What I'll Do Differently: Preparing for a Newborn

Having a baby is an incredibly steep learning curve. When Seb was born five years ago he was the first small baby that I had ever held. I had never changed a nappy, never dressed or fed or bathed a baby, I was well and truly thrown in at the deep end, what's more - I was single, and approaching these daunting tasks alone, bar the valuable help of family and friends.
 
Aside from the physical side of caring for a newborn, there's a huge emotional shift to be undertaken in becoming a parent; priorities, attitudes, everything changes in a single instant, and continues to evolve and change as that child grows.
 
What's interesting, for me, is how much that experience is either replicated, or altered, in the arrival of second and subsequent children. Do parents do the same again out of familiarity, or change everything up and approach the newborn days from an entirely different angle thanks to experience, knowledge, and personal growth?
 
For me, well, my outlook, towards life in general, has changed beyond recognition. My attitudes towards money and spending, sustainable living and the environment, consumer habits, diet and health, childbirth, parenting, relationships, and politics have all completely 180'd in five years.
 
The truth is that I was very close minded previously. and spent a lot of time around equally close minded people, and my reluctance to explore ideas was probably confounded by not wanting to embarrass myself.
 
My newborn experience is set to be entirely different this time, which fills me with excitement. I was perfectly happy after Seb was born, with almost every decision that I made regarding his care. There was nothing that I regretted monumentally, just small things that I fixed along the way, like a change in formula brand.
 
It's only now, as my relationship with the world is completely different, that the decisions that I made for Seb no longer fit with my values. I was 22 when Seb was born, I'm now 27; of all of the five year leaps in a person's life, early to later twenties is a time of enormous change for many, me included. I'm in an unbelievably solid and loving relationship now. I give a bit more of a shit about my impact on the environment, and I believe, very much, in myself - I'm empowered as a Mother, where previously I was somewhat terrified.
 
So here is a list of what I'll be doing differently, this time around.
 
Holding my baby more - I was entirely unaware of the concept of the "Fourth Trimester" when Seb was born, the idea that a baby, fresh from it's Mother's body, is largely ill-equipped to deal with the world, in terms of it's sensory experience, and that it (and it's Mother) benefit from a period of transition between being one, and being separate. I tended to only pick Seb up when he needed something as a baby, not because I was detached or unloving, but because that just seemed appropriate. My aim was to get him to sleep so that I could put him down. When we left home, he was in a pushchair, and he stayed in the pushchair unless he woke. I remember the reluctance I felt at finally purchasing a baby carrier just so that I could make a cup of tea when I perceived Seb as being "clingy" - and I refused to wear it outdoors at first, only get household chores done without him crying. The photos of Seb, taken and shared proudly ("here's my baby" "here's what my baby is wearing today" "I really love this baby" etc.) are all of Seb on something or in something, but I rarely feature in the photo - why wasn't I cuddling him? Why wasn't he allowed to be soothed by the familiar sound of my heartbeat? Why weren't we touching? I find it odd now. Why every time he wanted to feel me close to him did I feel restrained by him? It's really sad.
 
Ditching the pushchair - So we still haven't bought the pushchair. I couldn't be less bothered to be honest. We do know what pushchair we're buying, and we know where from, and we know how much it costs - so that all helps to alleviate any stress I might otherwise have about being unorganised, but I don't really want to put my baby in a pushchair in the first, earliest days, if I can help it. We might leave the flat, that would be nice (essential, actually as if we succeed in birthing at home we'll need to go to the hospital to see a paediatrician within 72 hours), but as we're talking about a baby of less than 10lbs, I'd like to think between Boyfriend and I, we'll be quite capable of carrying him/her - rather than laying them ceremoniously in a carry cot and pushing them around like a bag of rice in a Tesco trolley.
 
