Monday, November 14, 2011

The New-Mom Advice You Won't Hear

Becoming a new parent inevitably brings with it lots of well-wishes, cute-baby stories, and advice. But for myself and other moms I know, there were a lot of things that I WISH people had told me about. Having a baby was awesome and miraculous and fantastic... and SUPER hard. There were a lot of bad days mixed in with all the good days and no one seemed to mention that aspect of being a mom. So, I asked a lot of moms to share what they wish people had told them about having a baby. Babies are amazing beyond words, but expecting to love every moment with them will make you feel like a horrible person when you are dying for a few moments of solitude. Here are the things other moms struggled with in those first few months. Cut yourself some slack on the not-so-good days and revel in the fantastic days. It's all part of the journey.

It may not be love at first sight.
You have been growing a baby in your womb for the past 9 months. You felt every little movement, every hiccup. You've dreamed about how much you'll cry when you deliver that bundle of joy and how you will melt as soon as that baby is laid on your chest. Then, the baby actually does come out and you don't feel warm and fuzzy at all. In fact, you kinda hate that little thing that just came out of a hole that you KNOW couldn't have gotten big enough to actually birth a baby. Don't worry. It's normal.

Because of an incompetent nurse anesthetist, my epidural wore off right as I started pushing. By the time I delivered my baby almost an hour later, I was in shock (from pain), exhausted, and indifferent about even holding my baby. I remember looking over at her and not wanting to touch her. I didn't care. What I did care about, however, was that I was apparently going to be a horrible mother. What mom doesn't fall in love with her baby right away? It was several hours later before I felt that bond starting to form with my baby, but the guilt lasted for months. No matter what anyone says, it's okay if you don't love your baby as soon as you see him or her. You are not a horrible parent. You just went through labor and it's okay to need a little while to recooperate before you fall in love.

When you do love the kid, you will still have times where you think life is miserable.
When you do fall in love with that baby, you'll fall hard. You will still love your partner, but if you have to choose between the two, you'll probably pick the baby that is so adorable and warm and cuddly that you don't want to be apart ever again. Don't be surprised, however, when you have moments when you are sure that your life is now over, you'll never sleep again, your boobs are definitely not normal, and it's all that darn baby's fault! And while thinking all of that, you'll be showering that baby will kisses at the same time.

Adjusting to parenthood is hard. You can prepare all you want, but the sleepless nights, breastfeeding, crying, changing relationship with your partner, and general feeling of incompetence will be more of an adjustment than you realized. Every mom I talked to expressed this same sentiment: Being a mom is the hardest thing you've ever done, and the most amazing - at the same time. Don't feel guilty about feeling miserable at times. Every mom feels the same way. A lot of moms call it the "baby blues." And even when the baby gets older, you'll still feel the same way at times about your grown kids. They sure can make life difficult, but all the little amazing moments totally make up for it.

Breastfeeding is HARD.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby. Babies (before the days of formula) HAD to breastfeed to survive. So, one can only assume that breastfeeding will come naturally to you and your baby... right? Unfortunately, you couldn't be more wrong. Breastfeeding is hard as hell. You will often hear, "Just make it past two weeks and you'll be fine" and this is totally true. I don't know why two weeks is often the magic amount of time, but after two weeks, you've usually gotten the hang of it. During those first two weeks, you'll wake up one morning to find you look like Dolly Parton. You'll feel like a cow as you try to figure out how to use the breastpump. You will apprehensively pull out your boob and wait for your baby to attack it furiously. You will question if your baby is getting enough milk, if you are doing it right, if your baby is doing it right. You might even have those cracked and bleeding nipples that everyone tries to avoid (I know I did!). Sometimes, all the difficulties can be too much and breastfeeding just doesn't work out. Again, don't feel guilty and worry that your child isn't going to turn out as well as the kid that was breastfed. I breastfed my first baby for 8 months and cried the day I gave her formula. I wanted to breastfeed my second baby longer, but only made it 4 weeks. I just knew I was ruining her, but she's turned out as amazingly as her sister did. Breastfeeding is amazing and wonderful and I truly wish everyone could do it. But certainly know that being a good parent involves much more than making milk from your boobs.

It will be hard to keep non-parent friends. 
Some of you will be lucky enough to have a lot of friends with kids before you ever have kids of your own. You'll have other people to talk to who will understand what you're going through and might even be able to offer some parenting advice when you have no idea what you're doing. If you don't have a lot of friends with kids, then it's time to make some. Close friends that I'd had for years are still very much involved in my life, but we found out we were having a baby right after we moved to a new city so that we could start medical school and graduate school. We were young, fresh out of college, and some of the first in our circle to get married. I had NO friends with babies. While I was pregnant, we made other single friends, some married, and they were all excited when our baby was born. While it wasn't glaringly obvious, our lives had changed drastically. Our friends would call to invite us out, but inevitably, only one of us could go because we were exhausted, the baby needed to be fed, the baby needed to go to bed, or we secretly wanted to go to bed too. After you keep politely declining invitations, the invitations eventually stop coming all-together. It's not a good thing or a bad thing. It's just what usually happens. Friends who really matter will stay in touch, but it's also a good idea to make some other friends who have kids of their own. No one will think it's a crappy idea to stay in for dinner instead of going out. No one will gasp when you say you've got to be home at a decent time because the baby wakes up early. And no one will protest when you back out at the last minute because your kid is teething. Other parents will be there alongside you when Friday night becomes just another night to rent a movie, and your non-parents friends will be there to buy you a drink when you can afford a babysitter. 

You may be resentful towards your partner.
Even if you are blessed with a partner that helps out as much as they can, there will probably be times when you resent your partner. Life has changed drastically for you, while your partner has a life that seemingly resembles what it has always been. You are up several times at night, breastfeeding, pumping, and just checking to make sure your baby is still breathing (trust me, you will do this). You will feel as though your life is now ruled by a tiny human being who never leaves your side and just getting a shower is the most productive thing you do all day. Your partner, on the other hand, sleeps peacefully beside you, enjoys an uninterrupted drive to work, and interacts with other adults before coming home and snuggling with the baby before sleeping peacefully again. Just expect to have these feelings. This time will pass. Your partner will NEVER truly understand what it is like to be a new mother in those first few months, but some of them may, at the very least, try to hear where you're coming from. And that's all you'll really want anyway.

You will question everything you do.
Nowadays, there are research articles, books, and magazines to tell you about the best way to raise your baby. Walk into Babies R Us and you'll be overwhelmed by the aisles and aisle of gadgets that will, supposedly, make you a better parent. If you have been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time around babies before having your own, you may have the upper hand when it comes to new-mom apprehension. But for many of us, having a baby was like stepping into another universe. You will probably question most of the things you do, wondering if you're doing it right. There is no singular right way to raise a child. Breastfed or bottlefed, cloth or disposable diapers, homemade baby food or gerber jars, co-sleeping or crib-sleeping, all babies that are loved will turn out just fine. Don't worry about what your mom, your grandmother, the Today show, or any book has told you. If you follow your heart and do what feels right, you will be a fantastic mom. No mom is perfect. You will make mistakes. Heck, your baby will probably even fall off of the couch when you're not looking.But just give that baby lots of love and I promise you will both turn out fine. 

1 comment:

  1. I read this at the time, and just re-read it on Ben's 1 week birthday. There were things I needed to hear then (and did manage to remember last week) and things I needed to hear now. Thank you so much for this advice! I'm off to put my cuddly baby down and pump...sound familiar?