What a wild ride this adventure called parenthood is. For most parents, it's the biggest, hardest, most intense job they've ever had... and there's not even an instruction manual!
As your trusted supporters and guides through all things pregnancy, birth, and parenting we'll never tell you how to do your job, or which path you should choose. But we have learned a thing or two along the way we'd love to share with all the expectant and new parents we cross paths with every day.
You don't have to "cherish every minute"
There are so many sweet moments that just melt your heart. But that's just not real life 100% of the time, and it's 100% ok to not cherish the really hard times. Like weeks (or months) of fragmented sleep, and cranky evening hours, and just never having a moment truly to yourself to take care of your own needs. IT'S OK. It's normal. It doesn't make you a bad parent.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps" is usually pretty impractical advice.
Everyone's heard it. And the people who say it to new parents usually mean well. But unless they are offering to come over and take care of your baby (and your dishes and laundry and packing lunches for the older kids' school...) it's not super helpful. Rest is important, however. So we do encourage you to find a way to make it happen. Maybe you have a friend or family member who can come over for a few hours a day to give you a break. Or if you don't have (or don't want) family and friends to come over, consider bringing in a postpartum & infant care doula. We can take care of your little one (and older siblings too) while you take some time for yourself. We'll even take care of the dishes and laundry and set you up with a nice snack before we go :)
There are many "right" ways to be a great parent.
Attachment Parenting, Scheduled Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting... oh my. So many labels and rules! If there's one thing we know for sure, both as parents ourselves and as postpartum & infant care doulas who have supported A LOT of families, there are many right ways to be a great parent. It looks different for everyone, and it's normal to have to adjust your style based on your own child's personality and needs and your family's lifestyle.
Try not to get caught up in the "mommy wars" online. It's OK to do what works for you and your family even if it's not what your friend/neighbor/cousin/random person in a Facebook group is doing. There's something about pregnancy, birth, and parenting that seems to invite all sorts of unsolicited (often pretty judgmental) advice from friends, family, and even perfect strangers. Learn to put up a pretty strong filter and practice feeling good about using it.
Sometimes your baby's sleep gets worse before it gets better
I personally wish someone would have told me this when I had my first! I thought I hit the jackpot. My eight-week-old baby was sleeping 8+ hours in a row overnight! And then he hit four months and the wheels fell off. Oy. No one told me about "sleep regressions!" Not everyone goes through this, but for most babies, there are some setbacks along the path towards independent sleep. Babies aren't born knowing how to sleep on their own, and waking frequently at night is normal well beyond the newborn stage. There are a million ways to help your baby learn to sleep independently, and experts that can help you find the right approach for your family.
And an extra note on baby sleep: Be selective if/when you choose to hire someone to help teach your baby to sleep. "Sleep consulting" and "sleep coaching" is a fast-growing industry and not all coaches or sleep trainers have the same credentials. If you're local to Asheville, we recommend Dr. Meggan Hartman. And no matter where you are in the world, you can work with the experts at Baby Sleep Science through skype or phone consults. If you'd like some hands-on support as you help your baby sleep independently, our postpartum & infant care doulas are here to help. We can care for your baby overnight to implement whatever strategies you've decided are best for your family.
Naps can be even harder than nighttime sleep
This was another rude awakening for me as a parent. I thought I was prepared for sleepless nights (well, I aware there would be not-so-good sleep in my future, but is there really any way to prepare for the sleep deprivation many new parents face?!) I had no idea that my baby's naps could be so hard! Pop into any parenting group online and you're bound to see things like "my baby won't sleep longer than 40 minutes" or "my baby won't nap unless I'm holding him". It's hard but very normal. As postpartum & infant care doulas we've learned some tricks to help make naps easier, and we can also help our clients understand why this is happening. But yeah. It's not fun.
It's ok to ask for help
It really does take a village. The trick is finding your village, and curating carefully as you find your groove and settle into your own particular style of parenting. Your village may be a real life community of people you are close to who help you along the way, or it may be friendships forged online. It may also come in the form of hired help, so you can delegate the things you don't care to spend your time on (like housekeeping, meal prep, shopping) or have an extra set of skilled, experienced, nurturing hands and a compassionate listening ear with you as you find your way as a new parent. When people ask us about what we do as postpartum doulas, we often hear "oh, so hiring you is like having my mom/sister/aunt/best friend... only with really good information and none of the judgment?!" Yup, pretty much :)