The sling thing - As I said, I was appalled by the idea of a baby carrier last time, it felt totally Earth Mother, and primitive, and I disliked it immensely - although when Seb got bigger it did come in handy for dog walking and I started to wear it out of the house! This time around, a soft, sling style carrier was one of the first things Boyfriend and I purchased, with much excitement, and we put way more consideration in to this than we did a pushchair. The plan is for the sling to be the every day mode of transport, and the pushchair to be there in special circumstances. This isn't just because I want Baby close, it's also significantly more practical on busy Summer public transport, baring in mind that I don't own a car.
 
Reusable nappies - When I was pregnant with Seb my Mum super generously bought me enough Pampers nappies to run an orphanage. This suited me down to the ground. I honestly, 100%, didn't realise that people still used cloth nappies. I assumed them entirely replaced by the dawn of the disposable. It wasn't until Seb was perhaps almost a year old, and I met my friend Charlie, who's had two boys in cloth nappies - that I even realised that it was a thing. This time, for the money saving factor alone boyfriend and I were keen to use reusable nappies, and that's before we'd considered the environmental factors... and the fact that they look nicer.
 
Gentle products - One of my most recounted anecdotes, concerning wet wipes, occurred a couple of years ago. I was putting on makeup in my bathroom when I spilt some of the contents of a pot of Barry M Dazzle Dust on the closed toilet lid. Anyone who uses that stuff will understand my plight. I used a Johnson's Baby Wipe, which at the time I found to be one of the more effective treatments for my adult acne, but which I'd also used on Seb since he was tiny, to clean the varnished wooden toilet lid and seat. What's alarming, is that the wipe removed the varnish from the wood, stripped it, back to the bare wood. Even then, before the chemical content of baby products was of that much interest to me, I wondered what on Earth it did to skin if that's what it did to varnished wood. Seb and I had never had a reaction to the wipes, but it was still a wake up call. Seb's baby bath products were exclusively Johnson's. Johnson's Baby Bath, Baby Shampoo, Talc, Baby Lotion etc. They're still the most used and widely recommended baby bath products, globally - and almost always feature in freebie packs like the ones you get from Bounty and Emma's Diary. I won't be using Johnson's products at all this time, not just because of the toilet incident, but because they contain all sorts of unfamiliar ingredients, and are tested on animals. I no longer use products that are tested on critters, be it makeup or washing up liquid, and where possible I buy vegan (not always) so that I can be sure products are truly cruelty free. I'll only be using natural, organic, vegan baby products on new Baby, not because I'm some sort of Waitrose Wanker but because I want to do what's best, not just for Baby, but for the planet too.
 
Breastfeeding - I've no idea why I didn't breastfeed Seb. I just didn't want to. That's it. From the minute I found out that I was pregnant I never once questioned how I would feed my baby when he/she was born, it would be formula from Day 1 and there was no way that baby was coming near my boobs, and that was that. Deep in my bones I was entirely against the idea. I suspect it was conditioning more than anything. My Mum didn't breastfeed me, and is very open about how distasteful she finds breastfeeding in general. There were (are) no babies in my family, and none of my friends had had children when I was pregnant. I'd simply grown up around people who found breastfeeding disgusting and so, as far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was disgusting. Thankfully, having Seb meant that I met a lot of other Mothers with babies. Many of them breastfed, and whilst I was still vaguely distanced from the idea, when I fell pregnant this time, I suddenly swung in the opposite direction. I don't feel comfortable giving my baby formula, I want to nurse them, I'm even looking forward to it. Funny how things change.   
 
I think those are the most significant differences in my ideas, values and desires this time around. I'd love to hear from people who've had similar switch ups in their approach to baby raising, maybe there's someone out there who swung in the opposite direction?
 
It's vital to say that I believe very strongly in parents supporting one another regardless of their decisions. Pushchairs, disposable nappies, Johnson's baby products, and formula feeding were all right for the Mother I was five years ago. I don't believe I'm a better Mother now on account of these changes, just a different Mother. If formula feeding, or Pamper's nappies, or an ICandy pram are your choices, then own them, I'm not suggesting that they're the wrong choices for you - they're just no longer the right choices for me.
 
 

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