Things I Wish I’d Known As a New Mom
When I first became a mom eight years ago, I had no idea what to do with a baby. Sure, I’d read the books and had followed some big parenting blogs for years already, but I had no idea what to actually do with a tiny human. A kitten or a puppy, sure. I’d had pets my whole life. I knew what to do with a pet. But a tiny baby girl whose care was up to me (and my husband)? That was a whole new world. While I’m by no means a parenting expert — I’m still trying to figure out hacks for my almost 2-year-old son — I have learned a few things along the way. These are things I wish I had known up front, ranging from the obvious to the gross to the somewhat helpful.
You Will Survive
The first few weeks as a new mom were, for me, awful — with both kids. With my daughter, I think it was mostly due to the fact that I was exhausted and scared I didn’t know what I was doing. With my son, it was mostly due to the fact that I was so exhausted I felt like I might truly die. There was a lot of crying involved — on my part. It turns out we weren’t sleeping in large part due to the fact that he wasn’t latching properly when I breastfed him; he was always hungry, because he wasn’t getting enough to eat. Once we solved the latching problem and he was nursing properly, presto! We both started sleeping so much better and for longer stretches, which meant dad and big sister also started sleeping better. It’s become a habit of mine to tell my new-mom friends that they WILL survive the first few weeks and months. I promise that things do get easier once you figure things out.
Vomit Is ALWAYS Gross
Long before I had a kid, friends who were already parents would tell me “you won’t mind when your baby spits up on you because it’s your baby.” Turns out they were all liars, liars, pants on fire. Vomit is vomit, and it is ALWAYS gross. If anything, it’s even grosser when it’s your baby, because you’ll almost always be the first one in the line of fire to take a direct hit. Do you have any idea how gross it is to get vomit in your bra? I do. That happened — more than once — after I got out of a shower to wash off a previous round of vomit. Good times.
Babies Who Sleep Well Right Off the Bat Are Urban Myths
I admit I do know a few people who swear their babies were good sleepers from the minute they were born. I’m not completely convinced of that just because mine were awful sleepers. Chalk my disbelief up to jealousy.
Always Have Snacks
This seems like a no-brainer, but we learned the hard way with our firstborn to always carry snacks with us, no matter how quick an errand we had planned. This started after she was less reliant on nursing and bottle feedings and was eating some foods. We’d find ourselves out and about with her screaming in hunger and not having anything to appease her. Once we started packing snacks, we had a much happier baby when we were running around town. Now, my son’s diaper bag looks like a walking advertisement for a tiny carbohydrate addict in the making. But it keeps him happy, so crackers and granola bars are always on hand when we’re out with him. Oh, and those baby-food puree things in a pouch? Those are PERFECT for tossing in a diaper bag or purse and being on the go.
Wardrobe Changes Aren’t Just for Awards Shows
As with the snack tip, this is another no-brainer. Be sure to have appropriately sized extra clothes on hand for spills, vomit, and, worst-case scenario diaper blowouts. It’s a good idea to check the extra outfit(s) you keep in your diaper bag or car every few weeks, since it turns out babies grow fast. Crazy, right? You don’t want to find yourself in need of a clean outfit for your 9-month-old and only having a 3-month-old’s onesie on hand.
Be Ready to Keep Baby Entertained
Our daughter became a restaurant pro early on. She was perfect — she never fussed or cried, she was friendly with servers, and she loved the crayons and paper they’d give her to color with. Until the day we went to a restaurant that didn’t have crayons or paper for kids. This was before we had smartphones, so we’d find ourselves with a cranky kid who wanted something, anything to do while we waited for our food. We soon started packing crayons, usually saved from a previous restaurant trip, and small coloring/activity pads in her diaper bag. Voila — we had a happy, entertained kid everywhere we went and, as a bonus, she is now a budding artist.
It’s OK to Admit Things Suck
When my daughter was nine days old, I cried. I cried that entire day. I was tired and frustrated, scared that I was doing everything wrong. I’m lucky in that I had a supportive husband keeping a close eye on me and helping out as much as he could, with both our kids. With my son, most of my crying was a direct result of how tired I was. The more exhausted I was, the more I cried. I’d also cry at the drop of a hat. But when he started nursing properly, the tears dried up as the quality sleep increased. It’s normal to have ups and downs as a parent, particularly as a new mom. And things will not always be picture-perfect or twee or easy (fact: most parenting blogs lie). On my best days early on, I’d get my daughter dressed to go meet friends for lunch. As we would literally be heading out our front door, she’d vomit all over the outfit I’d so carefully chosen. I’d run back in, change her, and head out once again. That’s a pretty good metaphor for parenting, I think: no matter how carefully you plan or anticipate certain things, something will almost always throw it off course. And things will still turn out just fine. You’ll be OK — all of you.