Dear Brand New Mom,
I remember feeling like I was semi-equipped for the first three months of my baby’s life. Beyond that, it was a big, blank mystery. Maybe I wouldn’t have been ready to hear about what came after those first weeks, but in retrospect, I think I would have appreciated if someone had given me a heads up or some pointers. Anyway, as one who’s only had ten months of motherhood experience, I’m not that far ahead. But hopefully what I have to say will be helpful to you. Here are some things I wish someone had told me:
Mother knows best is actually true. Don’t second guess your instincts. Whether it’s a question about feeding, clothing or calming your baby, you know your child the best. At times, it may appear not to make sense. Trust your own voice.
No judgement. Before I became a mother, I would look at other families and wonder about their parenting choices. After I had Alena, I quickly realized you can never see the whole story. I once saw a mom give each of her kids a banana off the shelf at the grocery store. While I might not do that myself, I can empathize with why she would do that. Each parent does what seems best in the situation. In the same way, you must do what’s best for your family in your given circumstances.
Things will get better. The round-the-clock feeding, pain of recovery, hormone swings and breast feeding discomfort WILL improve. Eventually, life will feel more normal. There is hope.
Things will get worse. In place of the above mentioned challenges, you will face new ones. Changing your squirming baby’s diaper while keeping their hands away from their poop, carrying your infant with one arm and leaving your baby with a sitter will all get more difficult. As will keeping your child safe and administering discipline. Parenthood doesn’t get easier, apparently. (So hang on to that little piece of hope you do have!)
Stay-at-home parenting actually means having to find places to go out to. Before I had a child, I looked forward to spending most of my days at home (especially as an introvert). I was surprised and a bit disappointed when I realized my baby wanted to go out at least once every day. Our local library, grocery stores, YMCA programs, the park and the mall all quickly became part of the weekly rotation.
Sleep training is good, but a baby’s sleep is a fragile thing that can be all too easily disrupted. Developmental milestones, over-stimulation and the weather can all contribute to random wakings at odd hours of the night. Seeing as teeth come in at least five sets, that’s already five periods of fussy crankiness. If you add on gross motor skills such as rolling over, crawling, standing and walking, any given sleep pattern is bound to change about every two weeks. So give yourself a pat on the back when your baby starts to sleep through the night, but don’t get too attached to a routine. And in the midst of those nights of endless wailing, remember it’s only a phase. After all, you don’t need to be rocked to sleep every night anymore.
They say a baby’s crying peaks at 6 weeks. Well, yes and no. It does reach an intense period at around 6 weeks. But then it comes back. Teething is far more terrible (and from what I’ve heard, this can go on for two years!). You don’t think it could be possible, but your baby is capable of and will scream even louder as he/she grows.
Some toys are a waste of money and only serve to clutter your house. The world is truly a fascinating place if you’ve never seen it before. There is so much to discover simply of what’s in our homes that it’s not really necessary to go out there and buy everything that’s promoted as “helpful” to baby’s development. Our baby’s favourite things to play with have been a package of travel tissue, a kitchen spatula and a ping pong ball. Oh, and she’s totally enraptured by touching our faces, especially our teeth.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The mom community is a-ma-zing. Find a neighbourhood mom’s group, join an online forum or a mom’s Facebook group. Chances are, what you’re dealing with, someone has faced before. Never for a moment think that you are in this alone.
Finally, you are stronger than you think. In those moments when the baby is inconsolable and you’re at your wit’s end, envision your child all grown up and you’ll realize how short this time is when your child is so tiny and vulnerable. You’ll suddenly experience an inexplicable capacity to love.
So hang in there, Mama. You are doing well. You only need to take things one day at a time. And there is always, always enough grace for the present moment.
Your companion in young motherhood,