It feels like it’s been a really long time since I had butterflies in my stomach, wondering what being a mom to a real live baby would be like. I remember rubbing my big belly and trying to picture what she would look like. I remember being nervous about those predicted sleepless nights. I remember feeling overwhelmingly grateful for being able to carry a baby and also ready to be able to sleep on my belly again and stand up without grunting. Expecting my first baby was a special time, a mix of ALL the emotions, and now, six years down the motherhood road, there are a few things I find myself wanting to tell a first time mom.
You have so much joy ahead of you!
You really do. Getting to have a first row seat to watching my children grow has been an unbelievable privilege. Just when you think you are going to lose your mind, you’ll get your first smile and you’ll get it- how this crazy motherhood thing and the magic is brings with it.
The first couple of years are truly in the trenches.
Don’t compare newborn life to those with older toddlers or young kids. Don’t compare the newborn experience of your first child with the newborn experience of a mom having her third child. In fact, it’s a good time to let go of comparing at all. Every baby and every mom is different.
You aren’t going to get any of those projects done that you’re planning to do on maternity leave.
You just aren’t. And that’s more than OK! Yes, babies sleep a lot, but they also eat a lot, and need their diaper changed a lot, and you won’t exactly feel well-rested or at your physical best.
The level of respect you have for your own mom will deepen significantly.
And you’ll understand why she says you’ll never know just how much she loves you.
You will sleep again.
I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you will. This is just a season so do what you need to do to be kind to yourself, whether that means naps, coffee, or Netflix.
You may also like:
12 Things I Didn’t Believe About Babies Until I Had One
It’s OK if you miss your pre-kid life.
Your first baby will turn your world upside down. Things you didn’t even realize were luxuries before kids will suddenly be blatant. A little daydreaming about what is was like to sleep all night, shower in peace, and meet a friend for brunch is completely normal. It doesn’t mean you love your child any less.
Hold them as much as you want.
Maybe that’s all day long while you soak up that newborn-lump-on-your-chest goodness. Maybe it’s not holding them so you can eat your meal with two hands and flip through a magazine. Both are fine.
There is no book that will really tell you how to do it all.
I don’t really have many parenting books I’d recommend beyond The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Collapse of Parenting because no book knows you, your baby, or you specific situation. As helpful as it can be to poll mom friends (and sanity-saving), they don’t really know either. Trust your gut.
Don’t wake up before your baby.
I’m one of those moms that sings the praises of all I can get done in those early morning hours while the kids still sleep, but my kids aren’t babies anymore. Truly, right now let sleep reign and don’t set that alarm. Just sleep!
Get outside and breath in fresh air.
Even if it’s just once a day. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Fresh air and real sunshine will remind you that there is life beyond your living room/disaster zone and it will make you feel alive again.
Breastfeeding is natural but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.
Engorgement, clogged ducts, painful latch, oversupply, leaking… and those are just the ones I personally experienced. And I’d actually say breastfeeding went really well for us. Learning to breastfeed is just that- learning.
You may also like:
Things No One Told Me About Breastfeeding
Find a mom tribe in your same stage.
It’s great to have friends in all stages of life: veteran moms to weigh in, friends without kids to remind you who you are, etc. But nothing is more therapeutic to a new mom than a fellow new mom going through exactly what you are going through at the exact same time. It may be the blind leading the blind, but you sometimes you don’t need advice as much as you need someone to be able to look you in the eye and say “me too.”
All you really need are diapers, a source of food, a blanket or two, and a lot of onesies.
And maybe a NoseFrida. The rest is just gravy.
Take lots of pictures, and don’t forget to take video too.
Those newborn grunts will fade and those first smiles are priceless, so snap away, and share away and if anyone has a problem with it, they probably aren’t a parent yet.
Going through our family pictures has made me nostalgic for those sweet and chaotic newborn days. Not that I want to relive them (I very much so enjoy sleeping through the night now), but it really is such a special time and it’s easier to enjoy the sweet moments when you aren’t bogged down with wondering if you are doing it right. Spoiler alert: you are. <3
Fellow mamas, what do you think would have been helpful to hear before you had your first baby?
What was the best thing someone told you?
“Good for you, not for me” was my battle cry for the first year! Also, I always reminded myself it wasn’t a “bad habit” until it was causing us problems, and then we could fix it. That helped me relax a lot and just sit and hold Felix when he napped instead of feeling guilty that I was “ruining” him (news flash, I didn’t). Also, Sleep Training isn’t a bad word, if you need and want it. Go for it!
Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t get baby fever right away – some moms have it right after their baby is born, and some don’t. I DEFINITELY DID NOT, but I have a friend who just had her third and just wants more and more kiddos. Not wanting more does not make you a lesser mom.
Brittany Dixon says
Oh I like your second one, as I had not really thought about that before!
And yes, sleep was essential for me so we did some sleep training and I regret nothing. I have a friend who has a 3 year old that still sleeps in her bed with her and she regrets nothing either. Hooray for “good for you, not for me.” 🙂
Alison Aiken says
I hated hearing advice when I was pregnant (because everyone’s an expert) but one friend said, “If someone offers you help say ‘Yes.'” I’ve borrowed this line from him – it’s the only unsolicited advice I give.
Brittany Dixon says
That’s a great nugget of advice. It’s so easy to want to do it all, but you’re right, saying yes to help is always a good idea!
I wish I’d known how hard it was going to be. I knew it would be “hard,” but I just didn’t get how different it would be and how tired I would be. I wouldn’t have wanted to scare myself, just wanted a warning! I also wish I’d known to not compare myself or other babies with my own kid. I really suffered for a long time wondering if I was doing this thing or that thing right. And now my daughter will be four in just six weeks. And she’s awesome and I’m
So glad I have her.
Brittany Dixon says
Love your honesty, Jen! Thank you! Sleep deprivation was the toughest part for me. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know I was tired but I’d get so overemotional or irrationally upset/angry and that’s when an alarm would go off in my head screaming TAKE A NAP GIRL. It always made a world of difference.
I don’t think Don’t Wake Before the Baby is good advice. are you suggesting this strategy just for maternity leave?
I went back to work so I 100% need to wake up before the baby or else i can’t take a shower/have coffee/get dressed and generally prepare for the day. If i wait for the baby to wake up then not only will I be late but I would be pretty stressed. If you want to be inclusive then make sure you don’t just think about things from a perspective of a SAHM. Hope that makes sense.
It’s good advice for the weekend though.
Brittany Dixon says
I understand all advice will be different in how much it helps (or doesn’t!) an individual, but I hope you know I would never purposefully try to exclude anyone! Truly.
I certainly meant it as don’t wake up before the baby if you don’t have to. I had mom friends that would set their alarm to get up and try and do laundry/clean/etc when their babies were only a couple weeks old and it almost drove them crazy. I wanted to highlight that it’s ok if the house is messy and you rely on freezer food/take out for a while. Sleep wins! 🙂
I’m still a new mom, (my daughter is 9 months old,) but I feel like my biggest advice is that you can’t really have a plan. Every baby is so different and needs a different approach to things. I swore I would never sleep train, until getting her to sleep AT ALL turned into such a struggle for every single nap and bedtime that we were actually losing our minds. Three days flat of sleep training turned it completely around.. I still say that was the single best parenting decision I’ve ever made. I wanted to breastfeed but off the bat my daughter had a bad latch and was unable to handle my strong letdown. (Fellow oversupplier here..) So I had to pump for the first two months until she was able to deal with it, and then it hurt so bad that I wasn’t sure I could handle it. But now at 9 months it’s so smooth and easy and I’m already getting a bit sad that it’s slowly getting less and less as she ramps up solids. I’m hoping we’ll be able to make it the 24 months that I would like to go.
Lastly, I absolutely agree that you need other new mom friends. I get together with three other moms each week, and our babies are all within a couple months of each other. It’s been invaluable, I can’t imagine going through all of this without them. We text each other every day with questions, or just to commiserate on a rough day, etc. It’s the kind of support I would not have anticipated I would need until I had a baby. It’s nice to talk to my mom, or my best friend but they’re not “in it” right now. It’s not the same.
Brittany Dixon says
Great advice; thank you! And congrats on your sweet baby <3 And I totally I love those text message conversations that are ongoing with friends that get it. Best therapy ever!
Oh gosh. So much to say on this. I think one of the biggest things is that you’ll love your baby right away (obviously), but the love deepens the more you get to know them. At first, you are exhausted, scared, and unsure so you may not get that “Oh my gosh, I love him/her so much it hurts” right away. That’s okay. It comes and it hits you hard and you don’t think you could ever love anything more. I had a traumatic delivery and it took me a few days (or weeks) to even begin to process it and open myself up to being able to fall in love with her. I was too scared at first. But once I did, oh my goodness, nothing else like it.
