When baby ar­rives - how do you cope?

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - BACKYARD BANTER -

The ar­rival of a new bun­dle of joy is in equal parts the most joy­ful mo­ment of a new par­ent’s life, and paralysingly pet­ri­fy­ing. When this small hu­man is curled up nice and cosy in the womb, im­mi­nent par­ent­hood doesn’t feel real. As soon as it kicks and screams its way earth­side, ev­ery­thing changes.

Par­ent­hood is one of the hard­est roles any­one can take on, if not the hard­est. It’s also the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence that al­most­par­ents claim will never change them (‘‘Our baby isn’t go­ing to change our lives at all; he’ll slot per­fectly into our rou­tine’’) but who go into hi­ber­na­tion as soon as they re­alise that leav­ing the house is just too hard.

So what rev­e­la­tions do new par­ents ex­pe­ri­ence al­most im­me­di­ately? Num­ber one: com­mu­nity is ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery par­ent, whether they have a part­ner or they’re do­ing it on their own, needs peo­ple around them. Many New Zealan­ders are for­tu­nate to have fam­ily nearby, but many oth­ers have come from over­seas and left their ex­tended fam­i­lies be­hind.

Par­ent­hood might be ex­cit­ing, but it can also be very lonely. For new par­ents who don’t have peo­ple around to make them din­ner some­times, fold up the wash­ing when they visit or cra­dle their cry­ing baby so they can have their first shower in a week, con­nect­ing with peo­ple in their com­mu­nity is even more im­por­tant.

Neigh­bourly is a great way to meet like-minded peo­ple who live just over the fence. Use the plat­form to set up a pram­push­ers’ walk­ing club or weekly cof­fee group, or head along to a com­mu­nity event that’s ad­ver­tised in your area, like Mainly Mu­sic.

An­other rev­e­la­tion is that par­ents need to be­come very in­ten­tional about alone time – and to­gether time with their sig­nif­i­cant other. Es­pe­cially in the case of breast­feed­ing mums, get­ting some time to your­self can be as scarce as hen’s teeth early on. Sched­ule dates not only with each other but also with your­self.

Not only will this give you an op­por­tu­nity to clear your head, you can also hand re­spon­si­bil­ity over to the other par­ent, which will in turn give them more con­fi­dence in look­ing after bub.

Fit­ness is im­por­tant too, less for get­ting your ‘‘pre-baby bod’’ back and more for men­tal clar­ity. Plenty of stud­ies show that reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, even just ca­sual walks along the beach, do won­ders for feel­ings of pos­i­tiv­ity and well­be­ing. If you’re walk­ing out­side with bubba, make sure they’re wrapped up nice and warm.

Fi­nally, one­sies and jump­suits with domes and but­tons are ab­so­lutely use­less when you’re try­ing to quickly change a nappy (par­tic­u­larly when there’s poop in­volved), and swad­dling a wrig­gly baby re­quires aMaster’s de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing.

Ev­ery par­ent’s jour­ney is dif­fer­ent. There’s no in­struc­tion man­ual ei­ther, oth­er­wise we’d all be do­ing it – and we’d all be churn­ing out car­bon copies of each other’s kids.

One thing is cer­tain though: par­ent­hood is very re­ward­ing. And if you’re a new par­ent who’s won­der­ing how on earth you’re go­ing to get through the next 18 years, chin up, be­cause you’re do­ing an in­cred­i­ble job.

123RF

Par­ent­hood can be ex­cit­ing, but it can also be lonely.

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