I think I should start with little introduction about my family. I’m married to Andrew, the best husband and father anyone could ask for. We live in Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand and have two Birman cats, a Jack Russell, a Border Collie, three horses and several sheep! Our journey as parents officially began on 7 March 2012, 11.07pm with the arrival of our one and only child, William. We had a textbook pregnancy/birth – not for things going to plan but rather the opposite. I won’t bore you with these details just yet, since we’ve only just met. In a nutshell, we got over our rocky start and now we’re all fit as a fiddle.
It’s hard to believe our first year of parenthood has raced by already. It seems like only the other day when my husband Andrew and I were staring at our tiny son on the day we brought him home wondering what to do next. Is he hungry? Is he warm enough? Is it the house too loud, too quiet? Does he need to burp? When did we last change him? Should we be writing all of this down to remember?! People said we’d work it out, and we sure did.
These little people are pretty good at communicating – in fact they arrive with the knowledge that a little howl can get them milk, clean clothes or tucked up in bed for a sleep. In the early days, it can be a bit of trial and error. Now that William is older, the communication style is different and easier to identify. He can say ‘yum yum’ for more food and can spot food a mile off, pointing at it eagerly with his gorgeous little fingers. We know when he needs changing because we can either smell him (too much information but you could see where that was going), or we can visibly see his clothes smeared in marmite, banana, mud or sand. Bed time is also pretty easy to identify – the universal sign of rubbing eyes, sucking fingers, yawning or the easy to miss sign of over tiredness when he just runs around the room!
Now I’m no expect of this parenting stuff but I reckon we’ve got a few things right – as A: my son is a happy, healthy boy and B: Andrew and I survived the first year with everyone in tact! Here are some words of advice that have helped us to survive the first year…
- Do what you can, when you can – Those that know me, would agree that I’m a bit of an organised freak and I live by checklists, spreadsheets, folders and files. I can tell you that since the day my son arrived, the ‘to do’ lists became ‘to do when you can’ lists. It’s fine to have a list of jobs, things to remember etc (because you’ll find baby brain doesn’t just leave you when you’re no longer pregnant), but be realistic about your expectations. Some days you just can’t tick anything off the list – just do a little bit at a time, when you can.
- Cloth nappies – We’ve used cloth nappies in the past year and I think they’re fabulous. Sure, there is an upfront cost but you can potentially end up saving thousands of dollars over a year. They’re also so much kinder on the environment, and I believe, more gentle on delicate skin. I would invest in a good quality set of nappies as the cheaper versions may leak and you don’t need any more extra washing! Washing the cloth nappies isn’t too much hassle. I’d also recommend buying one of those round plastic holders that have pegs already attached to them as they’re perfect for drying nappies in the sunshine.
- Sleep is a skill that will require some teaching! Everyone will have their own preferred method of getting their child to sleep and how to settle them when they cry. Again, I’m not claiming to be an expert in this field, but I firmly believe that as parents, we put the hard yards in early in the ‘sleep training’ department and as a result, have a little guy that is generally fabulous to put to sleep. Let them cry for a bit to go to sleep and don’t rush into their room at every little squeak or murmur. Only go to calm them down if their crying has reached a stage where you don’t feel they can calm themselves down. I’d also try your best not to rock or jiggle your child to sleep – you’ll get fairly tired of that when they’re 3 years old and weigh a ton!
- Routine vs flexible days – Whilst there is merit in sticking to a routine for your young one, you also need to have a little person that can be flexible when required. You don’t necessarily have to be home at the same time, every single day for a sleep in the cot. Babies are pretty good at sleeping on the go in their buggy or car. It’s handy to have a good bed time routine at night – tea, bath, story, milk, bed works well for us.
- Get outside and get fit – There is nothing like a walk in the fresh air to clear the mind and get you feeling great. Healthy, happy mum equals healthy, happy son. Even if you are tired, you’ll be surprised at the difference a little bit of exercise can do for your energy levels. The fresh air and sun’s rays are also good for our little people and the sights engage young minds. I joined a fitness group called Active Mums and have been a member since my son was six weeks old. Take it easy and build up your fitness level slowly. Feeding a baby and getting over the birth is no mean feat so you will be tired.
- Make your own – If you’ve got the time, have a look into making your own baby products. Often it is cheaper to make your own and the end product is cheaper, fresher and/or chemical free. When I was pregnant, I was given Wendyl Nissen’s book Raising your Baby, Chemical Free, and it’s a bible I swear by. I make all of my own cleaners, beauty products and even make all my son’s meals from scratch. Recently I’ve started making clothes for him too but you do need a bit of spare time for this. If you hunt out bargins at material stores, you can often make good quality clothes for your little ones which fit them perfectly!
- Good quality gear – As you may have already worked out, the equipment list for a new baby can be fairly extensive. You need to decide what the essentials are and what you could probably do without. We didn’t buy a singing/talking music seat, a playpen or fancy solid starter kit and have got by. We did decide to invest in good quality gear for the major purchases – buggy, highchair, portacot, car seat and monitor. You get what you pay for and the after service is great if you buy from a reputable company. We’re huge fans of phil and ted’s because it’s functional, looks good and is built to last. We love all of our purchases – our explorer buggy get’s a hard life off road down at the horse paddocks, our lobster highchair is the full time high chair (it’s nice and compact and doesn’t clutter up our house and we have a second one at the Grandparent’s house), the smart buggy is our get around town shopping buggy (that isn’t covered in mud and horse hair) and the portacot is a neat bed for travelling around with our son. Our baby gear has stood up to a year’s intensive use and we’re quite sure it will last in the years to come.
- Make new friends – The journey as a parent is nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. We’re lucky to share it with ten other wonderful parents who were part of our antenatal group. I really recommend attending the antenatal classes as it’s a fabulous support network/family to be a part of. We still meet up regularly with our group and hope that our little ones will grow up to be good friends. The girls are also good company to facebook message during morning feeds at 3am!
It’s true when they say that a child’s first party is more of a celebration of the start of a long journey of parenthood. We certainly enjoyed a few glasses of champagne, stoked with how cool our little boy is. Bring on the next chapter.
That’s my first blog, done and dusted. I hope you found it useful or at least entertaining enough to have read this far. Time to tuck my little one into bed…twinkle, twinkle, little star…