Advice I would have liked to have seen in a baby book:
- Wear white. Seriously. Before that baby comes home, go out and buy a bunch of decent quality white cotton t-shirts. Because babies? They spit up in technicolour. And nothing combats the technicolour spew like bleach. I used to do a number of charity walks — MS, heart and stroke, that kind of thing. And they always give out t-shirts to the participants — white being the cheapest. So I accumulated a number of them over the years, and they’ve been a wonderful thing to have. Although it’s kind of like wearing a uniform, I drag one out each day and come wash day, a bit of bleach brightens them right up again. And when I’m done with the barfing baby, I can just chuck the shirts in the garbage, use them as painting/gardening shirts, rags, whatever.
- Buy lots of baby facecloths. And keep them within quick reach. Facecloths are a versatile tool and can be used for SO many things, from the obvious (wiping a baby’s face and hands after a meal; bathtime; emergency baby wipes) to the not-so-obvious (quick-draw spit-up catchers; kleenexes that don’t shred or get torn by grasping fingers; fun things for baby to wave about). And you can get them at the dollar store, or for relatively cheap in a lot of places. You don’t need the expensive kind — they’re just going to get stained and dirty. Really dirty.
- Get lots of video. When I was a little girl, my parents videotaped every Christmas, lots of birthdays, big family events, that sort of thing. And when he had accumulated 25 years worth of these home movies, my father took them all out and had them made into a video for each of us kids. I have memories of myself as a baby, of my mother as a mere 20-year-old, of all sorts of times from childhood. It’s invaluable. It’s my history, in some ways. Just think of how much richness can be added to an adoptive child’s history by capturing what you can on video.
- Go outside. Having been stuck in this winter has made me appreciate the benefits of even a simple change of scenery on your mood, your child’s mood, and how your day passes. Get out and do stuff. You’ll both feel better.
- Recycle. Take whatever hand-me-downs your friends and family offer. Shop in second-hand stores. Baby clothes and toys have a ton of wear, and they go through them so quickly. Spending a ton of money on fancy clothes seems silly when you realize that your child can fit into something one week, and the next week she’s sprouted and outgrowing it. And pass on what you can to other parents with new babies.
- Relax. Stop trying so hard. New parents put so much pressure on themselves to be what they think a good parent should be. And sometimes, that isn’t even remotely close to the reality of who they are. Me? I am noisy. It’s who I am. I can’t pretend to be this calm, serene person when really I am boisterous and noisy — first of all, it’s an ideal I can’t achieve, and I’ll stress myself out reprimanding myself for NOT being this ideal. Secondly, a kid picks up on everything, and specifically your mood — so if I am stressed and upset, my child will feel it. And third, and most important: I have to like and accept who I am and set a good example for my child. Just do your best. Don’t hold yourself up to a yardstick of other parents’ ideals. Be the best you that you can be. The rest will follow.
- Rejoice. Enjoy every moment of discovery, of newness, of learning. It’s only going to come once. Even if you have 10 kids, THAT moment with THAT child only comes along once. Be present and cherish it. It passes so quickly.