Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear First Time Mom...

I was you a little over 4 years ago.  It seems like such a short time ago that I became a mom, yet at the same time I feel like I can hardly remember what life was like before I had children.  I wish I knew then what I know now...three kids later.  I know that this motherhood thing is all about learning through experience, but I want to offer you wisdom from someone who has been there.

  1. It's okay to cry for no good reason.  I distinctly remember sitting in my shower sobbing.  I was so thrilled to have just given birth to my daughter, yet another part of me just wanted to cry and cry and cry.  It wasn't tears of joy, yet not really sadness either.  Just tears of hormones.  It's okay.  Let it out.  Embrace it.
  2. If you have a significant other, you will resent them terribly at times.  They may be breaking their back to do all they can to help, but there will come a time you are nursing next to them in bed, your nipples are killing, you are beyond exhausted, and they are snoring next to you and you will hate them for a split second.  Even though you know you couldn't have made it this far without them you will have some resentment against them for being able to enter parenthood without the pain of childbirth and the never ending task of nursing.
  3. Speaking of nursing, it is hard.  It is exhausting.  It is intense.  If things aren't working out don't guilt yourself into depression if you quit.  I will never forget my sister finally telling me, "Give yourself a date.  Give nursing all you've got until that date, and if it is still not working then give yourself permission to walk away from it without feeling bad."
  4. Speaking of stopping nursing...formula isn't BAD for your child.  Formula is still good for your baby.  Yes, we all know that "breast is best," but it isn't like giving your baby formula is poisoning them.  It is still good for your baby.  I promise your child isn't 100% bound to be overweight, unintelligent, and a drag on society.  I was formula fed and I'm not overweight, I have 2 degrees, and I'm fairly certain I am contributing positively to society.  
  5. It's okay if it takes a bit to embrace your new identity of "mother."  I chose to quit my job and stay home full time.  Before I had my daughter I imagined that staying home would be spent snuggling my baby, enjoying those moments of nursing, and soaking up precious memories of watching her grow.  While some of this happened, I also found myself feeling like a milk factory, constantly trying to console a child who cried far more than I imagined, and struggling to keep my eyes open long enough to finish some laundry.  I couldn't leave the house on a whim without packing a diaper bag and making sure the baby was well fed to avoid a screaming child in public.  This was a hard adjustment.
  6. Whether you had the birth story you imagined, or it was completely different than you wanted it was the perfect means to bring your baby safely into this world.  A c-section does not mean your body failed you.  Whatever your story is find a way to accept it and find peace.  My second was a surprise breech.  I was ready to push and at the last minute they realized she was breech and I was being wheeled in for a c-section.  I was angry, I cried, and I felt like I did something wrong.  Looking back I can laugh about her birth story because she has always been my little stinker and it started as early as her birth!
  7. You will find a groove and life will find a new normal.  The baby will get easier and less needy. You will figure out the best time to shower, make dinner, and eventually the baby will go to bed before you giving you that much needed "me time."
  8. Going out with a new baby is scary.  I used to have so much anxiety heading out of the house with my daughter when she was first born.  I had this fear that if she screamed and cried somewhere I couldn't nurse I wouldn't know what to do.  I feared nursing in public (even if I covered myself), because I was worried about offending people.  Feel confident in taking care of your baby's needs without caring what those around you think.  If the baby is screaming don't worry if it bothers the people in the grocery line.  If you have to sit on a bench in the mall and nurse your baby, ignore the uncomfortable stares some might give you.  
  9. Whatever you do out of survival is not wrong and is okay.  If giving your baby a pacifier before they are a month old helps you get dressed or shower without hearing the baby scream--do it.  If your baby sleeps best in the swing and gives you much needed long stretches of sleep--do it.  If having your husband feed the baby a bottle of formula every night to give you a break--do it.  Sometimes you need to throw out what all "the books" say and do what works for you.  Your child will not be ruined.
  10. Embrace your postpartum body.  More than likely it will never completely go back to what it once was.   It took you 9 months for your belly to grow, so give yourself some grace and time to let it shrink back down.  You housed and grew a life, another soul, an entire human being.  Be proud of it. 
  11. I never understood how anyone could shake a baby until I had one.  My first baby cried a ton and was very hard to console.  I had moments where I was tired and frustrated and at the end of my rope.  Thankfully, I had a husband who knew when to step in to help.  There were many moments I had to put her down to cry in her room for 10 minutes so I could walk outside and just calm myself down without hearing the screaming.  Remember that your mental health needs to come first and foremost for you to be able to give your baby the care he or she needs.  Seek out a support system, counseling, and/or find some good meds!
  12. People will tell you that this stage is so short and "this too shall pass."  I know how hard that is to hear when you are in the midst of thew newborn stage.  It feels long, because you need to be "on" almost 24/7.  There are few breaks and it's exhausting.  Just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better.  It's okay not to enjoy this short stage and to look forward to the next.
  13. Motherhood is truly as amazing and difficult as people say it is.  It is a really hard job, but it is the best job.  Don't forget to give yourself grace when you screw up, and to always pat yourself on the back when you really get it right.  Each stage has it's own set of challenges and joys, but you will find that you get through each one with a new set of knowledge.  
  14. Oh, and prayer.  Don't forget lots of prayer!  If you forget everything else, just remember to pray.  

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