Thinking back, what would say were your biggest fears about becoming a parent?
I distinctly remember being six months pregnant and panicking, thinking,
“I don’t think I’m ready to have kids!” My husband’s reply was very reassuring: “It’s a bit late now!”
I was terrified at the thought of giving birth, but I survived – and went on to do it all again! The moment they laid my baby in my arms, everything else dissolved, and I fell in love immediately. And I recognised that I was and would be the parent of this little bundle, this new life would be totally dependent on me. It was an exciting, anxious, awesome feeling.
If you could give just one piece of advice to a new mum, what would it be?
Accept all the help you can get, and don’t try to go it alone. I had a Caesarean section with my first baby, so I wasn’t back to full health for quite a few weeks. My sister was amazing; she was such a fantastic help at that time.
There’s a strong protective instinct in mothers. You believe that no-one else can look after the baby like yourself and you try to battle through on your own. But if you have people around you, do allow them to help, whether it’s your partner, parents, sisters, friends. Allow them to hold the baby and to be involved.
If your parents live nearby, do accept their help. Remember that they have done this parenting thing themselves! But don’t forget that there’s a difference between accepting or asking for help and expecting someone to help out. Don’t expect grandparents to babysit every time you want to go out. Remember to appreciate the people around you. You are the parent; it’s not their responsibility.
It’s so important for dad to get involved straight away as it can be easy for a man to feel left out and insignificant at this stage. Mums can make a point of encouraging them as they change nappies, bath and bottle feed the baby. These things might not come naturally to them, so aim to build up their confidence.
Be gentle with each other. Be patient. Recognise that parenting really is a full-time job.
How can a couple prepare themselves for the changes that having a baby brings?
Having children is a huge, long-term commitment. You enter a totally different lifestyle. Even now, with my kids both married and having children of their own, I’m still committed to being their mother. It’s not something you can switch off! You never stop being a parent. Often, people don’t think of this before they take the plunge of having children, but it’s important to consider.
Recognise that everything will change. You can’t just say, “I fancy going to the cinema” or “Let’s go out for a drink tonight.” It’s certainly easier to do these things when you have small babies, but more difficult when the baby becomes a toddler as they need to have an established pattern.
Having a child puts real pressure on a relationship, and you need to prepare for it as soon as you discover the pregnancy. Talk to each other about what you will do if the baby doesn’t sleep, how you will handle night feeds, how you will cope when the going gets tough. Somehow you have to get through those periods, sane and together!
To keep your relationship strong when two become three, I would say this: Be gentle with each other. Be patient. Recognise that parenting really is a full-time job, and work out between you how you can share the load.
Dianne’s quick tips for new parents:
- Remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect child.
- Don’t get caught up with designer baby gear and other competitive attitudes.
- Resist the huge competition of pressurising children from an early age to do things above their level of development – every child is different.
- Parent and Toddler groups can be invaluable, particularly to parents who stay at home.
- Get some rest when you can. If possible, sleep in the day when the child sleeps.
- Children need to know they’re loved.
- Children need to be listened to – get down to their level and really give them your attention. There’s a fine line between a talkative child ruling over adult conversation and the child’s real need to be heard – try to find that fine line.
- Choose your battles with toddlers. Don’t fight over everything, but win the battles that are important.
- Have fun with your kids, laugh with them – children remember having fun more than they remember having things. When they’re older, they look back and remember fun things you did together, not the expensive parties or toys they had.