5 Things No One Tells You Before the Baby Arrives

Welcome back to Risky Baby Business, our Saturday series here are More Cowbell! If you’re new over here, the previous posts in this series can be found here.

I’ve talked before about all the advice that people give you that is so often useless because every child and every pregnancy is different. I remember thinking: Why can’t people give me advice about things that are pretty much the same across the board?

The simple answer? (There’s really three.)

  1. They don’t want to scare you.
  2. They forget. Exhaustion does that to you.
  3. They DO tell you and you don’t believe them.

“Oh, sure…” you might be thinking to yourself. “Because that story about the 38 hour labor was guaranteed to keep me CALM.”

I can only say that there are some things that nothing can prepare you for — you have to experience them for yourself. Having a child is one of those things. (Although that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” is really golden advice, if you can just make yourself do it.)

Still, in the interest of giving to all the new parents out there, here’s the 5 things I wish someone had described in more detail BEFORE the baby came:

1. It will take you an hour longer than you think it will to get anywhere the first year of your child’s life.

Seriously. First you have to figure out through trial and error what all your particular kid needs. Then you have to stock several of those things because there’s nothing worse than running out in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a night out. Then you have to figure out a way to efficiently cart all of that crap AND THE BABY around with you. It’s a challenge for a while.

2. The first time you take your child on an outing by yourself, you will feel like you ran a marathon.

I highly recommend you take your infant everywhere in the first 3-4 months. This is actually when they are the easiest because they’re not moving yet…they stay where you put them!

But you need to know about Murphy’s Law of Babies once you take your child into the world: If they’re going to blow out of their diaper, or projectile vomit, it’s going to be when you are alone with them IN PUBLIC with nary a changing table or spare outfit in sight. This particular law is why parents arm themselves for everything but a nuclear disaster when they leave the house with their infant.

Plus, you’re just so worried about keeping them safe. Here’s a post about how I felt when it was time to leave the hospital and take my new baby home.

3. Just as they did when you were expecting, scores of people will offer you unsolicited (crappy) advice.

There are many people who feel they need to give you the benefit for their experience when you have a new baby (or a toddler, or a pregnant tummy) and they WILL walk up to you and offer you their advice. While some of it is very good, most of it is ridiculous.

One of my in-laws said the first time he took his oldest daughter out alone (at about 5 months), they stopped into a Starbucks together and he grabbed one of those green straws to keep her busy while he was going through the line. A woman marched right up to him and said, “You know, you can cut a potato with that straw. You need to take that away from her.”

He was new at this daddy business so he took it away and, of course, she cried. He put a pacifier in her mouth and the same woman walked over and told him he shouldn’t give his daughter a pacifier because it would screw up her teeth. He lost it and yelled, “Get out of here, Lady! I’m trying to get some coffee, not kill my child.”

4. The directions on the gas drops lie.

I breastfed my daughter and it seemed like, no matter what I ate, she got gas. It was awful. She’s always been a sweet-natured kid but the whole gas business was the pits. I changed my diet plenty of times, and gave her gas drops religiously.

Finally, when we went to the pediatrician for a check-up, we asked her about it. I could NOT believe what she said: “Oh, don’t follow the directions on the Mylicon box! They’re wrong. They tell you to give the drops after you start feeding her. You need to give them before you start.

Oh, really??! How nice of them to tell us WRONG information so we have Banshee Baby!!

5. Your child’s fever will always be highest between midnight and 4 am.

This is another gem from our marvelous pediatrician. We were freaking out at how our daughter seemed to go from “not sick” to REALLY sick in the space of three hours. When we told her that her fever spiked at 12:30 am, she said, “Oh, that’s really normal.”

Say what? Nobody told me that! And it’s not written in the kids manual (that none of us get). I wanted to bitch-slap every parent we knew for not clueing us in on this one. When I fact checked my pediatrician, they all just said, “Oh, sure. Everyone knows that.”

Yes, everyone who has woken up to their hot, feverish children for many years might know this. Us newbies?? Not a clue.

It’s your turn now…what do you wish people had told you before the baby came? Was there advice you got that was really great? Or did you get advice that was truly insane? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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33 Responses to 5 Things No One Tells You Before the Baby Arrives

  1. Can’t believe I’m the first commenter. Once you get your book published, I’m giving it to everyone I know who gets pregnant for the first time.


  2. mercuryval says:

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. Mike says:

    The only advice I wish we’d gotten before ours arrived was “don’t have a baby in China”, but I kinda already knew that.

    Imagine all the same baby-related issues in an environment where the majority of people have never heard of germ theory, diapers and car seats are considered crazy foreigner inventions that are totally unnecessary (crotch-less pants – go wherever, whenever, and sit on someone’s lap in the car), and your pediatrician is as likely as not to tell you that the baby has too much fire and needs to balance his wood and water.

