Unexpected Challenges, Joys of Parenting
During the last few months of pregnancy, my growing midsection provided cheap entertainment. Hubby and I would try to identify the random body parts an alien-like creature pushed against my stretched tummy. An elbow, a foot, it was hard to tell, but these evening belly shows fascinated us, providing a glimpse of the growing baby inside.
That yearning to connect with and begin envisioning our new little one meant I wanted to know the baby's gender. Thanks to the ultrasound tech's confident opinion, we were fairly certain it was a boy. But like other moms, I heard plenty of guesses based on no scientific evidence whatsoever. I carried out front, so it was a boy. The baby was active, so it was a boy. (For the truth behind some well-known gender-guessing myths, see our online feature, "Girl or Boy," or page 25 of the print magazine.)
Others who knew me well asked whether I thought I was carrying a boy or a girl, firmly believing that moms just "know." I felt like I didn't know much of anything. Instead, I was caught up in a wild adventure that I couldn't compare with anything I had experienced so far in life. And that feeling was magnified during the birth and after our son was born. Knowing what to expect during labor and delivery helps relieve some of the anxiety. (See our online feature, "You're Going to Have a Baby," or page 29 in our print magazine, for tips from area experts.)
A close circle of friends provided helpful support during the months after our son's birth. I frequently turned to another mom who had given birth to a baby girl just a short time before. She was the first person I talked with who gave an honest assessment of the potential for frustration, conflicting feelings, stress and anxiety that new parents may face during what's touted as the most joyful, happy time in a young couple's life. She shared that she had handed her young baby to her husband in the middle of the night when their little girl wouldn't sleep, saying she recognized she had reached her limit. She talked openly about the challenges of dividing child-care duties with her husband and adjusting to the loss of time for herself, especially after returning to work.
This friend's insight allowed me to recognize that the emotional changes and challenges after birth are as important and real as the physical ones. While I may not have been counseled on the warning signs of postpartum depression before delivery, or even at my six-week checkup, I had read enough to know the risk was there, and talking to friends helped me recognize what was a normal reaction, for myself and our baby, and what might require outside assistance. Research now shows that dads are also at risk for postpartum depression or the "baby blues." For a look at local treatment options and news about the risks for men, read our online feature "When Depression Strikes After a Baby's Birth," or see page 33 of the print magazine.
Many young families start out without the support of nearby family. Fortunately, there are many resources in our community to help. For organizations and services that help prospective and new parents, pick up a copy of our annual Baby Guide or find it online at www.carolinaparent.com under Guides. Carolina Parent also holds a free annual Baby Fair with exhibitors that provide local services or programs for expectant or new parents. If you missed the June 19 event, an online version is available at our website under Events.
While the adjustment to being a parent and the changes a child brings to a family are big, it's hard to remember a time when our son wasn't part of our lives. Experiencing life through his eyes provided a fresh perspective. I've learned about dinosaurs, Pokemon cards, Harry Potter, different musical genres and lots more, adding to my life while also providing valuable learning opportunities for him. (Turn to Ages 6-10: What Kids Learn From Collections, our online department article, or see page 53 of the print magazine, to discover the unexpected benefits of kids' collections.)
Having a child also opens the doors to experiences and places parents might not otherwise find. The Triangle is a great place for families, with loads of activities and places designed for families and kids of all ages. From restaurants to museums, hands-on programs to camps and more, we asked parents to tell us their favorite places in and around the Triangle. Find this year's Family Favorite winners on page 39 of the print magazine or online (choose the Resources" tab on our home page, then "Family Faves"). Visit a few new to you and let us know what you think when we poll parents again next year. There's so much to see and do in our area with children of all ages, by sharing with each other we can discover the best of the Triangle.