Oh the lessons learned. In just over a week, my little baby girl will be one year old. A whole year has already gone by. Last week, she got a new big girl carseat, and, as I like to call them, real-person shoes.
Another mom said a quote the other day that really rings true for me right now. “The days are long, but the years are short“. Thinking back a year, I had no idea what was to come. I remember struggling with not knowing how to picture a new life with a baby. I just knew I was excited to get it started.
A few friends of mine are having their first babies, and I’ve been trying to think of good advice to pass on. When I was pregnant I probably read a hundred or so blogs and articles about what to expect, what to buy, what not to buy, etc. I was slightly obsessed. Some of the sites I used over and over again were: Pregnant Chicken, The Bump, and Baby Center.
Basically after one year I’ve learned there is no perfect list. What works for me won’t work for you, and vice versa. However, in true mom blogger fashion, I figured that as I look back on this amazing, crazy year, I should put together my list. The list of things I would have found helpful, things that I’m glad someone told me, and things that I could never in a million years understand or contemplate without becoming a mom. So here you go.
Ten Lessons Learned:
1. Maternal Instinct Is Wired Into The Brain
Words do not exist on this earth to describe the lack of sleep that comes with becoming a new parent. Tired. Sleepy. Foggy headed. Groggy. Exhausted. Beyond exhausted. You will be all of these things, and more. Yet, somehow you will garnish whatever morsels of energy your body can produce, from the very depths of your cells, and you will be able to take care of every need of that new baby. Motherly instinct is very, very real. In my deepest (short) sleep cycle, I would wake up when she moved, let alone cried. And with zero sleep, I could be up in an instant to tend to her. Nothing else mattered. Somehow there is new energy, enough to get through another feeding cycle, another diaper change, another crying session. Having said that, do make sure to sleep when you can (next item on my list).
2. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
Many people told me this, and I thank them. It can be harder than it sounds, but it’s very true and very important to try to make it happen. I still use this advice a year later. Some days I still just stop and take a nap when the baby does, honestly because a well rested mom is nicer and more patient than one who is overly exhausted. Motherhood is a 24 hour thing. Go to sleep when you can, and don’t feel an ounce of guilt for it.
More Reading: WebMD – Coping With Excessive Sleepiness
3. Ask for Help, or a Break, or Both
I absolutely hate asking for help. I am that person who will throw their back out carrying something that is way too heavy, up a flight of stairs, because “I can do it”. It’s not a smart way to do things. Ask someone to go to the store for you, or help you clean the house. If you can budget it, hire a cleaning service. There’s no reason to try to impress or prove that you can do it all. It’s hard. Ask someone if they can sit with the baby while she sleeps, so you can get out and feel “normal”, even if it’s ten minutes. You would be surprised how the simple act of standing in line at Starbucks has a really foreign, yet comforting feel the first few times out.
4. You Will Get Frustrated, Mad, and Have Not Nice Thoughts
Yes, not nice thoughts about your new, perfect, innocent bundle of joy now and then. It’s very okay. It’s very normal. You will feel outrageously guilty for having these thoughts. Pre-baby no one would really discuss this topic. Post- baby, people come clean and tell you how it really is. Some relevant advice I did find was to “put the baby in a safe place, and leave the room if you need to re-gain your composure”. A screaming baby will wear you down, and yes, drive you crazy. Anyone who says otherwise is a saint or lying. You are not a bad parent if you need to let your baby cry in its crib alone for a few minutes, so you can gather your thoughts and re-group. Walk away. Scream into a pillow. Do some push ups. Take a shot (or two) of whiskey. Do what you have to do. You are human, and life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
More Reading: Pregnant Chicken – My Baby Won’t Stop Crying
5. Order Your Nursery Chair as Early as Possible
Months early. We went to the store a few weeks before the baby was born to order our chair and nursery furniture. We did get her crib and dresser on time, both of which we didn’t need nearly as much as having a comfortable place to sit with the baby, post unplanned c-section. The chair came just after she turned 2 months old. Major bummer.
6. When People Say Breastfeeding Can Be Hard, They Never Really Explain What Hard Really Means
If you have the opportunity, have a super detailed, truth-laden discussion with someone who has been successful at it, and someone who hasn’t. I had no comprehension for how challenging it would be, both physically and mentally. Aim for nothing but success, but do acknowledge that there is a possibility it won’t work out, and be okay with that too. Whatever happens, don’t let anyone EVER make you feel bad about the decisions you make when it comes to feeding and taking care of your baby.
More Reading: Taming Insanity – Breastfeeding is Hard
7. If You Do Choose To Breastfeed, Make Sure To Read Up On Baby Formula Anyway
You may have to give your baby formula at some point. Some times you need to breast feed and give formula supplements. It’s actually quite normal to give both- which I only found out by having random, secret discussions with other moms in nursing rooms or restaurants. No books ever really discuss it. Some people talk about formula like it is the equivalent to giving your baby Mountain Dew. It’s not. It’s the next best and only option you have sometimes, so be aware of it. You are not a horrible person or a terrible mother if you feed your baby formula, though many will try to make you feel that way (especially yourself!). Your job is to keep your baby healthy and happy and safe. period.
More Reading: Kelly Mom – What Should I Know About Infant Formula?
8. Everybody Has An Opinion, And They Will Tell You About It
You thought the advice you got while pregnant was bad? That was only just the beginning. You will now enter a world of more fads, insecurity, and over-reaching concerns by others. Learn to filter the advice. Practice your smile, nod and walk away moves. Or if you like confrontation, go ahead and tell them what you think. Either way, decide how you want your family to be, and do that. Don’t let other people get in your head. I continually have to remind myself of this. Also, you will become opinionated about other people and their kids (you’re human), so don’t forget to treat others as you would like to be treated. Just sayin’.
More Reading: Dad About Town – Everyone Has An Opinion About Babies
9. “This Too Shall Pass”
Unfortunately this works two ways. When things are tough, know that it won’t last forever. However when things are great, they won’t last forever either. Make sure you take time to stop and realize when the bad has passed and the good is in full swing. It can be tricky.
More Reading: Parent 24 – This Too Shall Pass
10. Everybody Is Winging It
If someone looks like an amazing parent, with all their sh%t together, they are just better at hiding the fact that they are winging it too. There is no perfect advice or secret perfect parent club. You just try things and sometimes they work great (with witnesses!), and sometimes they fail miserably (with witnesses). As much as I always wanted to have children I was just as scared that I would be horrible at it. Someone once told me, “the best parents are the ones who worry that they will be bad parents. If you care enough to be so concerned, you will do great.”
More Reading: Pregnant Chicken – Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother