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First-time Parents Make Way for Baby
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Craig Anderson
HEALTH MATTERS FEATURE MAY/JUNE 2011
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first time parents

In the last year couples Brad and Anisha Carter and Matthew and Audra Meyer have welcomed baby boys to their families.

For the first-time parents it’s been a whirlwind journey from pregnancy to the trial-by-fire world of parenthood. It’s meant hard work and surprises, but there have been even greater rewards, the couples say.

The Carters, from Altoona, had their son, Rylan, on May 8, 2010. Rylan, a very social boy, loves to laugh and yell, is saying a few words, and is learning how to blow kisses.

“One of the fun things in the first year is how much he’s changed and especially the new things that come of his mouth now,” says dad, Brad, 33. “He mimics sounds—it’s hilarious.”

The Meyers, from Windsor Heights, struggled for several years to have children before their son, Isaac, was born on October 1, 2010. Isaac likes talking to himself in the mirror, splashing in his bathtub, standing (with the help of furniture or an exersaucer), and laughing.

“The name Isaac means ‘he will laugh.’ He’s definitely lived up to his name,” says dad, Matthew, 33.
Within each family’s unique story, there were also some similar experiences, including what they did to prepare for their baby’s arrival and establishing a support system.

Do Your Research
Preparing for the arrival of a little one can be overwhelming, to say the least. There are the endless books, classes, websites, and people filled with opinions on everything from feeding and labor to sleeping and strollers.

The Carters and Meyers both decided to deliver at Mercy Medical Center after doing research that included talking to friends, meeting with the staff, and considering the quality of care.

Both couples also took advantage of childbirth education classes available through the hospital, which they say were extremely valuable. The prenatal classes were especially helpful in calming some of their anxieties around the labor and delivery process, Anisha and Audra say.

It was also during one of those classes that Matthew donned a pregnancy suit to get a taste of what mom-to-be Audra was going through. “You get a little warm, you’ve got weight in all the wrong places, and it hurts,” Matthew says. “Luckily the light at the end of the tunnel was not far for me. It was a neat experience.”

Bootcamp for New Dads gave Brad and Matthew the opportunity to hear firsthand from new dads and to practice diapering and swaddling their new babies. “It was really nice to have some candid conversations with someone who had been through it,” Matthew says.

The couples read a number of books, and the Carters also used many online resources. But, Anisha cautions, “Read a few books, but don’t overdo it because you will freak yourself out.” 

Establish a Support System
Having a network of trusted family members, friends, or coworkers can ease the transition into parenthood by providing everything from advice to babysitting services.

The Carters moved to Altoona to be closer to Brad’s father, who comes over to hang out with Rylan and watches him when they go out to dinner, says Anisha, 35. Having family nearby is especially nice because her mom lives in India.

Anisha has also turned to her coworkers at Principal Financial Group, many of whom have kids around Rylan’s age, for advice. They have shared their own experiences from pregnancy to parenthood, filling her in on information you can’t find in books, she says.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, says Audra, 34. She and Matthew will sometimes ask family members to take care of Isaac so the two of them can have date nights.

“I think it’s important to not only spend time with your child but also as a couple, and to take time for yourself,” she says. “You have to take care of yourself before you take care of a child.”

There Are Challenges and Surprises, But It’s a Joyful Adventure
These new families have weathered everything from those nervous first few days home from the hospital to the unexpected sleep deprivation, colic, eczema, and trips to the emergency room for croup.

Audra says what surprised her as a new parent was the amount of things you don’t know. It took awhile to decipher Isaac’s different cries, and it still takes some sleuthing to figure out whether he’s sick or tired.

Anisha, who was pregnant at the same time as her two sisters-in-law, says while she knew in theory that every baby does things differently on his or her own schedule, she never really understood it until Rylan and his cousins came along. “We were also quite surprised at how quickly babies change and evolve. Rylan is constantly learning new things and finding new ways to express himself, making every day an adventure.”

The Meyers say they’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of joy Isaac has brought to their lives.
“We knew he would bring joy, but I guess we didn’t know how much joy,” Audra says. “He’s only seven months old, and he contributes so much love and joy to our lives. We are truly blessed.”

Pre-Pregnancy Checklist

Good preconception care can impact a baby’s early development, as well as provide a solid foundation for the rest of the pregnancy.

Schedule a checkup. A visit to your doctor can help determine whether you have any conditions that could affect your pregnancy, and plan your care accordingly. Your physician may ask questions about your eating and exercise habits, medical history, medications, family and work life, and family medical history.

Quit smoking. Smoking may not only make it tougher to get pregnant, it can harm your baby. Convince your partner to kick the habit, too. Secondhand smoke can affect the development of a baby in utero, and make a child more susceptible to colds, respiratory infection, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after he or she is born.

Stop drinking alcohol. There’s evidence that conceiving may be more difficult for heavy drinkers.

Get to a healthy weight. Women who are underweight or overweight may have problems conceiving. Also, being too heavy can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased strain on the heart. Being underweight can raise the risk of having a low birth weight baby.

Eat right. Eating a balanced diet will help keep you and your baby healthy. Even before you conceive, start taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid. Women need 400 micrograms of folic acid every day which can help prevent neural tube defects.

Stay fit. Following an exercise regimen before getting pregnant can help you be more comfortable and active throughout your pregnancy. Try to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

expecting? thinking about starting a family? Learn more about Mercy’s Mother/Baby services by calling (515) 643.8217 or visiting MercyDesMoines.org/baby

 

 

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