My little sister is having a baby this year. Yah! There is something elementally exciting about the prospect of a new human. And nothing much beats the smell of a clean baby.
A baby is rather like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. They all start out as a tiny scrap of a person, unable to do anything but eat, poo and scream. Every decision you make as a parent from the moment the baby arrives will impact on their life.
Don’t panic, little sister, this is the beauty of the process. Science has figured out that baby humans do 70% of their brain development after being born. Environment and parental decisions have a huge impact on that outcome. With this reality, is it any wonder that there are so many books – SO MANY BOOKS – about babies and parenting.
My advice, as a parent to four healthy (and in my totally biased opinion; interesting, awesome) children, is this:
Approach this process just as you would a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Read all the advice (or none of it, if you want) then pick the path that best suits you and your family. There is plenty of advice out there on every aspect of parenting, and much of it contradicts itself. So pick what you like. Relax.
If that notion of infinite possibilities seems overwhelming, here are a few things that worked for me in those early days:
Babies have really tiny stomachs. This means that they will want to eat all the time. I found the first few months was a sleep deprived blur. It will pass. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Make noise when the baby sleeps – they seem to find it comforting to be able to hear something in the background – and they sleep for longer. So get someone to do the vacuuming, or listen to music while you both nap. Later, when they are a bit bigger and can cope with longer gaps between eating, that’s when you can read all the different options about getting babies to sleep. Pick the one that works for you, or test a few. Whatever.
These are only guidelines. They only matter if your baby completely and utterly fails them. I’ve seen parents compete with each other on these; my baby’s first full night of sleep, my baby’s first steps, my baby is 97%th percentile for height. Whatever! They all get to school being able to walk and talk. No1 could tie his own shoe-laces, No3 is half way through his second year of school and can’t. Being the first baby in a mother’s group to walk doesn’t mean anything – the first one in No2’s group is now the fat, lazy kid who can’t kick a ball to save himself. He might have been first to wobble about on two feet, but he’s no athlete now.
You are fortunate, little sister, that this is a planned pregnancy and that you are in a loving relationship. Already, this baby has a natural team to look after it. Even with that support, it really helps to grow a broader support network. Find a group of people who are sharing your experience – a mother’s group, wider family members, anything. Get out of the house, especially in those early days, to meet people and talk. I was lucky enough to avoid post-natal depression, but there were still days when it all felt too hard. The weight of responsibility for keeping this tiny human alive, especially on little sleep, can feel overwhelming at times. Talk to people. Share your issues, and listen to others. Getting support also means giving support.
The saying ‘the days are long, but the years are short’ is true. Before you know it, baby will smile, baby will sleep slightly longer, you will feel more human again. They become more interesting as they grow into their character. As they grow, new challenges arise. Enjoy the journey. Every day is a new page in this adventure.
Speaking of challenges, the blog master wants me to create pumpkin pie. Baking is a real challenge for me, it tends to be quite precise and I’m more of a “throw it in” cook. This pie was surprisingly easy for a non-baker like myself. Of course, I cheated by using store bought pastry and have used the excuse that as a busy working parent, I don’t have the time to make pastry. If you want to go all out and make your own, Scott has a great recipe.
- A medium sized pumpkin (just over 1kg), peeled and sliced into chunks
- 1 cup (180g) of sugar (most recipes combine 2/3 white and 1/3 brown, but I’ve used all brown as that’s all we had in the house)
- 2tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1 tsp of ground black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 190g cream
- 170g milk (3/4 cup)
- 3 eggs
Cook pumpkin for 10-15 minutes until soft. While that cooks, blind bake the pie crust for the same time at 200oC. Drain the pumpkin, then blend until smooth. Measure out 900g of pureed pumpkin and place into a large pot. Add the salt, spices, and sugar and mix together. Cook on a low temperature until smooth. Add milk and cream and stir through.
Whisk 3 eggs in a small bowl, then add that to the mix as well. Pour the whole lot into the warm pie crust and bake at 190oC for almost an hour until the pie mix is firm (with a slight wobble in the middle).