Giving Birth To New Perspective
Updated: May 22
3 Lessons Learned as First-Time Parent
Parenthood is a tumultuous and rewarding experience, dealing each parent with an endless list of unique lessons.
When deciding to become a parent, there are many ideas of how life will go for you and your future family. Through pregnancy and the birth experience, you just begin to scratch the surface of parenthood as a whole, but it is certainly an awakening of its own. It inspires curiosity about the human experience, and for me was formative in changing the way I live my life and the way I view life itself.
Now that my firstborn is entering toddlerhood, I have found it beneficial to look back and somewhat catalog my first and most valuable lessons as a parent, knowing full well that this list will grow and change as my family grows. Nevertheless, each stage of perspective is relevant to our learning process as a whole.
These are three unavoidable truths that helped shape my perspective as a new parent:
You Will Never Be "Ready"
You Don’t Have Control and You Can’t Fix It All
Empathy is The Answer
Each birth story is unique and there are so many variables that it’s impossible to attempt to compare your story to another’s. But in my opinion, moms aren't looking to find the perfect answer or live up to an idea of their perfect birth experience. We’d rather have the ability to take in the points of view from mothers everywhere. Sharing experiences and taking valuable lessons from others is how we can enlighten and humble ourselves through this parenthood journey.
With that said, I discovered many stories of motherhood as I was becoming a mother, and I know that learning through their stories has provided me with comfort, insight, and much more to help guide future circumstances.
This is the first of three realizations that parenthood solidified for me. Though simple and possibly obvious to some, these concepts took on a new meaning after becoming a parent.
So get ready.
You Will Never Be “Ready”
From the very beginning, I figured out that being “ready” is simply inconceivable.
I know it's quite a worn-out phrase,
"You will never be ready". As it goes for most pieces of advice, it doesn't resonate with us, until it does. Suddenly we hear the same words in a new way, almost as if for the first time.
My son was born at 37 weeks and though I knew it was a possibility for him to arrive earlier or later than my due date, I truly didn’t expect him to arrive that soon. I didn’t feel “ready” for a few reasons:
I “wasn’t ready” because we hadn’t gotten his room finished, and I had just started my first day on leave from work.
I “wasn’t ready” because I wasn’t mentally prepared. Everyone loves to tell a first-time mom, “most first babies are late”, so I considered that possibility more than I should have.
I “wasn’t ready” because there is no way to be ready for when a baby comes into the world because there will always be unexpected elements that we cannot prepare for.
My son was born in the early hours of the morning about 22 hours after my water broke, he cried a beautiful cry after delivery. I was able to hold him over my gown for a moment before they took him to assess his vitals. Shortly after that, a team of nurses that had rushed into the room informed me that his lungs were slightly premature, and they had to take him to the NICU to get him the necessary care.
This is where the next lesson started to set in for me.
You Don’t Have Control and You Can’t Fix It All
This particular lesson many of us truly learn as parents, and it was one of the first on my entrance into parenthood.
I won’t always be able to personally fix or care for every need my child will have.
I didn’t realize at that point that my baby would be away from me for what would feel like forever. He was taken to the NICU, thankfully his dad was able to be with him while I was recovering. Two miserable hours I lay there away from my family, and when I was finally able to go down to the NICU it was amazing and painful but we all got to be together as a family. We cried as we stared down at the most beautiful thing to come into our lives, something we had hoped and dreamed for. He was so small and fragile-looking in that incubator with wires and tubes covering his little limbs. At that sight, I craved control more than ever before, but I felt powerless many times throughout those first days and weeks.
I couldn’t change the fact that my baby was going to have to stay in the NICU, but what I knew I had to do was make priorities and set boundaries for my new family and me. The realization of parenthood came alive when I saw this being that grew inside me, out in the world. Just seeing my child empowered me to do things I didn’t consider myself capable of, as anxiety has held me back in the past. This power that parenthood brings allowed no such hesitation and brought me to the realization that I can adapt.
So although we don’t have any true control over the events that occur, we can continuously adapt our approach and persevere through these daunting experiences as parents.
Knowing that this experience was only the beginning of our evaluation as parents, we considered ourselves somewhat comforted by the idea that later experiences would seem a little less formidable considering the things we overcame in the beginning. With this, we were invigorated to fight and advocate for our child’s needs as well as our needs as parents.
I felt this experience would help set the pace for the demands of parenthood. Looking back, it was like a crash course on life itself. You are given the opportunity to see everything from a brand new perspective because you are for the first time(most likely), looking out for another life and you realize the lengths you would go to for another human being.
Though we would do anything for our kids, it’s not always realistic for everything to go as planned. In learning to let go of what we thought might happen or what we want to happen, we can calibrate our mindset and divert to an alternative plan of action. Relinquishing control to the unknown is always going to be scary, but it can also be rewarding in letting go of expectations that sometimes restrain our way of thinking.
Having a child feels like giving a piece of yourself away to the world, open and vulnerable to all the joys this life can bring, but also all the pains and discomforts that come right along with it.
This vulnerability emphasizes the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence in our lives as humans. For me, the ability to empathize was expanded tenfold after bringing life into this world. I gained the potential to relate better to my child, myself, and my peers through empathy.
Empathy is the Answer
As parents, we learn how many forms of nonverbal communication are necessary early on in life to survive. A baby communicates through cries and grunts, body language, and more to present their needs to their caregiver - something that we must calibrate our senses to provide for their needs. It’s empathy, in part, that helps us learn to consider what our baby needs before they are capable of telling us so.
Empathy is simply defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, and the importance of empathy as a parent and a person was made abundantly clear to me the moment my child came into this world.
Empathy to attempt to understand what it is like to be brand new in this world. This is their first time experiencing everything, and that thought sent me into “I wonder what he thinks of..” or “I wonder what he feels about..” mode. Trying to imagine how he might feel or think, set off a ripple effect into my life.
I thought I was empathetic before having a child however, after applying the same level of empathy I have for my child, to everyone I encounter, my life was changed. I feel that as a parent, educating our children on the importance of understanding their feelings is a responsibility. Children who are emotionally competent and have an understanding of their feelings are more easily able to empathize with others.
Empathy is an important component in social development and according to this 2019 study, “capacity for empathy is a key component for sustaining cooperation in societies”.
So that means human beings thrive with empathy, facilitating cooperation and ultimately success as a society and as individuals.
That's the thing about empathy, it creates reciprocal relationships and mutual understanding which equates to fulfillment for all involved. Empathy is what drives us forward, from infancy to adulthood we require empathy to prosper, so demonstrating empathy helps our kids understand how to be empathetic too.
Having a baby in the NICU makes for a difficult and trying introduction to parenthood, but for me and my family, thankfully we all came out on the other end with more experience, confidence, and perspective than before.
Through the experience of birth and the beginnings of motherhood, I learned to let go of my need to be “ready”, my desire to have control over a situation, and I was also able to truly appreciate the need for empathy.
We will all have our special takeaways from that moment we become parents, and for me, these are some of the ideas that propelled me forward into enlightenment in all areas of my life.
Going forward, parenthood and time will produce many lessons and for me and these reminders will remain relevant:
You Will Never Be "Ready"- and you don't need to be.
You Don’t Have Control and You Can’t Fix It All - The illusion of control is shattered when your child enters the world. Letting go of the search for control allows you to thrive in the reality you create for yourself.
Empathy is the Answer- No matter the situation, empathy is always linked in some way. It's a critical factor in social development as individuals, and as a society.