My little Elliott Kate turned 15 months last week. While that’s something to celebrate in its own right, I realized I had survived almost a year and a half as a mom, and THAT made me want to jump for joy (and then take a nap)! I started thinking about all that I have learned (mostly the hard way) during my short time as a mom, and I thought I’d get a kick out of it later in life if I documented the things that
kicked my ass rocked my world. So, here goes:
I should have slept more during my maternity leave. Period, end of story. So many moms told me to “sleep when the baby sleeps”, and while I did do some of that, it wasn’t nearly enough. I can’t remember a damn thing I did during my maternity leave that made a bit of difference now, except that I lost sleep that I’ll never ever get back (by the way, it’s been scientifically proven that there’s no such thing as “catching up” on sleep). Seriously, the laundry, dishes, and cooking can be done by your husband or someone else. Find a way. It’s called “leave” for a reason, as in, leave that stuff to someone else and snuggle with your little one.
I allowed the stress of feeding to get the best of me. Milk/formula, breast/bottle, whatevs, it’s all hard. The scheduling, the washing of bottles, the pumping, the reflux…it’s all hard, no matter how you choose to feed your child. I really had no idea it was such an ordeal, until we got home from the hospital and I didn’t have a lactation consultant down the hall. I started pumping on her 4th day of life, and it took her almost four months to get the hang of it, only for her to refuse me at eight months. So, I switched to organic formula and she’s been on it ever since. As I look back, I realize how much unnecessary pressure I put on myself. As long as your baby has a full tummy, however they get it is all good.
Don’t have any expectations about anything. That was the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me, and it came from my best friend. I planned for an unmedicated, natural birth; I ended up with a c-section. I planned to breastfeed from the start; Ellie and I didn’t catch our groove until 4 months in. I thought (prayed) I’d get a good sleeper; she didn’t start sleeping through the night until 6 months. I never said I’d give her french fries, well, you know how that ended. The key takeaway here? Roll with the punches and know you’ll probably do all the things you said you’d never do.
Becoming a mother is quite a humbling experience. I honestly thought I’d get the hang of it earlier. No one prepared me for the overwhelming feeling of cluelessness and fear that comes along with being a mom, but there’s just no way to know until you experience it first-hand. I still experience this, and my mom told me that even still, it never really goes away. What’s helped me lately has been pausing for a moment, and putting things into perspective with a little internal pep talk. I ask myself, “Is she fed? Dressed? Happy? Alright, you’re good, Steph.” Even if it’s not how that mom on Facebook or those (pointless) baby books say to do it, if you can answer yes, you’re making the mom-thing work. It took me a while to start believing myself, but now I’m a much happier and less self-critical mama.
Going back to work is brutal at first, but it gets easier. I would categorize first few months back to work as complete hell. But, with that being said, I don’t think this is the case for all working moms. I’m sure I made it harder on myself by not resting enough while on maternity leave, and it didn’t help she woke up every two hours until she was six months old. Over time, things kept getting easier, and I started enjoying work again. I realized then that I had just climbed my first big mountain in motherhood; I could finally see the sunrise from the summit. So what specifically did I do? More like what I didn’t do. I stopped trying to do it all, and looked for any shortcut I could take to get me into bed even 2-3 minutes earlier than the night before. For months, her and I both took a nap when we got home everyday (she was also exhausted from adjusting to daycare), went to bed as early as possible, and pretty much just hunkered down and tried to survive one day at a time. I took shortcuts like making more frozen meals and getting take-out (I know, bleh), using paper plates so I didn’t have to do dishes as much, and doing laundry only on the weekends when I had a bit more time and energy (and my hubby’s help). I focused on repairing my body from the c-section, my mind, and getting to know my daughter, of course.
Establishing a routine (for everything) is the key to success. This is obvious, and not a new concept by any means. However, I’m not talking about a routine for your kid, I’m talking about the other kid – your husband/partner. Now, I didn’t do this right away; I tried to be Super Mom (and a control freak) and handle it all myself. That only ended in exhaustion and hot, angry tears. Once I empowered my husband and gave him daily tasks (main diaper changer, washed my pump parts every night, prepped the bottles for the next day, etc.), life got a lot easier. Let him change that diaper wrong, or dress your kid in a ridic outfit – he will learn over time, and you ain’t got time to do it all anyways, honey.
My love for my child is so great, it scares the sh*t out of me. The amount of love you have for your child is scary. I’m pretty sure it’s made me seriously question if I’m even responsible enough to be a mom. I love my husband with all my heart, but the love I have for Ellie is a suffocating, motherly love. Sometimes, I look at her, and my heart fills with joy. Other times, my heart fills with fear – fear of the unknown. What kind of world are we creating for our kids? Will she grow up making a mixture of good and not-so-good choices that make her turn out to be a well-balanced woman, or will she make a bad choice somewhere in her life that will affect her negatively forever? My parents raised me to be a strong-willed, independent woman (although I don’t think they had much choice in the matter), and I’m thankful for that. I want Elliott to be the same way, but I know if I succeed she will ultimately do what she wants, regardless of what her dad and I say. That’s a hard pill to swallow for this strong-willed, opinionated mama. In the end, I know all I can do is pray that God gives me the strength as a parent to be a good example and that He also guides her through life with a gentle, yet firm hand.
Being a new mom is lonely sometimes. At this time, nearly all of my close friends are either pregnant or have had a baby recently. But early on, that wasn’t the case and being a mom was kinda it alienating. Many people (but not ALL) who haven’t had kids just don’t truly understand how much time, energy, or patience it takes to be a parent. I sure didn’t, at least. And they also don’t understand that the lack of sleep, stressing about feeding schedules or color of your kid’s poop is totally worth it because you love that tiny human so much your heart could explode. They just don’t get it…yet. After Ellie was born, I almost instantly found myself a little (or a lotta) out of touch with things that my friends and I once cared about, and that made me sad. I had a party with friends for my 29th birthday about a month after Ellie was born, and I struggled to have a conversation that wasn’t about boobs, baby products, or poop. I felt so awkward at the bar. I remember staring at my belly when I was still pregnant, nervous about if I’d still like the things I liked then after the baby was born. Simple, yet defining things like fashion, books, coffee, working out, and going to bars. It’s comforting to know that I still do care about all of those things, just a bit less. And I’m okay with that, but are my friends? I think they are. I hope they are.
Being a mom is an amazing thing. Truly, it is. I’m so happy I am one, and I can’t imagine it any other way. And though I’ve learned a lot the hard way, I try to laugh at myself and enjoy the ride. And stock up on champagne and OJ. And take lots of naps.
What rocked your world when you first became a mom? Share with me.