    I may have to write a whole blog post about that…


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, Mike…”too much fire??” You’re not pulling my leg on this one? I think I’d have lost my mind a little.


      • Uh, no he’s not pulling your leg. That’s chinese medicine. And the more you learn about it, it makes perfect sense. And it’s older than western medicine. Go figure, eh?


        • Jenny Hansen says:

          Yes, but someone tells me my baby has too much fire and I think of baby poo problems. I’m just sayin…


        • Mike says:

          Well, I know a fair bit about TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and disagree that it makes perfect sense. I think it’s perfect nonsense, to be perfectly honest. 🙂

          Being older than western medicine (I assume you mean germ theory, and knowledge of bacteria, viruses, and disease vectors – I prefer to call it modern medicine) is meaningless. Age is no indication of the validity of an idea. The idea that the sun travels around the Earth is older then the idea the Earth moves around the sun – guess which one is correct…

          Going to the doctor because your newborn has a cough and being told to feed him a tea made of some mysterious “mountan plant” of dubious provenance six times a day for several weeks and the cough will clear up in a month or two – that makes no sense at all.

          Oh, and it is also still a tradition in China to not officially name your baby (or make birth announcements) until three months after birth (100 days, actually) because the vast majority of babies born before the advent of western (modern) medicine didn’t survive their first 100 days.


  4. All the funny little newborn sounds surprised me and worried me. I went running every time I heard a coo, a snort, a growl or a gurgle, thinking something was wrong. With #2, I can just listen and enjoy all baby’s vocalizations. I especially love her frustrated sound: an emphatic “Mah!”

    Oh, and thanks for the gas drop tip. Much needed at this very moment!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You’re welcome, Laura. Our daughter has always been pretty easy to get along with, unless she has gas. All bets are off at that point – the only kind I didn’t really like was the “Little Tummys” brand. The Target drops work great, and they’re cheaper than Mylicon. 🙂


  5. krismerino says:

    Oh that’s all too true. As a single mom, that first year was quite a learning experience!!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kris, I grew up with a single mom and always respected them. Now that I’ve had a baby, I want to build a shrine to them. It’s a hell of a lot of work for one person.


  6. Marcia says:

    This post brought back a lot of memories! When my daughter, now almost 30, was about 3 months old, we took a trip to Niagara Falls. She had been slepping through the night for some time at that point and was a happy baby. So we thought, this will be fun AND easy. I packed everything imaginable I thought we’d need, including some premixed formula. I couldn’t very well sterilize bottles on the road or keep enough bottles sufficiently cold through the weekend. So premixed was an awesome solution for me. Yeah, well…not so much. The first night in the hotel, I could tell we had newlyweds in the next room. Aww, how cute. At midnight, Jennifer woke screaming. She had been fed a half hour earlier. Why was she screaming? There was nothing obvious wrong. We took turns walking her and cuddling and soothing. We took her into the bathroom for a warm bath. Nothing we did calmed her for over 4 HOURS! Needless to say, we didn’t sleep and we scooted out of the hotel early in the morning absolutely sure the newlyweds would have reported us to the hotel manager who we thought would kick us and our screaming baby out on the street. Turned out the premixed formula was too rich for her infant tummy to digest. So she must have had horrible gas and cramps. The poor sweetie. I had no idea such a thing could affect her that way. Why couldn’t someone have warned me? But, like many other things during babyhood, we find out the hard way. When she was older, i tried the premixed again and she was fine. It was just a matter of her digestive system maturing enough to handle it.
    Great post, Jenny and helpful to new Moms for sure.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marcia, my little babe could only handle the Enfamil top-of-the-line formula. Similac was a huge no-no from day one, and of course they are the ones that give all the samples. She’s never liked Similac and it has always given her gas. Go figure.

      But I think every parent learns the hard way that you never introduce a new ANYTHING when you have to leave the house. But does anyone really discuss this with you beforehand? Um, no.

      Sooooo sorry you had that kind of weekend! The first “vacation” we took with Baby Girl, we were fried by the time we got back. We learned that the words Baby and Vacation are kind of mutually exclusive.


  7. tomwisk says:

    Being male can’t give birth. Have had a lot of time with infants babysitting two nieces. I still marvel that I didn’t toss lunch the first time I had to do a diaper change. The upside is they turn out to be great adults and parents. One other thing, my older niece just got engaged. When the time comes, I’ll guide her to your blog. Too lare for the younger one, she had to learn by surprise. Me? Not married. Too many of my friends got hitched, had kids and bailed. Not my style.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Tom. Yep, diapers are a necessary evil of babies and sometimes they are just beyond the pale!! I’ll be happy to chat it up with your niece when it’s baby time for her. Of course by then the book will be finished, though that’s geared more toward high risk pregnancies like mine.


  8. Louisa Bacio says:

    The sleeping through the night thing doesn’t last forever. There are stages where they have night terrors or other reasons (teething? fever? ear infection?) that they wake up and come to bed with you in the middle of the night. Rest assured that these are stages, too, though. My daughters are oldest within my friends so I’ve done it first. When they start complaining at age 3 or so about the child getting up again … I tell them it’s a stage.

    On the same note — I have nothing against co-sleeping, but every parent I know who’s done it at some point ends up with an older child (4 or 5) or more than one child, still sleeping in their bed and it’s a BIG deal to try to get them out 😉

    Oh, and with the ear infection thing — pulling on their ear and crying = usually means infection!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      We had a child that slept through the night from about 8 weeks to 6 months, and then we moved in with my mother-in-law to take care of her and it all changed. Plus she started teething. We’ve never gotten back to the same sleep ever again, but she’s getting better. I agree though, whatever they’re up to one month goes out the door the next.

      p.s. We haven’t had an ear infection yet and I’m not looking forward to it!


  9. Oh, man. Swaddling. I wish SO HARD that someone would have taught us about the miracle that is swaddling before our first little man arrived. Good, just-right-stretchy, not-too-small swaddling blankets WITH instructions (demonstrations if I can manage it) are always my gift to first-time momma friends.


  10. This is so true! I was revising one of my older light romances, Old Dreams, New Dreams for digital re-release, and discovered that I wrote it when my older son was about three. The heroine’s son acts just like he did–in all the crazy-making ways I’ve forgotten now that he’s 25! So don’t ask me for advice, unless it’s about twentysomethings.

    Good blog!


  11. Julie Glover says:

    I didn’t know that gas drop thing! I could have used that information about 14 years ago. Oh well. He’s fine now.

    As for what I wish I knew: The one thing that would have helped us so much is knowing that many babies around four months of age experience difficulty going to sleep. Basically, they have learned how to keep themselves awake. They can fight the sleep reflex. You must teach those babies how to comfort themselves and fall asleep – on their own. But the “Ferberize”-your-baby program (let them cry it out with some parameters) didn’t work. I would shove Marc Weissbluth’s book into the hands of every parent whose infant just will not go to sleep.

    Great advice, Jenny! You do a wonderful job of conveying it as well.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Julie. Yep, I could’ve murdered the gas drop people when our pediatrician told us that. Sure enough, when I started doing it the way she told me too there were no more gas problems.

      VERY interesting stuff on the sleep front. 🙂


  12. ROFLOL.

    Arg on the unsolicited advice. Definitely got that w/ my first. Not so much the second time around. Perhaps I’d cultivated my evil stare by then. LOL

    And Amen on it taking forever to get out of the house the first year. And it always seemed like I could feed and change my little one before leaving and still need to feed and change him/her when I got there. Even the second time around I was still taking forever to get out of the house.

    Double Amen on the fever thing. Strangely, both my kiddos got sick their first Easters. Our joke is that first Easters are canceled in our house. They each got fevers and barfies. Ugh.

    My daughter had bad gas too. And she spit up tons. For us, it turned out that I had oversupply. I made too much foremilk. I guess that makes babies gassy. Plus, she’d nurse until she barfed then nurse again to get the hindmilk. I didn’t figure it out until I had my son. What a relief.


  13. Oh my goodness, the memories. The packing for a move everytime you left the house. Transporting the port-a-crib in the trunk everywhere.Double stroller, double cars seats, double cribs. Nursing was the ticket though. No bottles to cart around. Try nursing and being pregnant at the same time. That was exhausting.Those were crazy days, yet I would take them back in a heartbeat. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I don’t know how moms find the energy to nurse and be pregnant at the same time. I think I’d want to sleep the same number of hours a day the babies do! Holy crap.

      That being said, I’d have given a lot to be able to have another baby. I’ll bet you would take that time back in a moment.


  14. Omg, hilarious! It’s funny because it’s true. That first time I took my daughter out by myself truly was like running a marathon. Then, when you have a second one and they are running off in one direction while you’re still trying to get the infant out of the car, yeah that’s fun too.

    Honestly, I think I blocked all memories of the kids getting fever spikes in the middle of the night because it’s so terrifying. I’ve got residual chills now just thinking back to that time.


  15. Julie Glover says:

    Great resources, Jenny! My faves were Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriend’s Guide books (to pregnancy, 1st year of motherhood, etc.) and Your Premature Baby and Child (Tracy/Maroney) (one kid born at 33 weeks). Of course, What to Expect was a given – so much info in one place. Thanks.


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