The parents of this wonderful new human being will never again return to their old relationship, even when the child has grown and left home and they are alone again as they were at the beginning of their marriage. They will move on to a new relationship-a broader, more satisfying one. They are no longer a couple; they have become a family. The baby has added a new dimension to their marriage and a new reason for each of them to exist. Even if they have initial problems in adjusting to the changes, even if they feel out of touch with each other for a short time, their common love for and enchantment with their child will bring them together again. No one in the world cares as much about their baby as they do; no one else can share their particular, unique experience of parenthood.
New Responsibilities of Parents
Perhaps the most difficult part of the responsibility of caring for a new baby is being on call constantly, twenty-four a day, 168 hours a week, with never a moment off. No other job requires such dedication as that of parenting. Babies don’t eat, sleep, or cry on schedule. You will be called upon to feed or comfort your infant at any and every hour of the day or night, whether you are asleep, or ill, or occupied with a project of the utmost importance. In short, you will be required to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate the total dependency of your baby. This shift in the focus of your life may be traumatic at first, especially if you have been particularly independent and unencumbered.
Supplying the Basics
The primary responsibilities of parents are to provide their children with food, clothes, and shelter-the basic requirements of human life. In principle, all the most poverty-stricken of new parents can accept those responsibilities with few qualms, because they are the ones they fulfill for themselves. It’s the day to day details of supplying them that may make you feel insecure and far from confident in caring for your infant. You may feel, as some parents do, that while your childbirth education classes have prepared you very well for actually producing a baby, you’ve not had adequate preparation for caring for your child. The all important questions of what, how, when, how often, and why have not been answered to your complete satisfaction. In truth, they cannot be, because every baby and every set of parents is unique. Every family is different from every other, and every individual in every family is different from all the others. Some routines and procedures simply have to be tried out and perhaps discarded before you are comfortable in handling even the most ordinary of your responsibilities to your infant. You may wonder if the trial and error method of mastering a skill is a suitable approach for the serious work of rearing a human being.
In searching for knowledge about how to care for their babies, many parents are apt to be intimidated by “experts,” who may include the baby’s grandparents and next door neighbors as well as pediatricians and psychologists, and to accept as truth any scrap of advice they are given whether or not it “feel” right to them or has been substantiated in their experience. Of course there are times when nothing can be substituted for the knowledgeable orders and advice of experts in the professional fields of medicine, nutrition, and child psychology. But it is important for you, as a new parent, to learn to trust yourself. Remember, there is no right way to do most things involved in child care. You can read, you can take classes, you can question your doctor closely, you can listen to your friends and relatives, but ultimately you must make your own decisions about what is best for your own unique child. And because you know that child better than anyone else in the world, you are far more likely than others to make the best decisions.
Remember, as you make these decisions, to enjoy your baby as you learn to care for him. Try to look at parenting, not as a series of problems to be overcome or even, in the positive language of public relations, as challenges to be met. For a little while at least, let the rest of the world go by as you give yourself up to this new life you have created; appreciate the miracle of every day.