When our baby was born, we spent her first 6 weeks in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where my parents live. It was such a gift to have so many people help us with her. Whether it was feeding, bathing, burping or changing her or helping to make bottles, do laundry and cradle her to sleep. After 6 weeks, we came back home to New Jersey and my partner had to travel for work for 2 weeks. Talk about ripping the band-aid off.
Being first-time gay parents is hard. There’s no rule book for same sex parents and so you have to take it day by day.
I went from so much help to no help at all. I had to figure out how to parent alone in the process. As a result I learned so many things. I hope some of these things help those going through the same thing.
- Patience Is Hard, But Also Key – The first hurdle I had to overcome was patience. As a LGBTQ parent, I was still learning my baby girl and all of the cries and hours of fussiness were new to me. I had no one to lean on and as a result, my patience was tested to its core. I would find myself so frustrated that I would scream at at my poor baby girl, when it wasn’t even her fault she was fussy. It was when I took the time to truly listen to her cries that I started to understand what she wanted. Also, when in doubt, I’d change her diaper. She was always happy with a fresh diaper.
- Walk Away – It’s ok to walk away sometimes. If you’ve checked all of your boxes like feedings, diapers, gas drops and naps, then it’s ok to let your baby cry a bit. Someone gave me some advice that if they are fussy and there’s nothing you can do, then take a shower for a few minutes. It will let you relax and help with letting your baby cry it out.
- Ask for Help – For me, going from a crazy amount of help to no help at all was extremely tough. I was 4 days in to being alone with my baby girl, when I had enough. I texted my husband that I needed the help and if he couldn’t be with me, he would need to help me find a solution. We luckily had a friend’s mom who was a retired NICU nurse and was able to fly up and help. While not everyone will know a retired NICU nurse, think about asking a friend to come over for a few hours or hiring a baby sitter for the afternoon. That time can be precious to sleep uninterrupted, run an errand, get a haircut or even shower.
- Go with Your Gut – Given yourself more credit than you deserve. All parents are going through what you’re going through. You’re uncomfortable, nervous, indecisive and don’t want to mess up anything with your child. You won’t. If you go with your gut feeling you will do well. When you have a newborn they need very few things, so as long as you’re fulfilling that, you should be ok.
- Don’t Be Scared to Leave Home – Leaving your house with your little one is ok. I went to the store with mine and after 10 minutes, I freaked out and came home. It’s ok to leave the house. I find that if I have a checklist for each time, it makes it easier. I make sure the diaper bag is filled, she has an extra change of clothes and the car seat / stroller are all organized. If you have all of your tools, even if your baby gets fussy outside of your house, you can do the same things you would need to do at home to calm him or her down. It’s hard to go from being social and out to not being able to leave home. As a gay parent, this is what I found the most difficult.
- Sleep Every Other Nap – I was always told that I should sleep when my baby sleeps. While this sounds ideal, it’s near impossible. There is so much organization that I liked to handle when she was sleeping. I wanted to always have clean bottles, take care of laundry, do yoga, meditate and read. So I found that an afternoon nap alone was good enough for me to be up a lot at night. It’s different for everyone, but you’d be surprised how little sleep we do need to be productive.
LGBT parenting is like any other parent. As same sex parents, we just need to help each other out and support each other on this journey. I hope these tips help you as they were great things for me to learn on my journey.