The transition from me to we to three is often an unexpected one — as the saying goes, you never are truly prepared for becoming a parent no matter how much you try. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.
No one could have prepared me for how difficult and sometimes painful the first weeks of breastfeeding could be. Take note lactation consultants: “tender” doesn’t describe it. I imagined maternity leave a cuddly vacation. On most days it was — snuggles, googley-eyed kisses, and bonding left me on cloud nine. But other moments I strangely felt alone and isolated. And I thought I’d remember all the details that would eventually make up the story of the baby book. Too many pages are still blank…four years later. (Oops!)
When a recent chat with a newly pregnant co-worker reminded me of these initial revelations with a baby, I thought about what I would say as a second-time mom to my first-time self. What advice would’ve eased the transition and helped me relish the most mundane moments, explosive diapers included?
1. Don’t listen to the “experts.” No parenting guide, Web site, or person knows your baby best. There isn’t a right, one-size-fits-all approach to diapering, feeding, sleeping, crying, playing, bonding. You are the expert on your family. Even when you have doubts, listen to your gut and your child’s cues. I promise, you’ll find your way together and meet everyone’s needs.
2. Set aside expectations and cut yourself some slack. Four months at home? You want to tackle that mile-long to do list like making all the recipes you’ve pinned, landscaping the backyard, and organizing your closets according to Martha Stewart’s standards. All you need is a baby carrier, right? If you really can check these things off during maternity leave, major props to you. But if you can’t, don’t sweat it. I learned that it’s wasted energy to measure my daily contributions based on productivity. Just because I stayed home all day wearing yoga pants and allowing the dishes to pile up in the sink didn’t mean I didn’t do something. As my husband wisely put it, “You are doing a lot. You are raising a human being.”
3. Speaking of yoga pants, you’re forgiven if you wear them. They’re comfortable, meld with your changing body shape, and are easy to launder if they get splattered with spit up. The fashion police will give you a pass.
4. But make sure to pamper yourself. Leave your partner with a bottle and revive the highlights that you’ve ignored during the past nine months. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Get a massage. You aren’t neglecting your baby if you’re indulging in self-care. Those brief moments away will fuel you to be the best mom possible.
5. It’s okay to get food delivery. Every. Day. Or make a meal out of goldfish crackers. Don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of services that make your life easier. Your only job is to be with baby and rest.
6. Put your smartphone in the drawer. With Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels one swipe away, it’s very tempting to check in with friends or watch life transpiring when you’re nursing or baby’s enjoying tummy time. Accept that it’s inevitable that you’ll suffer from FOMO at some point and be okay with that. Obsessively refreshing your e-mail, doesn’t bring you closer to baby. And taking photos even distracts you from seeing all the unexpected details. Enjoy the one-on-one time with baby because it goes by sooo fast.
7. You’re baby will love you no matter what. Mistakes happen (blame sleep deprivation). Forgive and be kind to yourself.
What advice would you share with new parents?
~ The Other Sarah