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I spent my first pregnancy and the better part of my oldest
son's first year feeling like the most incompetent mother on the planet. Maybe
it's because I had no experience with babies, or because I didn't become a mom until I was 42, but I second-guessed
everything I did. And I learned the hard way that confidence comes from trial
My husband was deployed when my first son was born, so I had five
months of just baby and me to figure it out on my own. I wouldn't wish that
experience on anyone, but you know what? I managed! And I learned a few tricks
to help me feel more confident even when something unexpected came up.
Yes, "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "What to Expect the First
Year" are great resources, but I also scoured the parenting section at Barnes
& Noble. I read every parenting magazine in my OB's waiting room and took the free subscriptions that they offered. I signed up
for every newsletter and joined every message board and downloaded every app. I was inundated with
information on every possible topic related to baby. This was great for my last
trimester and for the early months when I had a newborn and little time to do
much besides read, scroll through my heavily loaded phone and watch TV (yes, I even bought a few baby and parenting videos and CDs).
2. I narrowed my resources to the ones that really
worked for me
My way, whatever that turned out to be, would be good enough.
Being overwhelmed with
information taught me two things: There are very few parenting
things that can only be done one "right" way (proper installation of car seats
being one of those things) and I knew more than I thought I did.
It's true. Even though I had never so much as changed a diaper before I had my first baby,
I had taken enough childhood development and psychology classes to have a basic
understanding of the stages of a baby, toddler and beyond. I'd also absorbed a
lot of information from friends who had kids. So all of that reading material
made me feel confident enough in my knowledge base while giving me even more
information to realize that my way, whatever that turned out to be, would be
So I put away most of the baby books and deleted all but my favorite apps, kept the weekly newsletter
that was based on my child's current age, maintained a presence on one very active message board and bookmarked the most helpful
3. When in doubt, I sought a second opinion
By narrowing the number of people I relied on for information to those I trusted most, I learned to feel more confident in my decisions.
Everyone you meet when you're pregnant or pushing a stroller seems to be an expert on how you should care for your baby. I
learned very quickly not to listen to most of the advice I was given. Once I had exhausted my trusted resources, I turned to those with the most experience. If I had a question about the baby's health or
development, I called the pediatrician's office and spoke with a nurse. If I
had a question about how to treat cradle cap or a minor rash on baby's face, I
spoke with the pharmacist. If I had a question about baby gear, I checked
Amazon reviews, Consumer Reports Best Baby Products or
took a poll among a few friends. By narrowing the number of people I
relied on for information to those I trusted most, I learned to feel more
confident in my decisions.
4. I learned to trust my instincts
Have you heard the saying, "Fake it until you make
it"? Well, it applies to motherhood, too. Sometimes I learned things
from trial and error, whether it was deciding if my baby needed a
nightlight (not really) to whether he was ready for a toddler bed (definitely).
Trying something new and then either going back to the way I did it before or
tweaking it so it worked better only required a little extra time and patience
on my part, but it increased my confidence tenfold. No, I'm not suggesting you
ignore the professionals, forego the doctors' visits or throw away "What to
Expect…" but at the end of the day, no one knows your child better than you do.
If a problem arises that you don't know how to handle, by all means turn to the
resources you trust. If your way of doing things stops working, or you don't
know how to adjust to a new stage, absolutely ask for advice from people you
trust. But always know that, on a moment-to-moment and day-to-day basis, you're
the expert when it comes to your kid. More than books, magazines, websites, apps or
well-meaning friends, I learned that my confidence came from experience and
increased every day I was a mother.
One day at a time, mamas. That's how we grow a child and
gain our confidence. One day at a time.