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As a parent, I feel like I am in a tribe with all other parents. I love hearing other parent’s experiences because it is important for me to remember that parenting is wonderful but also messy (and that is ok!). Today we share the experiences of three parents, looking back at their first few months as new parents.

Introductions

Cherry, Charlottesville, VA, USA: I’m a mom of two teen girls and a first grade boy. I am an activist and a realist. Motherhood is one of the most difficult jobs in life. I work with and support immigrants and refugees.

Sanya, East Java, Indonesia: I’m a mother of 4 sons (age: 5y, 3y, 23m, and 5m). I’m a psychologist but currently a stay at home mom. My husband lives in a different city for work, so we spend time together on the weekends.  I love meeting new people and making new friends. My children help me to be more in tune and honest about my feelings and they also inspire me to self-reflect often.

Christian, Syracuse, NY, USA: I am a loving dad with two little monster boys, who are both awesome. I am lucky to have a great wife, who manages to put up with all of us while working full-time! I really enjoy coming home to the kids every evening, as I feel like a superhero when I walk through the door and hear them yell “DAD!” I couldn’t live without my family of course, and all the love and support we have from our family and friends.

What most surprised you about the early days of parenthood?

I was surprised at how often I would be waking up and how little sleep I was getting. I also marveled at how fast babes grow. ~ Cherry

I always had high expectations of myself for any role in life, but in becoming a mother I realized that I have to focus on my new priorities. I’m one to always try to do everything perfectly, but in parenthood, I find myself postponing many tasks because my children are my first priority now. ~Sanya

On the positive side, I was surprised at how instantly I loved and felt connected to the child. One of the challenges, however, was caring for a little person who relied on you 24/7.  Going into fatherhood, I knew my life was going to change, but being on call all the time was a big adjustment for me. ~ Christian

What was the best thing you did to prepare for the first few months post birth?

With my last pregnancy at 41, keeping regular exercise and eating as healthy as possible kept me in better physical shape. Ordering a subscription to healthy snacks like Kind bars full of fiber was very helpful during the breastfeeding years. ~ Cherry

I like to learn new things all the time, so I read a lot about nurturing my baby and mothercare before my due date.  I then felt so ready to experience new motherhood from the information I had been gathering. ~ Sanya

I attended all of my wife’s doctor appointments, and we took a class together on what to expect.  We also connected with friends and family for guidance/support.  Finally, we took the opportunity to go out on many dates, dinners and movies, as our friends who already had children let us know that these opportunities would be few and far between once the baby arrived. ~ Christian

In hindsight, what would you have done or done differently to better prepare for birth or for the first few months post birth?

I would have done more stretching and cooked and frozen more meals. I would have spent more time with my husband and kids. ~Cherry

I would have involved my partner in caring more for me in the post birth phase. I would have discussed with my family about what I needed most and what they could to do, so that we cound have found more options to fulfill my needs post birth. ~ Sanya

My wife and I chose to have a live-in “au-pair” after the birth of our second child.  We met a young woman from Argentina who came live with us for the last 2 years, and she arrived the day after our second child was born.  She was extremely helpful in adjusting to our life changes and has since become a part of our family.  In hindsight, having in-home support that was flexible to our changing needs and our changing hours would have been tremendously helpful with our first child.  Additionally, if we had hired help after the birth of our first child, we could have kept our child out of daycare longer.  It was very difficult for us emotionally to put him into childcare at just a few months of age. ~ Christian

What is your favorite memory of those early days of parenthood?

The bond of nursing my babies with all of the oxytocin flowing and changing mustard diapers was the best. I loved the feeling of tiny fingers grasping mine…and putting them skin to skin on me. ~ Cherry

I really enjoyed cuddling my babies, and bonding with them as I fed them and recovered.  ~ Sanya

My favorite memories are simply sitting with my wife and our newborn, holding him and rocking him. ~ Christian

What could you still use support around, even though your child(ren) is/are older now?

It is always helpful to have good friends who have been there to talk to when you think you’re doing it all wrong, but just need a little reassurance. Parenting is hard at any age, so the support of listening ears is invaluable. ~Cherry

I live at my mother in law’s house now, and there are relatives here which still support my children and me. ~ Sanya

Anything and everything!  Meals, errands, drop off/pickup of kids, cleaning, etc.  We continue to have our au pair living with us, even with children who are 2 and 4 and both attend a pre-school.  My wife and I both work full-time, and having someone who can help with anything kid related is extremely helpful! ~ Christian