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Learning About Our New Baby On Our Own
Learning About Our New Baby On Our Own
THE CONFLICTING EMOTIONS
Yay! You’re pregnant! You just heard the great news and both you and your man are so excited to have a child. At first you both just can’t stop talking about how it will be and what the kid might be like. Who will they look like? Will they be as stubborn as their mother or as patient as their father? All the fun things that come with hearing the news are flowing through your head, when suddenly…
How on earth do you take care of a baby? This question comes to every new mother, even those who have grown up helping to raise other kids all their lives. Unfortunately, those who live abroad or don’t have any family know the difficulty of answering this question when you have no one to turn to readily.
Some new parents will have some other relative or very close friend come and stay with them after they give birth to help them with the child, assist in taking care of everyday tasks, and in some capacity, educate the new parent about how to take care of this new life. Not everyone has this luxury. For my husband and I it was not that we don’t have any family, as we both have pretty big families; instead it was the fact that we live in a country which is not home to either of our families. We have friends, but not really the kind you invite to come and live with you in a one-bedroom apartment for a few weeks!
This is our experience with learning to raise our baby all by ourselves (with a lot of help from Google):
THOSE FIRST FEW DAYS
We had our baby, Zach, in Kenya. My husband is from Tanzania, a neighbor to Kenya but still a very different country. In Kenya they would rather you spend time at home than in the hospital, so not only do they not want to admit you until you’re really ready to give birth, they also release you within 24 hours of popping the baby out. This was a surprise to me, because I had heard of moms being in the hospital for even 3 days after giving birth in the US!
I went into labor and gave birth to Zach on Christmas day, 2014. The whole thing took about 16 hours. It’s hard to forget something like that, especially the wonder that came after our son was born and we got to see him at last. The ultrasounds were nothing compared to this little wiggly thing! He was so small and looked so fragile but he was incredible.
Things were strange and unfamiliar, but we listened to the nurse’s cues and Zach’s signals and tried to make the best of it. He didn’t really want to eat very much, he pooped a LOT, and he just slept most of the time. It seemed pretty easy at that point. We could really do it!
Things got tougher once we brought the little dude home, all bundled up in blankets and wearing so many layers of clothing. I was so tired that there was little I wanted to do more than just sleep. Zach wasn’t so willing. We started realizing things were not going to be so easy when he started doing just weird things and we couldn’t figure out what he needed.
One time, when Zach was still sleeping in our bed with us, he threw up a few times in a row. There was no explanation for it, it didn’t seem to be giving him pain, and he was otherwise healthy. We were both a bit freaked out, but he was completely fine and healthy. That’s when we learned that sometimes babies just throw up.
Zach didn’t like breastfeeding very much in the beginning. He couldn’t latch on correctly and was hurting me so badly that I didn’t want to feed him and dreaded the feedings each time. Eventually we alternated between bottle feeding him and me pumping. This worked okay, and later on he learned to breastfeed properly.
Then one day he just got too hungry for us to keep up with. Even with all my day’s worth of milk and 1 or 2 bottles of formula, he still cried with hunger. We decided to try giving him baby cereals. The first time we made it very soft but he still had a hard time digesting it and it gave him a lot of pain. So we waited and tried again a few weeks later. He has never looked back since then.
These times were easier for us. We had managed to get through the first few months without killing, hurting, starving, or otherwise mistreating our baby. All it had taken was a lot of calls to home, a bit of ingenuity and creative thinking, observation, and Google. These next five months involved new challenges.
When Zach learned to crawl, he took off at full force. He has always been an active child and never likes to sit still for long. We had to block off areas of the house and move things to higher shelves. When he was five months old we went to stay with my husband’s parents for a few months. Zach adjusted well to their larger house and was unstoppable when it came to his movement. He quickly learned to climb upstairs and to play outside in the grass. We kept a close watch over him, as he got distracted and tried to climb back down the stairs or would lift every piece of dirt or rock into his mouth outside.
Zach guided us through a lot of his changes, something that I’ve always thought of as a blessing because I don’t understand the timing in which these things are supposed to happen otherwise. When he was sick of blended up, soft meals, he let us know and we switched to real food. When he was ready for sleep training, he let us know by fussing so much at night and waking up far too often, so we began the training. When Zach wanted to go outside more often and be more active, he certainly let us know about that too.
CONTINUING ON CONFIDENTLY
At this point he is only 10 months old, but we have passed an important mark in his growing. We have now watched him enough and got to know him well enough to start picking up hints about what he needs and how to take care of him without having to ask for opinions or assistance. We are more confident in our ability to parent him and to raise him rightly. The decisions we make now are much more our own than they ever would have been if we had the help that many new parents have.
It turned out to be both a blessing and a curse that we didn’t have any initial help. We are now confidently moving forward with our son, quickly able to figure out what he needs in the new stages of his life. The first months were a struggle every day as he changed so much and showed us new problems daily, but now we understand our child in a way we might not have known otherwise.
Hopefully this experience can be an encouragement to you, new moms and dads, as you are setting off on the journey of raising your kids without the safety net of experienced parents all around you. It’s very possible to do it, and you may even end up having a closer relationship with each other and your child after all is said and done.
About the Author
Christine Smith is a professional online writer with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Entrepreneurship. She left her home in the United States to live abroad, where she met her husband and started a family. They currently live in Kenya with their young son.
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