Not the most flattering pic of myself, but one of my favorites. I take one look at this picture, and I remember exactly what I was feeling. Excitement. Terror. Exhaustion. Adrenaline.
I look back at that girl and realize…she had no idea how her life was about to change.
My sister is pregnant. Have I told you that? We are all so very excited.
I’ve been doing my best to help her (with registry lists, answering questions, etc.) and it made me realize just how much I’ve learned these past couple of years.
Once upon a time, I was clueless. And now, somehow, I feel like I know what I am doing. As much as you can know what you are doing, anyway…
So I decided to write a post for my dear sister, and anyone else who is trying to find their way in the early stages of Mommy-hood.
1. I don’t care what anyone says, put ice on it for 72 hours. Every nurse told me that ice does nothing after the first 12 hours of childbirth. I call FOUL. Before Samuel (my second), a friend told me to ice as long as possible to minimize the pain after birth. And let me tell you…my healing time was drastically different. ICE. Ice is your new best friend.
2. When someone offers to watch your baby for you, take them up on it. AND THEN SLEEP. You’ll thank me later. You think you won’t need it, until you do. And then you are desperate. Always accept the offer, and always sleep.
3. You may not fall in love immediately. No one ever told me this. Okay, so you’ll love your baby deep down. Sure. But there will definitely be a “who is this stranger living in my house?” kinda feeling. Just like anyone else in life, you have to get to know each other. Baby steps. And before you know it, you don’t just love them…they become your heart.
4. Take a laxative (daily) from the moment you give birth. And that’s all I am going to say about that.
5. You know your child best. No, really. Say that out loud. You won’t trust your instincts in the beginning. You’ll want to follow the books, by the letter. You’ll even trust other Moms more than you’ll trust yourself. Just remember: God gives us motherly intuition, even before our children are born. Trust your gut.
6. Get ready to make mistakes. I’m a perfectionist. Mistakes and perfectionism DO NOT go hand in hand. So if you are like me, just get used to the idea right now. You WILL make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up for them. Try to have as much grace for yourself as you have for your child.
7. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the hardest things about your first child is not knowing what to expect. You don’t know how long they’ll cry. You don’t know when they will sleep through the night. You don’t know that projectile vomit truly exists. So you’re left with this sort of “will this be the rest of my life?” panic. Just know one thing…everything is finite. Your baby WILL stop crying. You WILL sleep through the night again. And you WILL get used to vomit. I promise.
8. Take pictures. Time will be moving at warp-speed.
9. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re too tired to take pictures.
10. Never let anyone set standards for your children. From the second they are born, people will lump your child into categories. You’ll be told they are “ahead in this” or “behind in that.” This piggybacks onto #3. Don’t let anyone define what’s “normal” for your baby. You know their normal better than anyone else.
11. Don’t give up on breastfeeding. I got Mastitis five times. FIVE TIMES. So many people kept trying to convince me to give up. But I pressed on. And you know what? It got easier. So much easier. I achieved my goal of six months, and couldn’t be more proud. Someone once told me it takes six weeks for you and your baby to really adjust to breastfeeding. And guess when it clicked for us? Six weeks. If you choose to breastfeed (and to each their own)…keep at it. If I can do it, anyone can.
12. Ask for help. There is no such thing as Supermom. The sooner you get used to that idea, the better. Nursing a newborn is hard. Running on little-to-no sleep is hard. Adjusting when your life has been turned upside down…guess what…is hard! Don’t forget to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re SMART.
13. Join a new Mommy group. Being exhausted can trick you into feeling alone. But you aren’t alone. There are plenty other new Mommies going through exactly what you are going through, and at the exact same time. Meet them. Make new friendships. They’ll probably last a lifetime.
14. Never underestimate your baby’s comprehension. Babies constantly amaze me. Every time I think they are “too young” to understand something, they do. They are more aware than we realize. I wish I had known that when Isaiah was a newborn. Talk to them, read to them, explain everything. They are listening and learning. Even at one week old.
15. Remember the end goal. Your job is to believe in your child, and make them believe in themselves. It’s amazing how quickly that begins. We’re not raising children, we are raising adults. When they are newborns, the days will be long. And the nights will be SHORT. Just remember the end goal. Everything falls into place with a little perspective.
16. Take a deep breath. You’ll do fine. And you will.
Congratulations. Welcome to one of the best seasons of life.