I did a ridiculous amount of reading when I was pregnant. I read natural and baby scheduling books, how to make your baby happy books, breastfeeding books & taking care of newborn books. I am one of those people who enjoy being prepared. I thrive on it. I like to know what to expect, when to expect it, and how to handle it when it comes. The unexpected leaves me uneasy.
So I thought I knew everything I need to know. Mind you, I already have 2 kids at home when I was embracing on this pregnancy journey the 3rd time. You’ll think I already knew everything.
But as I’m on this new mom journey once again, how much of that information did I actually use? Some. A little. The best answer is, no single book, site was entirely accurate or spot on. Instead, these are the words I should’ve read before jumping head first again into mommyhood. Mind you – if you’re as hormonal as I am (5 days after giving birth), I would say read this at another time.
1) You’re going to suck at this parenting gig and be awesome at the same time, all the time. You will be a different parent every morning, afternoon, day to a different kid at all hours & minutes. You’ll have good days & bad days, good minutes & bad minutes. You will do some things really right, and some things really wrong. Be gentle on yourself though and stop feeling guilty when you do something wrong because you are wildly loved and incredibly needed. You are climbing Mount Everst with zero conditioning – expect to be terrible at times.
2) Postpartum bodies are squashy, squishy, difficult, imperfect & still sorta painful. They also tend to stay that way for quite some time. Your stomach is now a map of the journey you’ve taken. No one can ever take that away from you. Whether you had a great or horrible pregnancy, these are the marks that your baby left you with that are only yours alone. Learn to embrace them, and listen to the people who tell you’re beautiful. Take them for their word, and remember your worth comes from within you.
3) Your baby is not like any other babies. Your baby is the only one of herself and you and your spouse are the only experts on her. Your baby might not behave the way the books say, she might not do what she should, might not like what she’s suppose to like, but it’s OK. Put down the books and learn from your babies. What makes her smile? What makes her fall asleep? What does SHE like to eat? What does hungry sound like? It’s OK because you know best. You only need to create a life that foster love, security & a whole lot of laughter.
4) We have to stop telling people that things should be easy. We live in a culture that equates ease with value – the easier it is, the better; if it hurts, you’re doing something wrong. Reality check: sometimes things that are hard and painful are also really really good. Every once in awhile, something you thought would be hard and painful end up being easy & drama-free. This is what we called a miracle. And the odds of a miracle happening to every single parent everywhere is pretty slim. We get excited in our victories, and want to share them, but we have to remember that we are all struggling with different issues. One momma’s ease can be another mommy’s nightmare. Just because your child doesn’t sleep through the night at 5 weeks, or can walk by the time she’s 1 – just because it isn’t easy or painless, it isn’t necessarily wrong. Sometimes hard is OK, sometimes, often it can be even good. Hard is how we grow. And guess what, parenting is HARD. Any book that tells you otherwise is just bullshit.
5) Speaking of bullshit, oh Mylanta, the poop. They warn you. They tell you, but despite that, it’s amazing how quickly I’ve become an expert on poop again. It’s almost baffling, alarming and downright awe-inspiring how much your next year will be spent dealing with, assessing, smelling for, discussing, evaluating & transporting poop. Get good & comfy with it.
6) The sooner you can figure out how to accept unwanted advice, the easier your year will be. For whatever reason, people see pregnant bellies or babies and want to give you all their opinions. On my good days, I know that they’re all pretty well-intended, and most of it falls into the “it worked for me and want to share my joy joy joy with you because you look so tired” category – which I guess is mildly offensive but really really sincere. Here’s the thing, the sooner you learn smile, nod & say thank you – the better you’ll feel. Just realize no one is out to get you. Everyone wants you to succeed. But screw them. Did your kid eat today? Is she relatively hygienically sound? Smiled a bit? You win all the things. Keep the bits you like, and toss the bits you don’t How sweet of them to care.
7) Start stretching, because it’s time to get flexible. I’m not a big fan of statements like “all babies like swaddling”, or “cosleeping is best for everyone”. My son hated being swaddled, and my older daughter LOVED it. We’re still figuring it out with the newborn. But one statement that’s going to be true. Babies are really inconvenient. Your schedule, your sleep, your punctuality record, your deadlines is all about to become messy & complicated. Realize it’s OK to miss a few parties or gatherings. It will be OK.
8) The most important thing to get for your baby is NOT a rocker, a fancy swaddler, or a high end stroller. The MOST important thing to get for your baby AND yourself is a village. Your village will keep you afloat. They will carry you when you feel like you can’t do it anymore & tired, feed you when you’re starving, forgive you when you’re unkempt and hours late and a neglectful friend who can’t remember to wear socks let alone whose birthday it is. They will LOVE your baby when you’re too tired and frustrated to hold her. They will remind you who you are when you feel like your whole life is only about poop. They will LIFT YOU UP, because raising a baby is the hardest thing many of us have ever done.
Remember success is found in being willing to grow. Here’s the truth, you don’t know much about anything even if you’ve done it before. A year from now, your kid will turn 1, you won’t know much of anything still. Gather wisdom around you. Learn from your mistakes. Stay humble. Stay open. When you know better, do better. Be a better parent tomorrow then you were today, always, everyday, as often as you can. Try things out and leave them behind shamelessly if they don’t work out. Forgive yourself. Life isn’t a contest. Live each minute instead of scoring them. Love that incredible baby because you’re going to have so much fun.