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My Kids Are 14 Years Apart And, OMG, Parenting Has Changed

Photograph by Getty Images/Flickr RM

Yes, it's true. My first baby was born in 1995 when I was 21 years old and my fourth was born 14 years later in 2009 when I was 35 years old. While parenting on a basic level hasn't changed—after all, we all want to keep our kids healthy and safe while giving them what they need to succeed—there have been a ton of changes in how we connect with one another and what tools we use, especially when comparing today to the parenting landscape I embarked on two decades ago.

Pregnancy in 1995

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was an avid reader. When my pregnancy test turned positive, I turned to books for information and guidance. I went to bookstores and perused the pregnancy titles, deciding on classics like "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "Your Pregnancy Week by Week." I also got a copy of "A Child is Born" to have on hand.

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I was single at the time and my mom was very involved in my pregnancy. I relied heavily on her input and experience to help me through this challenging time. I listened to other family members recount their own experiences, and while I didn't know anyone who had breastfed their children, I decided to nurse my baby based on the extensive reading I did on the topic. I went into labor knowing what was going to happen, and was even prepared for a C-section, which I wound up needing.

So while my knowledge base wasn't super deep, I still feel like I was well prepared for the whole experience.

Pregnancy in 2009

When I was pregnant with my fourth baby, I still enjoyed the hands-on book reading experience, but I also made use of the internet. While trying to conceive, for example, I read and read (and read) the internet, moreso than I did the single book I bought on the topic. When I finally got pregnant after three years of trying, I immediately joined an online due date club (DDC), a unique experience I didn't have the first go-around. Having tons of other moms around the world to "talk" with who were doing the same things I was doing, was priceless.

Labor and delivery was a completely different experience, having already gone through two VBACs and preparing for another, but there was another enormous difference: the hospital where my first was born had been torn down, making way for a new birthing unit at another hospital with fancy rooms.

If I have a question, I still ask my mom, but now I also now have resources right at my fingertips.

Raising a kid then

I still relied on parenting books and my mom to get me through the tough times, and I also heavily relied on the advice and suggestions of my child's pediatrician. When he said I could start my 3-month-old baby on rice cereal, for example, I ran to the store and fed it to him that night. When a nurse practitioner told me to keep a food diary for him when he was a preschooler because he was thin, I did so without questioning it.

If I did have a question, I used a telephone to call someone—the doctor, my mom… a person who I would speak to with my actual voice. My support system included people I physically saw or called on the telephone. Middle of the night? Wait until morning.

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Raising a kid today

By the time my fourth baby was here, I was already an experienced mom of 14 years. I still listened to her pediatrician to an extent, but I had learned in the intervening decade-and-a-half that my instincts were often pretty much spot on and just because a physician said I could do something, that didn't mean that I needed to do it (including feeding rice cereal to a 3-month-old, which sounds completely insane now.)

If I have a question, I still ask my mom, but now I also now have resources right at my fingertips. I ask friends in my Facebook mom groups, accompanied by my own internet research. I still belong to my DDC, and also belong to special interest groups where we have a common interest (such as a child's chronic illness.) While I wouldn't substitute talking with mom friends online for medical advice, they can be an amazing sounding board and support system—including in the middle of the night while I'm laying in bed everyone else is snoozing. And it's amazing to be able to regularly chat with people across the globe about being a mom

While the differences between 1995 and 2016 are pretty vast, I can't definitively say that one is better than the other. That time as a single 21-year-old mom of one little boy was still quite precious and I wouldn't change it for anything, but I do enjoy the technological advances of being a parent in 2016. And truth be told, I can't wait to see where we all are in 20 more years.

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