Becoming a first-time mom is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
As women we all dream of becoming mothers someday and giving/receiving that amazing unconditional love from our babies and children. We probably romanticize how becoming a mother will be and see our future as mothers through rose-colored glasses. We see a future where we have the perfect pregnancy, labor and delivery and the perfect future with our perfect children. Am I right? Well let me tell you, from experience, nothing ends up being perfect or how we originally planned them. My first pregnancy was a nightmare — I had terrible morning sickness from day 1 and that continued throughout my second trimester and I was in the hospital much more than I wanted to be with issues that had to do with my pregnancy. I also had gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia that caused me to be induced 32 weeks. Yes, my daughter was considered premature and yes she was in the hospital for over a month after she was born — also not what I planned. My second pregnancy was slightly easier but it wasn’t without complications.
So as a mother of two girls (who are far from perfect) let me let you in on 10 things that all new moms should know.
1. Parenthood is as hard as everyone says it is
I’m not going to sugar coat it; parenting is fucking hard but it’s also very rewarding at the same time. Don’t think you’re going to get much sleep for the first year of your baby’s life because you honestly won’t. You’ll either wake up every two hours or every four hours to feed your baby and in between you may have to deal with constant crying due to gas, colic or something else. The first year of your child’s life will definitely test your strength and your patience but you will get through it. It may seem like it will never end but it will end. However, once that phase ends more phases start and those phases won’t be any easier. My girls are now thirteen and eleven and I’m still facing extremely hard times with them.
2. Your baby probably won’t be on a schedule
Get ready to be a slave to your baby for the first year of his or her life.
I’m going to be real — some babies may eventually get into a schedule but the majority of them won’t. I was very lucky with my first daughter because she did end up being on a schedule. This was only because of the fact that she was premature and in the NICU for the first month and a half of her life. The NICU nurses really helped to get her onto a schedule and that’s something that I will always be grateful for. My second daughter wouldn’t get into a schedule no matter how hard I tried. She would wake up every 2-4 hours needing to eat but it was never consistent. I always slept (when I had the chance to) with one eye open just in case she cried – yes, I was always afraid that I would sleep through her cries. Laugh all you want but I’m a heavy sleeper, ok!?
3. Motherly instinct is a thing and you should always listen to that little voice
I’m not sure what it is about having a baby but I truly do believe that motherly instinct kicks in as soon as you have a child. (I’ve heard that this is the same for women who also adopt.) I strongly believe that as a mother you should listen to that little voice in your head that is either telling you that something is wrong or that you’re right about something. Let me tell you a little story about the first time I had an experience with my motherly instinct.
As I said above, my daughter was born a few weeks prematurely and she was in the NICU for over a month after she was born. Her main problem was that she wasn’t feeding and she had to be fed with a tube that went through her nose and you used a little syringe filled with a few ounces of formula to get her the nutrients that she needed. The problem with that was that she wasn’t holding down anything that she was fed and had been rapidly losing weight since she wasn’t getting the nutrients that she needed. She wasn’t vomiting 100% of the time but the majority of formula wasn’t being held down. The NICU doctor went through so many possible causes and every remedy she was suggesting was failing pretty badly. They ended up talking about doing surgery and that’s when I freaked out and took to the internet on my own. There was no way I was putting my newborn baby through surgery if it wasn’t absolutely necessary and I didn’t feel that it was necessary. I had a little voice inside of my head telling me that there was a simple solution that they weren’t considering. I posted on every forum I could possibly find and Googled the problem to try to find my own solution. There was one thing that really stood out to me — acid reflux or an allergy to the formula they were using. I gathered all of the information that I could find on that and even ran out to Babies R Us to grab some Dr. Brown bottles since I read they were amazing for babies with acid reflux.
I fought tooth and nail with the NICU nurse and insisted that acid reflux or an allergy to the formula was the problem. She finally gave in and sure enough both of those were the problem. She had severe acid reflux and wasn’t tolerating the formula that they were giving her. She needed a different type of formula (which was extremely expensive, mind you!) and she flourished once the correct formula was given and she was started on Pepcid for her acid reflux. Unfortunately she still had to stay in the hospital for a while after they found a solution because she needed to develop the sucking reflex in order to drink from a bottle but she gained weight, eventually learned how to drink from a bottle and went home afterwards! That was the longest month and a half of my life but I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and fought with the doctor about what I felt was wrong. I completely feel that my motherly instinct kicked in and I will always strongly believe that’s what it was.
Moral of the story? If you feel something or someone is wrong, they probably are. You won’t always be right but at least you listened to that little voice in your head.
