Twenty-one years ago, I was a career woman who planned to give birth, head back to work and hire a nanny full time to help take care of my first child. Funny thing happened along the way...he stole my heart and there was no way I was letting someone else raise my child. After all, I could handle the corporate world and surely I could handle motherhood. I’ve got this! My brother and sister had children way before me and I was their babysitter at least four times. I’ve got this!
Little did I know after giving birth, my child would not be a sleeper and it would render me sleep deprived for five years. Little did I know, my husband would be as clueless as I was, and was useless when it came to anything unless I gave explicit instructions. Little did I know my body would ache all over for five years. I visited a multitude of doctors who could not discover what I thought was surely cancer all over my insides. I ended up being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
My village included two of the most important women in the world to me; my aunt and grandmother. They were always available for company, to babysit, run errands, cook us dinners, etc. I will be forever grateful for them being in my life. They helped me keep my sanity. We laughed a lot and shared a lot of wonderful memories together for my oldest child’s first four years until we moved out of state and closer to my in-laws. They were the next great village! My father-in-law gladly helped out and my mother-in-law cooked amazing meals just like in all of those stories about southern women you hear about or see on TV. She also didn’t mind that her Southern Living magazine-photo-worthy-house looked like a toy store exploded in every single room.
Looking back, I wish I had known some important things. I spent a fortune on the nursey furniture and only what seems like pennies for the car seat. Big mistake. I didn’t know that of all the baby products and gear, the car seat is the most important product you need to purchase, and the only one required by law. I certainly didn’t know anything about installing it properly and I didn’t know I was supposed to know these things. My village didn’t know either! I lived at the beach so I chose a seat that had fish all over the fabric.
Here’s what parents need to know before the birth of their child:
Purchase the car seat way in advance. All car seats have to meet the same standards, but some products go above and beyond those standards by adding extra safety features like energy absorbing foam and a steel structure. Why not go overboard on safety for your most precious cargo?
Be sure it is installed properly at least 4-6 weeks before you give birth. Watch the videos from the manufacturer. Read the car seat manual and vehicle manual thoroughly. 4 out of 5 car seats are unknowingly installed incorrectly so it’s a good idea to seek out professional help. You’ll hire all the best piano, dance and sports instructors for your child as they grow. You might as well ask the professionals for help with one of the most misused baby products.
Lastly, keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. Twenty years ago, my child’s pediatrician told me to turn him around at nine months old because he weighed thirty pounds. Bless his heart and mine! We both didn’t consider my baby’s head, neck and spinal column. The entire back of the car seat helps protect these delicate areas during a collision. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends keeping children rear-facing up to age 2 or to the upper weight and height limits of the car seat. Most convertible car seats on the market will accommodate a rear-facing child up to at least 4 years old.
These days, parents and caregivers have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. I would suggest that parents only seek out reputable web sites and not just reach out to a social media thread for everything. Some topics are still best left to the professionals. And yet, I have found that a mother’s instinct is still a wonderful force to reckon with. Sometimes, a mom just knows.