1. Your life changes in a major way and you can NEVER prepare for it
I was reading seven (yes, SEVEN) books when I was pregnant to prepare myself for labor, motherhood and taking care of our baby. I talked to all my girlfriends with babies. I took classes about babies. I blogged about preparing for our baby. I even told my employer I’d be ready to work from home after taking two short weeks off. In my mind I was ready to take on the world. Wrong. After I brought our son home, that first month was the hardest month of my life. Yes, some of the books helped with a few tricks here and there but nothing—and I really mean nothing—could've prepared me for the way my life was about to change. I lost all control, and that was one hard pill for this girl to swallow. Finally, I surrendered to my husband’s pleas to take a step back. I threw up my hands and allowed myself to take the six week short-term disability and get out of the driver’s seat. Best decision ever.
2. Breastfeeding can be HARD
I’ve been fortunate enough to breastfeed, but one thing I learned was not all babies and momma’s click immediately. I dreaded every feeding that first month because I felt like a broken feeding machine. It took over 15 minutes to get a good latch. I’d sweat. I’d cry. I’d bleed. Then I’d have to pump. Then feed him an ounce from a bottle. And in a short hour later, I had to do it all over again. And up to 12 times a day. I never gave up as much as I wanted to. I was determined to make it work with the help of my doctor, a lactation consultant, and the support of my husband and many girlfriends who are strong advocates for breastfeeding. After the fourth trip to the pediatrician to make sure our little guy was gaining weight, the hard work finally paid off. I was officially a successful breast feeder.
Do I think breastfeeding is simple now? No, not really. But I’m still at it and totally look forward to every three to four hours so I can bond with my little guy. It’s one of the best moments of my day.
3. A smile makes up for all those lost hours of sleep
Week one - I was clueless and scared out of my mind. Week two - I was ready to bury myself in the Kohl's clothes rack when my mom forced me to leave the house. Honestly, I didn't want to go back home! I remember having a sinking feeling in my stomach when I thought about all that waited for me there—the responsibilities seemed endless and so overwhelming. I wanted to run all the way back to my old life where I could easily catch up on sleep. Week three - I was crying at everything: commercials, songs on the radio, things my husband said, the fluids leaking from my body. Everything! Week four - I was ready to crash and explode. I had expended all energy in every form. The 14 hours of sleep I was going on FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK had caught up to me. The constant wake-up calls at 1, 3, 6 were killing me. And then, just as I was about to scream, "I can't do this anymore!" Our son looked up at me and smiled. My heart grew about twenty million sizes bigger and sleep didn't matter much anymore. My son loved me.
That was enough.
4. Communication is huge - even if it's uncomfortable and difficult
Week four my perfect husband and our perfect relationship had a major hiccup. The wonderful marriage we once had was slipping through my fingers and I couldn’t do anything about it, or at least that's what I felt at that moment. I get a little dramatic when I’m sleep deprived. There were no more dinners for two, or wine tasting Fridays, or hugs and kisses after returning home from work, or nights snuggling together reading our books until we drifted off to sleep. I missed him terribly. He could’ve been in the same room, but everything was different—I felt we were miles apart. We were both scared sh*tless and VERY TIRED. VERY. I resented him for getting more sleep. We stopped talking. We held our frustrations in. We grunted at each other in passing. And one night we both reached our breaking point, letting every bit of emotion out in one big blowup. I cried. He cried. And after that, things got better. We hugged it out. We talked from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. about everything. From that point on we were honest with one another. We forgave when we needed to. We became a team. And we never stopped talking!
5. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new level
The first week I brought our son home, I was thrilled if I could take a shower. Going into week thirteen I'm back to cooking, blogging, working, cleaning, running errands, and all the other things us moms/wives do. All I can say is you need more than two hands to get everything done in a day. Soon you will be embracing your feet. They are excellent at picking up burp clothes, pacifiers and rocking your baby to sleep.
6. Always ALWAYS listen to your gut
Don't mess with women's intuition and instincts. There's something to be said about this. You’re going to meet a whole new you. I call her Mama Bear. If something doesn't feel right in your gut, LISTEN to it. There’s a reason these feelings surface. You'll save yourself a ton of worry, sleepless nights and time. And time is something you don’t have a lot of, so just open your ears and heart to what’s going on inside and listen. Please listen. Then do something about it—try not to worry so much about whose feelings you might hurt. I’ll admit I still struggle with this—it’s easier for me to tell my own family what’s bothering me but hard for me to voice my concerns to anyone else because not everyone understands the exact feelings going on inside me. I’m worried I’ll be viewed as the crazy, overprotective mom. But I have to remind myself this isn’t about everyone else. This is about me and what’s best for our child.
7. Mom friends rock
The people who will understand what you’re going through are your mom friends. I would've NEVER been able to make it through the first few months if I didn't have my mom friends. These are the people you can text at 2 a.m. with questions like: Is it normal my baby has neon green poop for the third day in a row? Why do I want to scream when everyone gets in my baby's face? Why am I up right now and my husband is sleeping? Google will only take you so far. You need friends like these to help keep your sanity. And if you don’t have any, sign up for Early Family Childhood Education (ECFE) classes or support groups through your hospital. These moms are there to remind you that you are normal. You are amazing. And you can do it. They've been there. They've been through it. And the good ones will NEVER judge you.
