My baby is only 6 months old. I'm not saying I'm an expert mom or anything even close to that. A lot of what I'm doing comes from what I've read on the Internet, plus trial and error, plus one tiny recommendation from the pediatrician. But, I decided to go ahead and post this because I recently connected with an acquaintance who is expecting at the end of October, and she asked: "What do I need to know?" Here's what I came up with.
Besides, I thought I might look back on this one day and laugh.
So to all those first time mommies out there, here's my two cents...
Ten Serious Things I Didn't Know Before Becoming a Mom:
1) You will pop the baby out, and most importantly you CAN pop the baby out. I was absolutely terrified of delivering a baby...another person coming through my body...more specifically, through a relatively small opening located on my body. Trust me - it works itself out. Drugs or no drugs, there is only one outcome to this situation. The baby will be born come hell or high water. No matter what. Even if a doctor has to cut it out of you, the baby will come out so don't worry about it. I opted for a drug free delivery and there was a moment near the end where I was panting and proclaiming loudly, "I WANT TO PUSH I WANT TO PUSH I WANT TO PUSH." Listen, your body just knows what to do. It just does. Your body was programmed to handle this, so don't sweat it.
2) I didn't know that breastfeeding would be so difficult. Apparently, human babies need a little practice in the nursing department. It took quite a while - about 3 months - before WT was nursing comfortably. Granted, he was born with a pretty significant tongue tie that prevented him from latching properly, so he was facing an even greater challenge. But really, I thought he'd come out knowing what to do...he didn't. And I didn't. It was like taking dance lessons with a completely uncoordinated partner. It took us a while to get comfortable with each other. Also, it sucked. (no pun intended). It was just physically demanding and I didn't expect it to be such a challenge. Just be prepared to have to TRY and commit to breastfeeding.
3) I didn't know babies are terrible at staying awake. Really, they can only stay awake about 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time before they pass out again. I ended up reading a lot about sleep training (and no, I wasn't making WT cry it out at 1 month old). But I did have to prompt him to stay awake at certain times, as well as prompt him to go to sleep at certain times. Babies aren't born knowing exactly when and how to sleep, so you have to help them learn how to consolidate all that sleeping into the NIGHT time. It was a lot of work, took time and dedication, and sometimes I thought it was an impossible task, but WT was sleeping 11 hours at night by 3 months old. Just sayin'...
4) I attempted to exercise just 2 weeks after delivery. I know it's politically incorrect to use the word retarded, but I was seriously retarded, y'all. I just was. What was I thinking!?!?! I wasn't. I was just awake all the time and frustrated and feeling fat. I just wanted to feel GOOD for once and I thought working out would make me feel good. Guess what? It didn't. My vagina stayed angry with me for a long time after that. DON'T EXERCISE. Don't walk. More importantly, don't walk up and down stairs for at least 2 weeks. Don't do anything. Just lay in bed and be a fat lazy slug. Just lay there and don't feel bad about it. Rest rest and more rest as much as you possibly can. Which leads me to my next point...
5) Don't let anyone come and stay with you post-delivery unless you are completely comfortable being naked in front of them (see also: breastfeeding, sitz baths, etc.). Also make sure you are comfortable having a complete crying sobbing meltdown in front of this person. Make sure you can scream at them and be completely irrational without it impacting your relationship. This person will probably need to be your mom or your sister. Maybe even your best friend since 5th grade, but that's it. Picture it: You and your spouse just had a baby and it's the most amazing thing ever, and also the most terrifying/challenging thing ever. You need this time to adjust to becoming parents. All you'll want to do is stare at your baby and try to sleep here and there. You don't really want to share that moment with anyone else, but at the same time you do probably need some help. Meanwhile, all these well-meaning friends and family will want to bring you dinner. I'm here to tell you: DON'T LET THEM. Tell them to order you up a Papa John's pizza on their Master Card and have it delivered to your door, but don't let them come inside. NEVER let them come inside...not for the first month, at least. Have them bring meals before the baby is born and leave them in the freezer. Or make them sign some kind of "silent helper" agreement where they promise not to talk to you if they come by. They should drop dinner on the door step and get the hell out of there. I mean, I just had no idea how difficult it would be. I was so frazzled and out of it that I had to verbally coax myself into the bath one day. I had to slowly put one foot in front of the other while repeating out loud: "Go to the bath, go to the bath, go to the bath." That's how completely out of it I was during the first 2 weeks. My in laws, God love them, came to stay with us...but in hind sight we should've had them come later. It would've been a better experience for all parties involved if we would've asked them to wait a few weeks. It was 2 of the most challenging weeks of my life, and here they are asking, "Where do you keep your spatulas?" My God, I DON'T HAVE TIME TO TELL YOU WHERE THE SPATULA IS!!! Many friends and family brought meals and stayed with us to eat, and all I could think during dinner was "Get the F-- out of my house so I can go back to bed!!!" I love all these folks dearly, but it was not a good time for me. All I needed during the first 2 weeks was someone to silently wait on me hand and foot. Bring food to my bedside, Bring my baby to my bedside, make sure I took my daily bath and make sure the trash can was emptied.