4. You’re not going to be that perfect mom
Believe what you want to but there’s no such thing as the perfect mom. We all have our flaws and we’re not going to know what to do for every problem or situation that arises. We all are going to have to make mistakes and learn from them. You’re not going to be twirling around your perfectly clean house, perfectly rested with your one-month old in your arms. That’s just not going to happen. When we have our first child we have to say goodbye to a good night’s sleep, time to ourselves and a clean house because it’s just not going to happen. You’re going to have to accept that nothing is going to be the same once you have a child and you’re not going to be perfect. If someone claims they’re the “perfect mom” they’re lying…
5. Take some time for yourself — if you can find that time
The first year of your baby’s life is going to be incredibly hard for you. As we already covered, you’re going to be a slave to your baby and probably won’t get much sleep or time to yourself. However there are times that you can take advantage of to do things for yourself. This would mainly be when your baby is sleeping. Newborn babies sleep 16-17 hours per day (though not in a row!) and you should take advantage of this time to it’s full extent. Use the time they’re sleeping during the day to take a shower or get some phone calls in. You won’t have much time in between feeding times but you’ll have some time to yourself. Use this time to take a quick nap or sleep at night. There will be days that your baby might sleep a little less and those are the days that you’re going to feel worn out our exhausted so use this downtime as much as possible.
6. Take all the help you can get
Throw away your pride and accept all of the help that is offered. Are your parents offering to watch the baby for a few hours? Let them and use that time to get some errands done or to take a nice nap. Are friends offering to bring home cooked meals to your house? Let them! Donated meals from friends are much better than stuffing whatever you can into your mouth before your baby starts crying again. Don’t try to do it all on your own because you’re going to burn out, I can tell you this from experience. I tried to do it all on my own and didn’t want to accept the help that I was offered. I didn’t want to seem like a failure and like I couldn’t do it all on my own…but I couldn’t. I was a young, single mom and I couldn’t do it all on my own no matter how hard I tried. It took a while for me to realize this and it was difficult to swallow my pride and ask for help but sometimes you have to. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good mother, it means you’re a smart mother for utilizing all of the assistance that you’re being offered.
7. Know the signs of post partum depression
Post partum depression is a type of depression that effects new moms after childbirth and it’s a real and serious thing that needs to be addressed. Post partum depression doesn’t have a definite cause but it’s thought to come about from the changes in hormones and changes that your body goes through after you have your child. I had post partum depression with both of my pregnancies and was in denial for quite a while that I was dealing with it. It’s extremely important to be hyper aware and know the symptoms so you can get the help you need. If you are dealing with post partum depression it’s important to face it and seek medical attention so you can be the best mother that you can possibly be for your child. You can visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website here to learn about the signs and symptoms.
8. Formula feeding doesn’t make you a bad mother
With all the talk about how the breast is best it can discourage you if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed your child. Personally I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter because I was on pure albuterol almost daily for severe asthma and also ended up not being able to breastfeed because she was in the NICU for so long. I had two strikes against me for breastfeeding and I didn’t feel bad about it. I understand that breastfeeding helps you to bond with your baby and the nutrients are extremely beneficial over formula but a mother who chooses not to breastfeed isn’t a bad mother. The choice is yours and it’s a personal choice that should be yours and yours alone. As long as your baby is being fed, that’s all that matters. Both of my girls were formula fed and they’re extremely healthy and smart young women right now. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
9. You won’t have it all together — for a few years
Do you want me to be completely honest? I have a pre-teen and a teenager and I still am a hot mess. I don’t have it all together and I probably never will but I try my best and that’s all I can do.
In the beginning you might go a few days without a shower and you may never change out of your yoga pants. It happens, it’s ok and it doesn’t make you a bad person. The first few years of a baby’s life is extremely important and extremely busy for you. Spend that time with your child and don’t worry about being disorganized or a hot mess. It happens to all of us whether we want to admit it or not.
10. Enjoy the time you have with your newborn
While days seem to go so slowly when you’re a first time mom those days are going to fly by in reality. I look at my girls now and wonder where the time went. It honestly seems like yesterday they were babies and now they’re blossoming young women. Enjoy and embrace the time you have with your baby because you’ll never get that time back. The first year, especially, is such an exciting time. Your baby will go from this tiny little thing, to smiling, to rolling over, to sitting up and crawling, to walking, etc… It’s such an amazing time for transformation and milestones — don’t miss a second of it! I documented all of those milestones and days I had with my newborn because they were such exciting times that I never want to forget.