We’ve officially been parents for over four months! It’s hard to believe. We’re far from experts, obviously, but as I reflect back on the last four months, I thought I would share a few things that Mike and I did that helped a lot in the transition.
Communicating our expectations
I shared much more about this in this blog post, but the general idea is to just verbalize what the plan was for the day and night before it happened. Let me tell you, having previously discussed a plan for the night meant no arguments at 2am over who had to get up with the baby (and no bitterness to work through later).
Encouraging one another
One of the most helpful things for us was regularly encouraging one another and pointing out how well the other was doing as a parent, which we still do! The first few weeks were tough – we were exhausted, overwhelmed at times, and working through figuring out how to care for our baby best. From very early on, I made it a point to tell Mike that he was doing a great job as a dad. Whether it was when he brought Liam to me at 3am after spending the last couple hours with him, seeing him love on our son, or even changing diapers, I tried to verbalize and encourage him whenever the thought popped into my mind. The transition from living your life mostly for yourself to *snapping your fingers* spending every waking moment caring for a tiny baby is a big one. I didn’t know how either of us would cope with it, but I can say that hearing encouraging words from the guy that was “in the trenches” with me during it was hugely impactful.
Being on the same page
From sleep to food to everything in between, it helps immensely, and I mean immensely, to be on the same page as one another. We don’t always agree and often have different approaches to things, but we ultimately come to an agreement on the plan or decision and move forward together. This clears up any questions, confusion, and potentially teaching Liam two different things. We had the benefit of practicing this in our marriage for the last three years, so it wasn’t really new territory for us, but it’s been so helpful to remember that we’re on the same team and working towards the same goals.
Letting the little things go
I can’t remember where I heard/read this, but it stuck with me. I came across this thought a month or so before Liam was born and have carried it with me through these first four months. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the concept was to not criticize or constantly correct how your husband cares for your baby (or whichever partner is less experienced). He may do things differently than you do, but that doesn’t mean that he’s doing them wrong. Allow him the space to take ownership of how he chooses to care for the baby – for his sake, and yours.
I had a lot of experience with babies prior to having Liam. I was very involved with my sister’s three kids from the newborn days. From changing diapers, to burping after a feeding, to comfortable positions for holding a baby, I had enough experience to feel confident in my abilities to cover the basics with Liam’s care. Mike had virtually no experience with babies. In fact, I’m pretty sure Liam’s first wet diaper in the hospital was the first time he’s ever changed a baby. He has had to learn virtually everything about caring for an infant. There were a lot of things I had to show and teach him in the beginning, which I was happy to do. Once he learned, though, I had to allow him to do it his own way. While I may feed Liam his bottle in what I think is the best position, Mike can also do it in what he thinks is the best position. One way isn’t the wrong way. There’s more than one way to do pretty much everything with a baby, so finding your preference (and what works for baby) is part of the learning curve! I had to let go of what I thought was the “right” or “best” way to do things (aka how I do it) and not spend time correcting Mike on things that just didn’t matter or make a difference.
It has always been my desire for Mike to feel 100% competent and confident as a dad. I want him to feel capable of caring for our son, no matter the circumstances. At four months in, I think he feels that! Certainly, time and experience is the largest factor in that. But I also think giving him the space to learn and figure out what works well for him and Liam was a positive contribution. They’ve got their own little thing going on, just like Liam and I have our own way of doing things.
Remembering to laugh
This one wasn’t too hard, since Mike makes me laugh every day, but it was so important. I often had to remind myself that the hard days of newborn life would pass and we would, in fact, survive the sleep deprivation. Keeping things in perspective, as much and as often as possible, allowed me to truly enjoy most of the fourth trimester (the first three months of Liam’s life). Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times I would cry in frustration or exhaustion, needing to take a step away and gather myself. However, on the good days, we were able to laugh at how crazy life seemed with a newborn. It was such a good release to just laugh and enjoy some levity.