What not to expect when you’re expecting

Last year we had to say goodbye to my old mum van, it was car shopping time! I hit the research hard. I read reviews, researched safety ratings, checked out fuel economy, and I found a car that ticked all the boxes. When my husband and I finally decided to take it for a test drive, we hated the way it felt and drove. Although on paper it was meant to be the perfect vehicle for our little family, in reality, it didn’t meet our expectations. We didn’t get the car.

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You don’t know what’s going to be right for you until you actually give it a go. It’s a lesson I learnt while on the hunt for a new car, but it applies to parenting too. You can’t decide on your parenting philosophy until you’ve actually got a baby. You would be surprised by how many expectant mums know exactly what type of mum they’ll be to exactly the type of child they’re going to have before they have even had it. It’s not uncommon.

The unexpected

I’ve found so many expectant mums who have read all the books, done all the research, engaged in all the online chats, only to be confused when their baby arrives. It turns out not all tiny humans are cooperative. It’s frustrating to see so many mums feel like they’re failing just because things aren’t going the way they expected.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I’d decided that I was going to be a to-the-minute routine mum. That changed as soon as she came along. I ended up being the most hippy, chilled out, breast-feed-on-demand mum. She thrived on experiencing everything with us, slept through the night from 12 weeks old. She fed like a dream and when it was time for solids, she ate everything. My daughter was the dream flexi-baby (before you start rolling your eyes, read my last article about what she’s been like as a toddler). I was smug as anything – I had found a magic parenting philosophy. Then along came my son, my velcro-baby. He needed routine and had to be forced to sleep in a darkened room with a white noise machine. He hated the pram and wanted to be worn in a carrier constantly.

I learned the hard way that every child is different, and until they come out, you have no idea what their needs are going to be. You will know that they will need to do things like eat and sleep but you won’t know what time and where will work, until you meet them. Factors like your pregnancy, your experience of giving birth, their personality, and your hormones, are all going to come into play. Yas, I said it, hormones have a huge part to play!

What works for you

I’m not saying don’t research or read books while you’re pregnant. Do all of that, but once your baby arrives, pick and choose what works best for you both. Based on some research I did with my social media followers, the two biggest shocks for new mums were how hard feeding is and how hard sleep deprivation or sleep training is.

When you take away all the fluff, there are really a few things babies need to thrive – love, food and sleep. If you are struggling with the any of those, get help. Ask for advice, friendly or professional, but only take on board what works for you and your baby. You are important too. Babies need love, and in order to love well, you need to be functioning and have emotional and mental capacity. There’s a fine line between sacrifice and suffering. Sometimes we need an external perspective to reveal to us that we’ve crossed that line while trying to uphold our self-inflicted philosophies.

My youngest is two now, and all of the above seems like common sense. But when you’re in a daze of milk-filled boobies, sleep deprivation and hormonal overload, sometimes you just need to be told that you’re not failing. Give your child your time, your love and your patience as you discover who they are you will figure out how you can help them grow. So which parenting philosophy is the best? The one that works for you and your baby.