Having a child is no easy thing. It starts with the pregnancy, then there’s the birth, and then there’s looking after a newborn through to raising a toddler. I know that I looked at pregnancy with ever so slightly rose tinted lenses, and thought the same about childbirth, just as I did about looking after a newborn. My expectations were completely different to the reality. The reality was almost like a bomb had dropped into my life, and completely rocked my world. I’m pretty sure that many parents feel the same too. So, here’s a look at some of the expectations versus the realities of parenting.
The expectation and hope is that you will sail through pregnancy with a hint of morning sickness and tiredness, which would be wonderful if it was this way for everyone. In reality everyone and every pregnancy is different, you may have morning sickness every day, or you be unfortunate to suffer from HG. You may feel more tired than you expected to be, and you may not get that pregnancy glow that everyone refers to during the second trimester. However the best thing to do is to take each day at a time.
If you’re incredibly lucky you might have a water birth or have your child in a birth centre. I still think that these places are a myth, and if people actually get to use them. I’m not bitter about my induction or c-section, however the reality of child birth is to go with the flow. Make sure that you and your partner are clued up about the process, drugs and choices. You may not have that dream water birth, but you will have the experience that is safest for you and your baby.
This will completely depend on your birth. My expectation was that I would be in and out of hospital in one day. Wrong. I was in for 3 days after the birth of my daughter. This can be a good thing. First of all you’re looked after, food is brought to your bed (it may not be the best though), you’re taught how to breastfeed, and your baby will sleep (I think that might be to do with the temperature of hospitals). So, I really wouldn’t worry too much if you’re kept in for a few days after the birth.
First few days with a newborn
I was in ignorant bliss that the first few days with a newborn would be fine. We would come from hospital and everything would be good. The little one would sleep in the moses basket into the living room and wake only for feeds. In reality it was like I had been hit by a steam engine with no warning. My husband and I were totally shell shocked, had no idea what to do, and had to scramble our lives together around a newborn baby who wouldn’t sleep and wouldn’t feed. Be prepared for this and make sure that you have loads of meals in the freezer for the next two weeks, plus all the help and support you can get. And, also make sure that there’s someone to make you a cup of tea.
The NCT breastfeeding course makes it looks so easy that you can feed your child as soon as they’re born. For some women I’m sure that this is the case. But for many it’s hard work. Not just for you, but for your baby as well. How do they know what to do? Take all the advice you can get, and try not to worry too much if feeding doesn’t get off to the best of starts. My advice is that breastfeeding is not the be all and end all, although it is the best for your child. If you need to do the odd formula top-up, this is fine. If you need to formula feed that’s fine too. A fed baby is better than a hungry baby, and a happy Mummy is better than an unhappy and frustrated Mummy.
The best advice I was given when it came to sleep was that babies do not come with any predefined routine. Imagine them as an unprogrammed computer than needs to be programmed. This applies to sleep and generally anything. Babies do not know when to sleep and how long to sleep for, and they need a gentle form of sleep training. It’s best not to have high expectations that your baby will sleep through, or to compare your child’s sleeping habits with others.
All babies are different. In reality some may sleep through from the get go, some may go through a terrible sleep regression at 4-months, or some may not sleep at all. I think that this is the hardest expectation versus reality as our expectations are set so high when it comes to sleep, and we just need to lower them.
Baby Led Weaning
The Anna Karmel cookbooks were purchased, and I swotted up on baby-led weaning. I had every ambition to go down this route. In reality I was so desperate to stop breastfeeding every hour that I quickly resorted to spoon feeding, and blending fruits and vegetables to make every single puree under the sun. I think I might still have some pureed parsnip in the depths of the freezer. Don’t feel bad that you don’t stick to baby-led weaning, or turned to purees and Ella’s Kitchen, as long as your baby is getting a balanced diet and a variety of foods and different textures.
Lastly milestones. The red book, health workers and nursery staff are all concerned when your baby is not reaching a milestone by a certain age. We had no end of problems when my daughter didn’t walk at 12-months old. She then took a further six months to walk, and she’s absolutely fine now at two years old. Babies and children all develop at different times, but if you’re concerned then it’s best to get them checked out.
Have you ever had expectations about something your child should be doing, and the reality is totally different?