Our little girl is teetering on 18 months old, and just now do I find myself emerging from the heavy fog of having a newborn, infant and the introduction to toddlerhood.
And friends, the fog was so heavy. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It was full of joy and exhaustion and sprinkled with fear and embraced by love. It was a literal smorgasbord of emotions and now that I'm here, in today's moment, watching our toddler laugh and play and run and explore and learn both the good and the not-so-good, I have a few things to share with the world. There is so much advice spilling out of just about everywhere when it comes to pregnancy, motherhood and relationships, it's overwhelming. I am not looking to give advice. Honestly, in before my entry into this new world, I didn't want advice either. What I would have liked was a friendly heads-up about a few core things. So, to my friends near and far, here is a list of a few things I wish someone would have told me before becoming a mom.
What I wish I knew:
1. It will be over before you even remember to remember. This one really got me. The hours in the first few days and months seemed to drag on. I was exhausted. Even though I was surrounded by people, I felt like it was just me and my baby, alone in the world, without a clue of what to do. I felt like I was living in those moments forever. But I didn't, and we can't. The beautiful moments go by so fast, and it's not fair because when we're in the heavy fog, it's too hard to remember those precious times alone with our newborn babies. It's not fair, but it will be over before you even remember to remember, so try really really hard to create some concrete memories before they're gone.
2. Breastfeeding is hard. I remember before our little girl arrived, thinking for awhile that it's natural and we'll know what to do and it will be easy. And then I heard some real-life stories and started scouring YouTube for instructional videos to prepare. It didn't help. Nobody told me just how hard it was going to be, how much work it would be to get a correct latch and how much pain I would be in as the baby and I figured out how to do this together. I remember waiting on hold with my advice nurse, thinking something was surely wrong with me, as I was on the verge of tears because I couldn't do it and it just hurt so bad. And then I got answers. I did it. We figured it out. But, breastfeeding is hard. And if you can't do it, or if your baby won't eat, it doesn't mean you're a bad mom, or you're unfit to parent. It just means that it's hard, and finding another way to nourish your baby just might be the perfectly right answer for you.
3. Not sleeping is hard. Before we entered into parenthood, my husband and I had plenty of late nights followed by early mornings. We enjoyed an occasional night out closing down the local dive bar, or staying up late with friends, sometimes on weeknights (gasp!) when we had to wake up early for work the next day. When people told me "you won't sleep", I thought I got it, but I didn't. I had never been so tired, that midway to the grocery store, I had to turn my car around and gohome, because I knew being behind the wheel at such a level of exhaustion was dangerous. There's a very big difference between being up all night because you want to, and being up all night because you have to care for your little baby, who may be crying, or happy, or sick, or just "up" - whatever the reason, the level of tired that follows is unlike anything I've ever known. And it's not just one night, it can be night after night after night sometimes, and you don't get to sleep in or sleep it off. You have to wake up cheery, ready to welcome the day with your baby. So far, this hasn't stopped for me. I wish you better luck.
4. Relationships get challenged. Someone should have warned me and my husband that we'll probably take our exhaustion and our frustration out on each other sometimes. That small things might manifest into bigger things and that the amount of under-my-breath commentary that I would direct/not direct at him would hit a breaking point. But it was because I was hitting a breaking point, and instead of being passive aggressive, the answer is to just ask for more help. We are superwomen, but even Batman has his Robin and we need to find the "sidekick" in all of our relationships. Friends, family, spouses - they know we need support. It's up to us to let those people in.
5. You'll become a different person with different priorities. I know, people do tell you how much things will change once you have kids. For me, things didn't really change as much as I, myself, changed. I don't prioritize the things I used to. It's clear that our family is priority one, and I'd rather stay at home on a Saturday night snuggling my baby and watching a movie with my husband. I don't even know what the cool bars are in town and that's fine with me. It's not that the world changed, but it's that I changed. And it's not a bad thing, it's an amazing and positive growth that I'm proud of.
6. Everyday tasks are hard, and you'll be late most of the time. How do I go grocery shopping with this newborn? I honestly remembering asking a friend about the logistics of grocery shopping. Should I wear her? Where does the car seat fit in the cart? What if she cries? What if she needs a diaper change? How do I do it? It was not only the grocery store, but so many other things. I am no longer punctual (see #5) and everything does take more time to prepare...and even though you spend all that time getting ready, you'll probably forget that one thing you need.
7. You've got to take time for you. Before being a mom, I didn't know that mom-guilt was a thing, but it's a real thing. Hit the gym after work? Mom-guilt will ruin your workout. Feellike grabbing a cocktail with a friend? Mom-guilt will sit at the bar next to you. Have to travel out of town for a few nights for work? Mom-guilt will wake you up in the middle of the night, so don't even think a benefit will be sleeping through the night. Mom guilt is so real. But find a way to kick it the curb. Find an hour to get a manicure or go for a walk alone, or just watch a movie or go on a date with your partner. Take time for you and your relationship. When you're on an airplane, and when the air mask drops from the overhead compartment, you have to take care of yourself first. I wish someone would have reinforced this to me...that I have to be good to myself so I can be good to my baby.
People will tell you the things you need to buy, and the books you need to read, and the classes you need to take. Do those things if they make you happy or help you feel prepared, but don't do them because you feel pressured to do them. I suppose that's my only real advice - just do you.