I realize that my experience as a parent and therefore knowledge of parenting is considerably limited (about 4 months worth) BUT I also realize that the further removed you get from pregnancy, birth, caring for a newborn, etc. – the more you forget how difficult it was, and the more often you say things like “don’t wish it away, time moves too fast, you’re going to miss this!”
I’m sure that when people say those things they are being sincere. Because nature has this genius way of making us forget, so that we’ll continue to reproduce. But as someone still close enough to those difficult days to remember what a contraction feels like, what stitches in your vagina feel like, and what a screaming baby sounds like at 1am, 3am, 5am, etc. – I beg you please – don’t say those things to a new mom. They don’t miss it yet. They just want to sleep. And worrying that they aren’t enjoying it enough – worrying that they are going to wish away precious moments – it only adds to the stress.
So with that said, here are my 10 tips for new (first-time) moms (and moms-to-be) before I forget what being a new mom really feels like:
1. Add at least 7 days to whatever due date your doctor assigns you at your first prenatal appointment. Forget the original date – it will only bring you false hope, anxiety and extreme frustration. Babies gestate (is that a word?) for 41 weeks. The sooner you accept it, the easier it will be when you’re 40 weeks going on 105.
2. If your doctor offers to tell you the gender of the baby at your 20 week ultrasound, say yes. Or prepare to return a shit-ton of yellow onesies.
3. Once you go into labor, DO NOT allow people (including your doctor) to make predictions about what time the baby will be born. The guesses are all wrong (even if you’re having a c-section because hospitals are never on time) and the guesses are all WAY too many hours away.
4. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, order an epidural.
5. When the nurses offer to take the baby to the nursery the night after they’re born – SAY YES. If they don’t offer, ask. You are NOT a bad mom for needing to sleep.
6. When you get home from the hospital, if anyone offers to cook, clean, wipe your ass, etc. – thank them, and accept. Take all the help you can get. The phrase “it takes a village” is no joke.
7. If breastfeeding nonstop is making you crazy, first of all, you’re not alone. Second of all, let your partner give a bottle of formula every now and then. Baby will survive. You’re still a good mom.
8. Go to a group for new moms. In real life, not on the internet. This is the single most helpful thing that got me through those first 3 months. Well, that and a baby swing.
9. Get a swing. And let your baby sleep in it if that’s the only way they will sleep. You can’t mess up a newborn’s sleep habits because newborns don’t have sleep habits. Do whatever it takes to get some sleep. I repeat – DO WHATEVER IT TAKES.
10. Be honest with other moms. There is so much lovey dovey “babies are the best aren’t they so cute you must be in heaven these are the best days of your life” out there. Do other new moms a favor and tell them about the “no sleep bleeding nipples baby’s screaming stitches in your ass no shower in a week” reality too. It’s all part of the crazy ride and you don’t want other moms thinking they’re the only one that got on the hellevator by mistake.
Is it all worth it? Of course it is. Is it really f&*%ing hard, too? Yea it is!
My mom once convinced me to run an all women triathlon with her (still not sure how she pulled that one off) and before the race the coordinators asked everyone to cheer on their fellow “girlfriends” by shouting “you go girlfriend!” every time you passed someone. This made me want to puke all over my running shoes. Anyone who knows me knows I HATE shit like that and was traumatized for weeks following the race.
When I attended my first breastfeeding support group the facilitator did something, really subtly, that normally would annoy the crap out of me, but in this situation, actually made me cry (all those hormones!). After I introduced myself and told the group about some of the difficulties I had been having – she said “Hannah, you’re doing a great job.” She then proceeded to offer some advice, and the other women in the group followed suit. It was the first time since Mia was born that someone told me I was a good mom.
When you’re a new mom people tell you that you look great (even if you don’t) and that you’re baby is adorable (again, even if they’re not). They tell you your labor was impressively long, or that you have incredible pain tolerance, or that you’re house is pretty clean for having a newborn. But seldom do you hear “you’re doing a great job being a mom.” It might seem silly but when you spend 24 hours a day taking care of a creature that can’t even make eye contact with you, much less thank you – it feels good to hear someone say you’re doing something right.
So the next time you’re hanging out with a new mom, snuggling their super cute little bundle of joy – resist the urge to say “you’re gonna miss this.” Instead, tell them what an awesome job their doing at being a parent. That, or hand them a $20 and tell them to go buy a bottle of wine.