Stephania Gibb is a mother and grandmother who knows what it is be a first-time parent with a newborn and precious little knowledge on how to care for that crying little bundle of joy. She has also watched her daughters-in-law struggle through parenting issues as well as her sons, not to mention countless other friends and family members. She has listened to first-time parents express confusion and frustration over conflicting advice from doctors, nurses, parenting books, and so called experts. So, finally, she decided it was time to have her own say on the topic of parenting.
Early in her new book Don’t Throw Your Firstborn (or yourself) Off the Balcony, she states up front why she has written this book: “Hundreds of books have been written for mothers regarding babies and how to raise and nurture a child. But how many are written by a mother who has raised her own children and observes how most of her grandchildren are being raised?” Furthermore, Stephania adds, “A lot of the books written are done so by medical doctors or paediatricians — but are they parents?”
The real advantage, in my opinion, to reading this book with advice from a grandmother is evidenced in the title. Stephania has gone through it all, and she knows that while a baby is a blessing, caring for it is also a ton of work and stress and frustration. Throughout the book, she reminds readers to “remember to take a deep breath, especially when you may feel the world collapsing around you or you have a strong desire to throw your newborn off the balcony.”
The book is divided into short chapters on important topics that basically walk parents (mothers and fathers) through the baby delivery and care process. Topics include pregnancy and body changes, labor, the hospital stay, coming home from the hospital, what babies’ cries mean, why not to noise-proof your house for the baby, the bathing process, and what role the father can play in caring for the baby.
Every chapter and topic is filled with practical advice and much needed humor. An example of humor is in the discussion on hospital stays when Stephania says, “It [the hospital stay] must seem like a whirlwind to most first-time mothers. Did I just have a baby, or did I just order pizza? Which experience was faster?” But humor aside, Stephania makes a solid point about how little time mothers are in the hospital these days and how the labor and delivery are exhausting so they cannot be expected to remember everything the doctor and nurse tells them in their short stay there. For that reason, this book is an invaluable guide and reminder.
Among the advice Stephania gives, I especially found insightful her point about noise levels. Everyone just automatically assumes you need to be quiet so the baby can sleep, but Stephania reminds us that creating an abnormally quiet environment will only backfire on parents. “Normal conversation should take place without ‘hushing’ everyone because the baby is asleep. Children become very adaptable if we give them the opportunity. Remember, this little being came into your world — not the other way around — so introducing the baby to your life will make things a lot easier for all concerned.”
She adds, “If you do not create a special sleeping environment for your child, you will be less stressed over time and trying to get home for the child’s nap. Certain routines are good; however, creating a ritual that is unbending may be detrimental to your sanity. Again, remember that this child came into your lives; not you into his or her life.”
Of course, she also reminds us that being a parent is not simply a job. It is a blessing and a privilege to be involved in the miracle of birth and raising a child. She encourages parents to “Embrace each day that you have with your baby. Children grow up and change so quickly that the first few days and months will only be a memory before you know it. Take the time to make each day as special as you can. Each day can be an adventure for all of you—what exciting things will we see today? What kind of activity can we take part in that will be fun?”
Don’t Throw Your Firstborn (or yourself) Off the Balcony is a small enough book that you can carry it in a purse or bag so it’s handy to refer to whenever you need it. It’s also filled with entertaining cartoons by the author’s niece, Karlin Leshchyshyn, and includes a foreword by family chiropractor Dr. David Bzdel. And it is full of places where you can write notes and do simple exercises to reinforce and remember what you have read. Stephania’s honest, easy-to-read style makes this book a godsend for many parents who don’t have time or energy to read a lot of medical jargon but just want simple and good advice that will confirm their innate parenting skills.
For more information about Stephania Gibb and Don’t Throw Your Firstborn (or yourself) Off The Balcony, visit the author’s website.