Motherhood: the scariest hood you’ll ever go through.
I spent 9-10 long months preparing for our sweet Ava James to come into this world; from natural labor methods to the best baby accessories, how to maintain a solid foundation with your spouse and beyond. I researched it all and none of it would have prepared me for the life-altering, emotionally exhausting, heart bursting, incredible honor it was to becoming a mother.
But through the first 12 weeks of Ava’s life (and beyond), there were a handful of things I wish other mother’s would have told me. So as I experienced them myself, I made a list in hopes to share with other parents-to-be and their journey through the ‘hood:
- Trust your instinct. You’re the BEST parent for your sweet babe. As soon as you have a baby (really as soon as you announce that you are pregnant), everyone around you that has ever had a baby or even looked at a baby has advice to give you. It can be overwhelming. Every piece of advice contradicts the next and you’re left even more confused as you were to begin with. It’s nice to hear stories from others with experience on things that worked and didn’t work for their children, but every baby is different and every lifestyle is different. Trust yourself and what you feel is best for your baby.
- Breastfeeding is hard. And don’t let other moms tell you it’s not. It’s a true labor of love. Everyone always glamorized breastfeeding and how amazing and wonderful it was, which is all so true, but it’s also really hard. I wanted to give up the first few weeks because everything was hurting and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go out of the house again. It’s continued to get easier but we still have our moments. I do love the times I get to spend with just Ava that no one else will ever get to experience, the way she looks up at me and stares into my eyes. It’s amazing and beautiful but also exhausting and a constant struggle making sure I’m eating, drinking, resting enough to provide what she needs. But if breastfeeding didn’t/doesn’t work out, then we’ll move to formula because, for me and my family, #FEDISBEST and it’s important for mom to have her sanity.
- It get’s easier. As a first time parent, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It can be difficult to recognize phases and how quickly your baby will get through them especially when the phase relates to sleep – or lack of it. I can think back now to the first few weeks after bringing Ava home – it was hard and I was exhausted to the point where I honestly thought I just wasn’t meant to be a parent. But now I think about that time and it makes me sad that I didn’t embrace it more. So know that these difficult times won’t last because those first few months, and stages, fly by.
- Nutrition is so important. I hear this all the time living with a dietitian but it’s so true. You are so exhausted and worn out so having the proper nutrients to give you energy is key. You’ll also want to make sure you have quick and easy snacks on hand because eating your regularly scheduled times as before is nearly impossible. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll literally feel like the fluids in your body are being constantly sucked out of you – which technically, they are. I had the great pleasure of catching a cold, which then passed on to Ava and turned into an ear infection. There are few things worse than being a sick mom and having to care for your child…particularly an infant that is also sick. But I knew I was falling off the wagon with my nutrition and was definitely more prone to getting sick. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby.
- You’ll probably never be on time again. Prior to having this sweet babe, being prompt was my M.O. – it was my thing. I was always on time and if I wasn’t I was so stressed about it. Now it’s a true miracle if I get anywhere within 10-15 minutes of the time I am scheduled to be there. But it does make you feel accomplished when you finally make it to your destination and everyone has on pants. I tried to go to my mothers one day by lunch time and bring lunch to everyone but didn’t get there until almost 2PM because not once, not twice but THREE TIMES I tried to put Ava in the car seat to leave and she would either spit up on herself, on me or she has a complete blowout causing one of us to change three times. Mind you, I was going to my moms simply for her to watch Ava so I could nap for a few hours.
- Take time for yourself. Choose one small thing you enjoy doing for yourself and do it every day. One thing I make sure I do every day is shower and get dressed / put on make-up. It seems so silly but it’s essential. It’s so easy to stop doing even the most basic necessities when caring for an infant but it’s something all moms must do. Taking a shower will feel like a spa day and going to get a pedicure will be like a tropical vacation.
