I know why it’s actually a good idea to at least clean out that former “office” and make some space in the closet and bathroom: once the baby arrives, there’s just no time to do anything but look after them!
In hindsight, I could easily have arranged for a fresh coat of paint and a carpet clean before the first baby arrived.
If I’d been a bit wiser, I also would have looked for a really comfortable chair for all those late-night nursings. What we have is the rocking chair my mum had when I was born. It’s lovely and sentimental — but it’s murder on the back and creaks loud enough to wake a nearly-sleeping babe!
2) Plan to Look after Yourself
Make and freeze meals … a lot of them because you’ll be too tired to cook when you are sleeping in short stretches. Even toast can be a challenge. There are lots of fantastic recipes online for quick and easy freezer meals — click here or on the photo for some favourites from my amazing friend at The Chaos and the Clutter
I would also make a point to hoard take-out menus and look out for places that have decent ready-made meals to help you make it through those early weeks and months.
And word to the wise: buy new runners/ trainers/walking shoes … because you will be walking a lot and your feet will hurt!
Oh, and I’d also get a haircut or at least a trim because there will be no time for salon visits for a while.
3) Buy Basics and Keep Them On Hand
A case of diapers and wipes, a half dozen tubes of peniten plus about a dozen plain onesies and sleepers don’t take up much space and don’t go “off”. There’s nothing quite so scary for new parents as suddenly realizing you used the very last diaper at the last change and the store is closing in 5 minutes.
I could also have picked up a bassinet, change pad, and a monitor so I didn’t have to try and get to a store and buy them while also managing a baby! (See my post on best bets to buy for baby:)
I will freely admit that I am terrible at asking for help. The hubs calls it the “self” factor, as in “I have to do whatever-it-is myself“. But I learned the hard way that try as I might, I can’t actually do everything. It is not, as it turns out, humanly possible to look after a toddler and newborn plus two dogs, renovate one house while selling another and continue to work on a graduate degree … all without any help.
I know lots of new parents who don’t want to have anyone who isn’t a family member taking care of their babies. I understand that and if it’s a possibility for you, then that’s wonderful. Unfortunately, we just don’t have any family who are able to look after the boys, but we were lucky enough to find a great daycare with teachers who are dedicated and progressive. And we also lucked out with a couple of lovely part-time babysitters who allow the hubs and me to have a few evenings free here and there. Even so, we are always juggling, and have learned to keep looking for babysitters and maintain a Rolodex of people who’d be willing to help us out in a pinch.
I’ve also learned that it’s ok to have a bit of help with running errands and managing chores. Despite my initial reluctance, taking friends up on their offers to help walk the dogs, pick up groceries or even bring you food is actually a fantastic thing because it gives new parents a break, and allows for some grown-up interaction at the same time!
5) Don’t Worry So Much
When the first little guy was born, we had a false-positive test for a very scary, life-threatening condition. Even though the doctor assured us it was 99.9 % likely to be an error, we still worried (endlessly) for weeks.
Same for baby-proofing — with the first little guy we were terrified of all the potential dangers in the house. I went around checking blinds for errant cords, swapping out plugs for child-safe ones and barricading the whole kitchen so he couldn’t possibly come to harm. Then my doctor asked, “has he fallen off the bed yet?”. Not when, “yet”. She said pretty much every baby suddenly makes move to topple, usually at some point when the parents are least expecting it.
Try as we might, it’s just not possible to prevent every little fall. Yes, you do what you can to prevent accidents and injury, but worrying about every little thing doesn’t do you — or the kids — any good.
Case in point: when the older guy was learning to walk, we read a few articles advising us to let him practice on 2-3 stairs. Sure he fell a couple of times, but never so far as to hurt himself, and within a few weeks, he was quite proficient.
But I noticed recently that some of his small classmates still have a lot of trouble managing stairs because they’ve never been able to practice on them.
So it turns out loosening up and letting the boys explore (with boundaries) has actually been a good thing in the long run!
What would you tell your pre-baby self? I’d love to hear from you!