8. You need thick skin, and thick skin forever
It’s nice to know your baby is loved by so many people, but sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re cornered by opinions and judgment. And more times than not everyone else’s way always seem to be the better way (according to them) because that’s the way they did it (insert how many years ago here). It's annoying. It's frustrating. And a lot of times it's hurtful. If you let it. Or there’s the beloved guilt trip where you’re forced to tote baby around every place under the sun. Soon weekends are taken up, nap schedules slip away and you’re more tired than ever because you have to play catch up and be there to pick up all the pieces. You realize you’re spending all this time trying to make everyone else happy. What about you? What about your new family? Be an advocate for you and your baby. Set boundaries. This is your life! And after all, you are pretty much the only one getting up in the middle of the night. What I was taught is to remember that most of these people are just trying to help. They love your baby and they want baby to love them. But you have the precious gift of being the parent and will ALWAYS be. I try to wave off the chatter and keep doing what I do best—loving my son.
9. The human body is a miracle.
Every day I look at myself in the mirror and then at my little man. I still have the faint remains of the linea nigra line along my stomach and I’ve lost most of my muscle tone. But I can't believe I (ahem, my husband too) created such a perfect human and he was inside me growing into this wonderful little miracle. How is that possible? How was I once that tiny baby inside my mom? Look how far I’ve come since then. Just think of what’s in store for my son. Yet, it’s so easy to forget where we came from and take advantage of the miracles we all are. We love to be in control. I know I do. For instance, I had an idea in my mind how I wanted my labor to go, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Keep an open mind. Embrace the miracle happening inside you and be ready for your mind to be blown away no matter the outcome. There really isn’t a textbook way to quite describe the moment when you meet your baby for the first time, other than it’s a whole new level of love. It’s amazing. You will be changed forever and you’ll learn to appreciate your body more.
10. You’ll always be late
I hate being late. I think it’s disrespectful and rude. But I don’t know how else to fix this. Even after getting up an extra hour earlier than before, I’m still 10 to 15 minutes late. Our baby spits up, poops or is taking an extra-long time feeding. The good thing is most people understand.
11. Worry takes on a whole new meaning.
I worry about everything now! Who will our son become? Is he growing like he should? Should I be doing more? Is he eating enough? Should he have more of a routine? What if something happens to him? Has he been in his car seat too long? How will he do on a five-hour car ride? Did he have enough tummy time? Every day there are more worries. What I need is faith. It's what gets me through. I need to trust everything will work out according to God's plan. As a mom, I really wish God would let me in on that plan of His so I could just let go and let my son be and know I have nothing to worry about... This is where faith comes in. I need faith so I can let go a little at a time.
12. Going back to work is hard
I don't know how to sugarcoat this. There isn’t a magic trick to keep your heart from hurting or the tears from falling. I went back last Thursday. I dreaded it. I didn’t know how I'd survive it. I cried (a lot). I was mad at the world. Leaving my baby sucked and the guilt ate me alive. What kind of mother leaves her son in the care of someone else? Me. My son is my world and has been with me every second for a full year now and I left him. Yes, I’m thankful I have a job, but just when I get used to being a mom, I have to adjust to becoming a working mom. I have to learn again how to balance even more. And this is what motherhood is all about. Accepting it will not always be rainbows and butterflies. No day will ever be the same. And loving your children enough to let them spread their wings, as much as it kills you.
13. You develop a new appreciation for your own mom
I look at my mom in a whole new light. I know now what she went through, all she's endured and I know I can count on her to be there for me when I go through every new stage. Now I know why my mom never made it down to the pool to sit in the sun when we'd vacation in Arizona but my dad could. Or why her cushion on the chair at the dinner table was the only one not worn out. Or why our house wasn't always picked up perfectly. Or how she loves us no matter what we do. I get it all. And it makes me love her even more.
14. This is the hardest job you'll ever have… but also the most rewarding
Parenthood is hard and I'm only on month three. Yet, this has also been the greatest experience of my life. I love my husband more because of it. I love myself more because I can't believe all the hard stuff I've been able to take on and succeed at (and with such little sleep). And I love my son more than words can describe. I never knew I could love this much. And that makes life awesome! It’s almost like each day is a little brighter. My eyes have been opened.
15. Take each day...day by day
I start to panic when I look into the future. I get overwhelmed when I realize what I’m going have to do when our baby starts eating, crawling, walking, talking… The list goes on. I remember walking into the baby aisle at Target and getting dizzy at all the brands of bottles out there. “I’ll never be able to get these all down,” I told my husband. “I’m never going to be able to take all this on,” I told my mom. “How will I know what to do and when to do it?” I admitted to friends.
You wake up every morning. You put one foot in front of the other. You take each day as it is and you never ever take a second for granted. Some days it’s minute by minute, some it’s hour by hour…and some is day by day. I can’t look further than that. And I’m thankful for this. I appreciate things more. I have finally slowed down and smelled the roses. Life is more beautiful than I remember but each day brings a new challenge, a bigger surprise. And if you were to ask me if I’d do it all over again, I’d say, “In a heartbeat.” (Even the 38.5 hours of labor.)
What have you learned being a mom?