I’ve been getting so many ‘good news calls’ from my friends lately – which are the best kind. I have several friends who are pregnant – some very early along and some about to give birth (or just have!) – and many others who are new moms surviving their first few months with their little one. Most of them, after sharing their news with me, start asking questions – What should I register for? What is it like? What should I expect?
So, I write this to you – my friend, a new mom. I’ve gathered some thoughts on all things motherhood – at least what I’ve learned 19 months in – in the hopes they can be helpful for you. Maybe your baby is still in your belly and is the size of an olive, or maybe you have a six month old, or maybe you’re somewhere in between. Wherever you are on your journey, I share these thoughts with you:
Set low expectations and be open — have goals but be prepared that they might not work out. Before I had the twins I told myself (and others) that I was going to exclusively, tandem breastfeed them for at least 6 months. Honestly I can barely get through that sentence without bursting out laughing now. Who was I to put that on myself without ever having breastfed two babies (let alone one!) before?! In reality I was never able to master tandem breastfeeding, had to supplement with formula to keep up with two very hungry babies, and ended up exclusively pumping for 4 months. It was nothing like I thought. And that was OKAY.
You’re going into this as a newbie. So be prepared that your vision for motherhood may end up looking completely different. This goes for your birth plan, breastfeeding, pumping, sleep training, types of toys your babies play with (think your baby is never going to play with a noisemaking, plastic toy? HA I can’t wait to see how that goes for you come toddlerhood), screen time, and solids. Make a plan, have ideas, have goals — but be open and able to roll with the flow to find a new way to make something work
Don’t over complicate – people have been raising babies for 1000s of years and have done it without a million gadgets, fancy bottles, electronics, diapers, wipes, creams, swings etc. Don’t feel you have to buy everything that Buy Buy Baby has to offer. Your child will grow up JUST fine if he/she doesn’t have the mini whirlpool baby bath with a heated towel bar. No I didn’t make that up — it really exists. I bought a lot of baby gear that I didn’t end up using. I suggest bringing baby home with the basics and going from there.
….but at the same time don’t under complicate. Parenting is hard. Newborns are hard. Toddlers are hard. Breastfeeding is hard. Adulting is hard. There are days when everything is hard. Don’t brush off that these things don’t always come easily or naturally. It’s okay to struggle. Everyone does as a first time, second time, fifth time parent. There are no perfect, pro parents. We are all learning. And while it may seem like someone else is sailing along their path as a parent because of their perfect posts on Instagram or their constant passive bragging at playgroup (*eye roll*) – just know that even those moms have their dark moments too, they just don’t talk about it.
Everything will be damp. A friend, and fellow mother, once told me how she related her baby’s first year to dampness….and I laughed SO hard because honestly, it’s true. A lot of being a mother involves dampness – leaky boobs, spit up, spilt milk or formula, runny noses, tears. You may go a full day wearing a wet shirt, or maybe even no shirt at all. The couch might have towels on it for weeks at a time because your baby (cough, looking at you L) keeps spitting up all over it. There will be a day when you aren’t damp….but I’ll tell you now, 19 months in, I still haven’t seen that day. I’ll get back to you about that.
It’s okay not to like it sometimes. I feel like there’s an overwhelming pressure to love every single moment of motherhood. People will say things to you like, “Oh the newborn stage is so sweet are you loving all the snuggles?” And you’re sitting there having not slept for 3 nights with spit up down your bra wondering what sweet part you’re missing. It’s okay not to like a stage, age, day, moment, week. We all know as mothers we love our little ones to death so that’s why it’s okay to say “I can’t wait for this stage to be over.”
There will be moments you’re terrified. The first time Chris and I gave L&H baths we were so nervous. Did we make the water hot enough? Too hot? Was it cold? Oh god and don’t get me started about the first time we took them for a walk – we were both so nervous/excited to get out we forgot to put the brake on the stroller and it rolled 2 feet away from us – which felt equivalent to the length of a football field. Or then there was the first time we took their temperatures with the rectal thermometer. Or I went to the grocery store by myself with both babies. Or when L&H slept in the nursery instead of our room for the first time. All of these moments were scary. Your baby, while very tiny and adorable, at times will terrify you. But I promise, your baby will not break if the bath water is not the perfect temperature. You will survive because even though your itty bitty is itty bitty – babies are not as delicate as you think.
Be forgiving to yourself – you are new at this!! You are going to fail. And that’s okay. When you do, don’t beat yourself up. Because, I’m sorry, but you know what? You’re probably gonna screw up again tomorrow — then two days later again. And repeat for 20 years. When you mess up, the best thing you can do is say, ‘I’m human and I’m doing my best. Hopefully next time I’ll do better.’
Your life will change in the most amazing way. Life as a mother will change things in so many ways. Chris and I used to go out at least once a week before the twins were born. Now we go out maybe every 3 months. Saturday nights used to be spent with friends at a restaurant, party, or bar. Now they are spent playing with the babies then doing dinner, bath and bedtime before we crawl to bed ourselves. That may sound awful, but truthfully it’s the best time ever. Being a mother brings me so much joy – to the point that I think my heart might just burst on a daily (or hourly) basis.
Motherhood is more than I ever imagined it would be in every way. It’s more exciting, more interesting, more terrifying, more amazing, more exhausting, more rewarding. My life has changed so much since becoming a mom – yours will too – but truly I wouldn’t want it any other way.