“My husband and I are in the process of having our first child through surrogacy. With numerous delays and frustrations, we want to make sure we are prepared when we finally welcome a baby home. I started to look into parenting classes, just so I was comfortable with the basics: changing diapers, baby massage, food guidelines, developmental milestones, etc. But when I started searching, the only classes I could find seemed to be anger management or communication classes, most of which were designed to fulfill court orders. Do you recommend taking a basic parenting class? And if so, are there any you endorse? The idea of taking home a helpless baby and being completely in charge is slightly terrifying!”
Though I was a board-eligible pediatrician when I has my first child, I sure could have written, “The idea of taking home a helpless baby and being completely in charge is slightly terrifying!”
I was grateful for the wisdom of a nun in the hospital where my daughter was born.
The door to my room was a bit ajar so I could hear my nurse say to the nun who was in charge of the OB floor, “I feel silly telling a pediatrician how to hold a baby!” The wise answer: “She is a new mother who just went through a new experience. Get in there now and treat her exactly like you do all our patients!”
I applaud your realization that you don’t know much about newborns. In these days of smaller families many of us reach adulthood without ever having held a baby. Yes, you do need some hands-on experience. Actually you would figure out what to do pretty quickly but you need the emotional peace of mind that says, “I’m ready to be a mother!”
Don’t worry about not having the hormones of pregnancy. I guarantee you will bond with your baby the moment he or she is put in your arms. We are hard-wired to respond to babies. Women and men both. It’s nature’s way of ensuring survival of orphaned babies.
Start with the library or a bookstore to find books on newborns and infant care (a Google search of “best books on newborn care” generated more than13 million results). The main value of reading about what is a tactile experience is that books can demystify things which in turn can reduce anxiety. There are also innumerable videos that show and tell which end of a baby is up.
Next, because practical experience is desirable, find a neighbor or relative who will allow you to “practice” on their child ... under close supervision of course. You need to see and than try picking up the baby, feeding, diapering, dressing, safely putting in a car seat and other parent-baby tasks.
Check with local hospitals and parenting agencies that offer classes in basic baby care and ask to attend such classes. Explain the surrogacy situation and ask if you can join the baby care classes without attending the preparation for childbirth sessions.
Consider volunteering at a baby shelter. Explain your situation and ask if you can observe baby care and maybe even hold one.
Call the offices of local obstetricians and ask where they send their patients for basic baby classes.
Go on the Internet. I Googled “basic newborn care classes” in my community and hospitals popped up as well as stores that sell baby stuff. Be selective.
Use social media. Maybe your Facebook friends have ideas, or can put you in touch with a willing new parent they know.
You questioned me as a soon-to-be mother and I answered you as I would any mother. But the baby’s father must be part of the parenting team from the very beginning. Do the classes and hands-on practice together. You two have waited a long time for a child. That in itself has no doubt increased your anxiety levels. Knowledge and experience, which I hope you can find, will help make you two a good team.
I am confident you will both learn how to give your baby loving care. One word about what had been called the “baby honeymoon.” This refers to those first days and weeks when you have both new practical tasks and new emotional experiences along with sleep deprivation. Yes, Baby needs to be fed and diapered. That’s the easy part actually. The birth of a baby brings a new person into your lives, one you have never met before. Getting to know that person is an incredible emotional experience. From the first day you may recognize some genetically determined traits and even notice hints of who the baby will become.
New parents should be doing as little else as possible during this honeymoon period so they can get to know their baby and also be there for each other during this tumultuous and wondrous experience.