6) Babies are totally boring. For the first 3 months all they do is lay there... I kept trying to interact with WT during his brief wakeful times. Sing him songs, talk to him, show him toys...it was a total waste of my time and his. I could've been sleeping. I wanted to enjoy every second of my 3 month maternity leave with him. I spent all of my time holding him and cooing over him. Again, what was I thinking!?! He could've cared less. I didn't know about the mysterious "4th trimester" which is the first 3 moths following birth. During this time babies just need to be swaddled and cuddled and fed and changed. Y'all, I'm embarrassed to say that I tried to read books to him, and all he was doing was laying there like an invalid. I'm not even sure he could SEE at that point. Like, his eyeballs didn't even work and I was reading a stupid hippopotamus book to him. And he was like, "Hippo-whaaaa? Get that thing outta mah face, Ma. I tryin' to seep." I reckon I was just trying to keep myself entertained because staying home with a newborn is BO-RING.
7) I didn't know how naturally and easily I would transition into being a mother. I mean, the first night he was born I was terrified that he was going to die. I just knew he couldn't breathe. I was certain that every noise he made was him taking his last breath. I realized that I'd better get used to this feeling because I would feel it for the NEXT EIGHTEEN YEARS. It's just that, as a mother you instantly know that you are the one and only person responsible for keeping this human alive...because Lord knows his daddy isn't doing shit about it. Oh, to be a dad...Sean was sleeping soundly in the hospital room while I lay awake worried that WT wasn't breathing and wasn't eating enough (which he wasn't, by the way.) And to this day that's how we operate. WT is sleeping through the night, dad is sleeping through the night, and mom lies awake thinking everyone is dying. Dad's totally have it made. A mother's intuition is so very strong. Once your baby is born it's like you step into a suit of armor and you're ready to conquer anyone and anything that threatens the well being of your baby. Even if they are fake baby snatchers who have broken into your house that are totally a figment of your 2:00 a.m. imagination.
8) Having a baby opened my heart so much. I have feelings that I never had before. Sensitive feelings. Womanly feelings. Motherly feelings, I guess. I never cared about babies before. Now I see a baby on a TV commercial and I want to cry...just because it's a cute baby. What the hell is that all about!?!?! But it's true. I'm a sucker now. I'm more caring and compassionate than I've ever been before. Now I want to scoop all the babies in the whole world up and take care of all of them. I borderline hated babies before having my own, so this is kind of a big deal.
9) Embrace the stuff. I have a huge aversion to baby toys and baby related materials such as play mats and bouncy things and toys and...well, all of it. Gross. Mostly it's my aversion to primary colors that keeps me disgusted. I try to encourage WT's learning through exploring all things - not just baby toys. But at the same time, I realize that he enjoys the baby toys. Because he's a baby! I'm finding balance in this department. I realize that I can't deprive him of all toys. That would make me an evil mom. So, I let him sit in the stupid hideous ginormous exersaucer that takes up the entire den floor because, dammit, he likes it and he's quiet right now. The exersaucer also means I can eat breakfast on Saturday morning with both hands. But babies are entertained by exploring pretty much ANYTHING they can get their hands on, toy or not. I love that I don't have to pack a car full of toys because I know he'll find something to occupy his mind. For example, WT spent a good 10 minutes playing with my kitchen rug yesterday. He lifted it, chewed on it and rolled on it...crumbs, dirt and all.
10) Pinterest is the devil. It will make you think that other moms out there are skinny, crafty, organized and are great cooks. And maybe they are, but you don't need to know that. Not right now. Pinterest will brain wash you. It makes you think that people have laundry ROOMS instead of laundry closets. And inside these laundry ROOMS is all kinds of matching storage containers, neatly labeled and stacked in a row. Listen, if you just had a baby you stay the hell away from Pinterest, you hear me? Pinterest will make you think that you need to take monthly pictures of your newborn and organize them in some neat way, and make crafty birth announcements, and dress your baby in hipster clothes, and cook your baby organic homemade baby food and learn how to edit your pictures in Photoshop. I don't know who those people are. I'm not sure they really exist, and if they do exist then I'm not sure I ever want to know them. I might have been stupid for reading my 2 week old a book, but at least I wasn't wasting time trying to make my own laundry detergent. I mean, how broke are you that you can't buy some Tide?