Parent Programs - Watch for Them!

When I was in the hospital after giving birth to my son, it seemed like there was a revolving door of people coming in - doctors, various nurses, staff dropping off (and then picking up) meals, and folks from the mommy and baby clinic. I was in the hospital for 5 days, so there were a lot of faces in and out of the room. After an unexpected C-section to welcome the most lovable and adorable baby who wouldn't sleep a blink at night, it was a bit overwhelming. 
At some point, in the hospital blur, I agreed to participate in a program through public health. They offer many different programs for new parents, depending on your circumstances, and I qualified for one program, because I was a first time mum. It would involve a public health nurse coming to my home every few weeks to weigh and measure my son, and help me navigate through life as a first time mum. Normally, having a stranger come into my home would be a bit scary, but I was nervous about parenthood and thought it would help having an "expert" available for me to ask questions and help get through rough patches. After all, let's be honest, I really didn't have a clue about what I was doing! 

A few days after getting home, I received a phone call, asking if I was still interested, and I'm so glad that I said yes! They told me I could decide to "quit" at any time I wanted, and the support would be there until my son was 2 years old. Initially, the nurse came to my house every couple of weeks. This was great when I had questions about breastfeeding, sleeping, and all the other questions mums have in the first couple of months. 
At each visit, the nurse would see how things were going, ask if I had any questions, review milestones and leave me with questionnaires to complete with my husband before our next appointment, to help us track his progress. She would always leave helpful handouts on feeding guidelines and activity suggestions for each stage. The feeding guidelines really came in handy when I was introducing solids, so I would have an idea of when and how much to feed him. These guides had a permanent place on the side of my fridge so they could be easily referred to and I've shared them with others. The activity suggestions were also helpful when he was really little, because I was always looking for new things to do throughout the day that would also support his development.
One of the handouts I always looked forward to receiving was the "get to know me" sheet each month. It outlined things that children typically enjoy doing at that age, which helped me better understand child development and figure out what to expect from our baby as he progressed. It was all new to us, so it was really helpful! 
Over time, the nurse came less frequently, especially after I returned to work, but I always had her phone number and email if I had a question.  Feeding and sleeping were always big topics for conversation early on. It was so comforting to have someone who could give a suggestion that worked for someone else, or just to have her say, "It's okay. This is totally normal!"

Today was our last visit with the nurse. It's sad to say good-bye to the program, but at the same time, I think I'm good to go now! I feel so much more confident in my mom skills and have also learned to ask for help when I need it, and have learned who to reach out to.

So, why am I sharing this? Well, I write this, because I think parents often try to do it all on your own, but all parents, especially first-time parents, can use all the support they can get. Take advantage of programs like this, even if you don't need it long-term, you could learn something from it. It takes a village to raise a child, and it's always nice to be able add a new member to your village!

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