- Motherhood (as is life) is an exercise in adaptation. Everything changes in the blink of an eye: your baby, their likes/dislikes, their sleep schedules, etc. As soon as you think you have a solid routine down and you know your baby like the back of your hand, things change. They start sleeping when they’re supposed to be awake, they’re awake when they’re supposed to sleeping, they love their car seat, then they hate it, they hated swaddling but now you better swaddle her or everyone in the neighborhood will be awake all night long. It’s like your very own sour patch kid. They grow SO QUICKLY their first year so just soak it all in and savor the good with the bad. If you’re not feeling their new schedule or habits, don’t worry – as soon as you begin to adjust and feel like stella’s got her groove back, they’ll change it up again… at which point you’ll want to read #3, again.
- Sympathize with other parents. I used to cringe when I heard babies crying or throwing tantrums out in public. Jim and I used to ask ourselves if we were “ready for this” every time we heard a baby cry – in which I would quickly reply with a solid NOPE. Now I give a quick nod, pound my chest two times, kiss my fist and throw up a peace sign to let that fellow mom know that I get it. Not really, but I do make sure I go out of my way to smile, help if it’s needed or just let that mom know they’re doing a good job. Momlife is hard, but having other moms support you make it a little easier. I recently brought Ava, and her clunky car seat, into Target and was struggling with the carts. A fellow new-mom came over, pulled the cart out for me and asked how old she was. I told her, she smiled and said “I have a 5 month old at home, I get it” and I wanted to cry because in that brief exchange, I felt so connected to her like we shared some special bond.
- There is no “one size fits all” in parenting. And comparing only makes it worse. It’s really hard not to compare yourself/ your child to the next, but it happens. Those thoughts creep in there and they’re really hard to put at bay, but you must. Parenting is not a competition. Give yourself grace and realize that every parent, child, living thing has different needs….and REPEAT.
- Manage your expectations. When I was nearing the end of pregnancy, I transitioned from the pregnancy books to new baby books – how to care for babies, the best sleep schedules, etc. I had a plan and very specific expectations for how life would be once Ava was here and in our arms (…let’s all just take a minute to laugh out loud here). I found that it’s so important to set expectations, discuss them with your partner, but then understand that life happens. That’s in all things post-baby: sleep routines, feedings, your body bouncing back, time, work.
- Take lots of pictures and videos. It goes by SO FAST and, especially in the first year, your baby grows and changes so much. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day but then when you look back on those pictures you wonder where your newborn baby went. You sit there for days and weeks wondering when you’ll ever be able to feel like a normal person again and then suddenly you come out from the fog and see this beautiful, tiny little human smiling at you and, in that exact moment, those dirty diaper changing, spit-up filled, fussy, sleepless nights aren’t so bad after all, because you realize just how quickly it will all fade.
- Sometimes you just need a good cry. And that’s okay, too.
Other little nuggets of weird things no one told me about before having a baby:
- I learned a lot about what happens before and during pregnancy but what your body goes through after birth, whoa.
- Pack two sets of clothes whenever you leave the house – one for your baby and one for you. Maybe that’s excessive but you’ll be thanking me when your baby has a blowout while you’re holding her and gets all over your white shirt on your way into a meeting.
- Postpartum hair loss, it’s no joke.
- Baby wipes are appropriate for any occasion. Keep them stocked on every floor, in every drawer and every vehicle.
- Night time diapers. Why did I not know this was a thing? If ya don’t know, now ya know.
- Baby nails literally grow 10 seconds after you trim them.
- Some of my favorite baby accessories so far: the DockaTot, OllieSwaddle, Halo Bassinet, Sophie the giraffe, Happy baby carrier, Comotamo bottles and the Dohm noise machine. Of ALL the things we bought (and trust me, we got it all #firsttimeparentproblems) these have been our most used and loved.
Becoming a mother has dramatically changed me in the best ways possible. These past 12+ weeks have brought some hard days and some achingly beautiful ones. Before having Ava it was so hard to imagine my life with a baby and now that she’s here, I don’t ever want to imagine it without.