What I Wish I Could Tell My New Parent Self

Julie Pippert
August 12, 2010

When I first became a parent, it was after years of trying to get pregnant and many medical procedures that cost a lot of money (although luckily we lived in Massachusetts so...insurance). Instead of focusing on becoming parents, we focused on becoming pregnant, and I know all of you understand the difference there.

We didn't even buy anything until halfway through the second trimester because my doctor spent the first eight weeks telling me not to get too attached to my pregnancy (see? my pregnancy, not the baby) because I'd likely miscarry. In fact, I never got the happy news delivery of "Congratulations! You're pregnant!" Instead I got, "Well, you tested positive for hCG...but it's likely left over from the trigger, although that would be highly unusual at this point, or it's leftover from a brief pregnancy that you've lost or are losing." 

Everything turned out fine, in the end, but there was a fair amount of worry. For nine full months. Every time I said anything, I felt this compulsion to throw salt over my shoulder or cross myself. 

By the time our baby arrived, I think our first thought was, "Oh, wow, this is REAL, a REAL baby." We focused so hard on staying pregnant, we were sort of kind of totally unprepared for a real little tiny human. 

As we left the hospital, my husband and I kept looking at each other and giggling, saying, "It's so weird, we're leaving with a baby...the hospital is just letting us leave with this little teeny tiny baby girl." 

The nurse who accompanied us said, "Because she's yours...your real live teeny tiny baby girl. You're her parents." 

And then it hit us...we were no longer who we once were. We were parents. Mom. Dad.

All of you know how that first year is. The fourth trimester. The sleepless nights. My husband and I threw ourselves into parenting with the same verve we had used to get pregnant and stay pregnant. 

Now, with nearly nine years of parenting two kids under my belt, I found myself in the position of advising a pregnant friend. I wondered: what advice would I have given myself? Back when I first became a parent. A million thoughts flooded my mind, but the loudest was:

Trust everything you're doing, even the reading of books, even the worrying, even the crying, even the indulging, even the bragging, even the loud moments, even the quiet moments, even the agreeing with your husband, even the disagreeing with your husband, even the playgroups, even the staying with the pediatrician you don't like, even the changing to a new one you love -- do not doubt, do not regret. It's a process and it's necessary to your development as a good parent.

Many people told me to stop doing things the way I was, others told me how I ought to do things. Whenever I think of advice, it tends to be focused in a critical way, such as "make a change." I like reassuring advice, advice that understands I can make it, but need to go through my own process.

We all know that parenting can be one of the hardest processes, though. So I asked my friends: "If you could make one call to yourself as a new parent, what advice would you give yourself?" (You can follow on Twitter at #hindsightadvice.) 

I heard back from many, spectacular points:

(This is AWESOME advice...you should follow these folks on Twitter.)

@elocin17 get ear plugs. Not noise cancelling quality - just dampening. 

@MissSueBurbia He really will eat. Stop worrying about. And don't buy the breast pump. He'll never take a bottle. Stop trying 

@Meghan1018 "RELAX. Some things you'll get right & some things you'll totally screw up, but all in all you'll be fine" #hindsightadvice 

@Mommysjoy I would say not to panic so much in the 1st wk home. Also, trust my instincts. They're there, just listen. #hindsightadvice 

@treerootandtwig "The worst is yet to come." Ha, just kidding. Think I'd say that time passes, so savor the good times & soldier thru the bad.

@prCarrS That sleep would come again. But it would be a couple of years. 

@plainlysarah don't sweat the small stuff. none of it matters. 

I also asked on Facebook and got a great conversation:

Heather Cochran: it gets better.

Jennifer Storkamp Fortwengler: I promise you that you WILL be able to sleep through the night again some day. 

Lynne Lupien: ‎"You were right not to do any spawning." :D

Cj Farley: the first thought that crossed my mind was 'buy google'. then i started laughing...

Kim Sheram: ‎"You suck!" Just kidding, how about "trust your instincts" and "mama guilt is for suckers".

Mary Spaulding Meacham: ‎...chill...

Kate Woodman: I like CJ's...But, I'd just talk about how being a new parent is hard, that your entire life has been turned upside down, but you will find a new equilibrium (which does, indeed, include being able to sleep again!). One phone call can include a lot of stuff, y'know...So I guess I'd add "buy Google and buy Apple" too!

Ed Truitt: It's. Too. Late.

Ashley O'Neill: Trust your instincts. You will be much better at this than you think you will be.

What would you tell yourself? 

 

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