Also, this quote: “Be gentle on yourself while you cultivate your parenting muscle, and make room for mistakes. No two mothers are going to move through this journey the same way, and that’s a good thing, because your baby needs that special magic only you can bring. ” – Erica Chidi Cohen. It got me through some really tough weeks of exclusively pumping, clogged ducts, losing my supply, and eventually switching to formula, which turned out to be the best thing for the both of us.
Brittany Dixon says
I’ve loved watching (through Instagram- haha!) you take on motherhood. Your love for N so clearly shines through and it honestly touches that little place in my heart where I’m reminded what it was like when I just had H. Thanks for input, especially as someone that has just experienced this herself. So happy for you, my friend! <3
I love this! I am due with my first this summer…and you know I have 1038437234 projects lined up for my summer on maternity leave so that one made me chuckle. I already presume most won’t get done but it’s nice to daydream. 🙂
I’m trying really hard to not set any expectations because I obviously have no clue what this new life will be like as a mama (of course every one from a friend to a stranger at the grocery thinks they can tell me what life will be). I’m a planner by nature, so knowing I can’t plan for any of what will come is really hard! Though, being pregnant has brought me this entirely new sense of calm, so I’m really hoping that this carries over once the baby is here. I’ve never been so laid back in my life, ha!
Great post and comments here. I would say its important to hear that you absolutely don’t have to commit to what type of parent you will be and lock that in forever. If you go back to work and its not a great fit for your new life, try to make a change to a different work situation or stay home if possible. Same for SAHM – super hard you may think its for you and maybe it is or is not. Prepare to be flexible with your expectations and honest with your partner if you have one. If you always wanted to be a SAHM and then a few months in, realize it may not be for you, change! I started back at work at 8 weeks and after a year, decided I wanted a job where I would work from home. After another year of that, I chose to stay home full time and build in side hustles for income. I feel fortunate to have been able to make all of that happen as each scenario has plusses and minuses. Same goes for style of parenting. If co-sleeping attachment isn’t working for you, try something else for a while. Just don’t get stuck in something that isn’t working for your family or your kids because you had a vision of how you would be and it would go.
I suffered clogged ducts with my babies not to mention colic. Our first few months were hard .However we got the hang of it and took lots and lots of pictures for memories.I created an email where I sent all the photos and plan to give it away at their 18th birthday 🙂 Thank you for sharing this
Courtney Bishop says
You nailed this one on the head! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said, really. I was so ready for motherhood when I was 30 weeks pregnant with my first. I knew exactly the type of mother I would be. Boy was I wrong. I just had my third baby and I’m still all over the place, hah. There is no book that encompasses even a fraction of what motherhood truly is! Thanks for sharing this blog.
Courtney Bishop says
That is the sweetest thing ever!
#1 – I am totally sending this to a friend who is about to have her first!
#2 – Know better, do better. So many times experienced moms told me “That’s not how we did it and everyone was fine”. Yup, but we didn’t know better then. It was my internal conversation when people told me I was waiting too long to turn the car seat around, etc.
#3 – Every stage is awesome. Every single stage of raising a child is has big joy and big difficulties. Watching them learn new skills is awesome, and it doesn’t stop being awesome. But it is totally okay to have moments when you are ready for the next stage.
1. Stay away from google as much as you can. So many tiny things I noticed turned into panic about genetic disease, serious disability or any number of other unlikely problems not present.
2. If your childs pediatrician isn’t listening to you or taking your concerns seriously, find a new one. You know your baby better than someone that may spend 1 hour with them once a month to every few months. My son had torticollis from birth and his ped kept telling me it would self correct. It didn’t. By the time he finally got into physical therapy he had a noticeable flat spot which she also told me would self correct. It didn’t. So some of the extremely limited window open to correct it with a plagio helmet was missed.
3. If you notice your child regularly missing milestones DO NOT listen to the people who tell you to wait before taking action. I credit getting my son early intervention, early diagnosis (15 mo) and into early (22 mo) ABA therapy, despite his fathers and nearly every other nonprofessionals opinion, with the major gains he has made in nearly all autism red flag areas.