The Top 7 Things I Have Learned From Being a Mother so Far
Welcome to motherhood! You might have spent the last nine months preparing, researching, reading, organizing, and planning like I did, or maybe you just showed up at the hospital on the day you went into labor and were like, "Okay, let's do this thing." Either way, as long as you are loving and actively trying to keep your baby alive, you are doing a great job! However, regardless if you are a planner or not, here are some things I have learned in the first three months. Whether you want to heed my advice or simply laugh/cry please enjoy!
1. Holy Crap!
Seriously, holy crap! All of my training for being a parent did not remotely prepare me for the amount of poop (and for that matter, spit up and drool) that goes everywhere. I knew there would be plenty of diapers to change, but I was utterly clueless on the amount of poop that would be smeared on baby's clothes, my clothes, the floor, play things, boppies, bassinets, blankets, etc. Some days I feel as if I spend the majority of the day wiping up poop, dabbing at poop stains, changing poopy clothes, soaking clothes full of poop, washing poopy items, and repeat because baby had blow-out after blow-out.
My best advice for you is to gain a sense of humor because chances are one of these days you and baby will be finally dressed in your Sunday bests and then poof! Baby's butt explodes like no other and that yellowy, runny mess is stained all over that adorable Cat and Jack outfit that already took at least 10 minutes to match up the correct buttons and get over your little guy's rolls and wiggly body. Also, invest in a lot of laundry detergent, pack multiple changes of clothes, and allow yourself a whole day to get ready to leave the house.
2. The Miranda Rights of Parenting
The middle of the night on already little to no sleep can be a dark, dark place literally and figuratively. It's when the monsters and the demons creep out from the abyss of your soul and you do and say things that you didn't think were humanly possible. Welcome to parenthood in the middle of the night during those first few weeks (Spoiler Alert: It does get better!).
In the beginning your baby is learning how to sleep. He doesn't know the difference between night and day. That means a lot of waking up in the night to soothe and feed Baby. After the tenth time of forcing yourself from the comforts of your bed into the bare night to pick up your little one and bounce her to sleep, your patience starts to thin and emotions run high. Your partner next to you in bed no longer is your friend. He is the enemy! And that is the reason why my husband and I have learned that anything you say in the middle of the night can NOT and will NOT be used against you in a court of law.
We both have found ourselves talking rather loudly (some may say screaming but tomayto-tomahto) over whose turn it is to get the baby. I have said the F word, which is such a rare occurrence that explorers have been searching the most remote ends of the earth for years to witness such an event. We both have left the room to sleep in different beds.
However, then the sun peeks over the horizon, the birds start chirping, and the dawn of a new day has come upon us, and we shake off the events of last night, stare at our precious baby, and start anew.
3. The Mulberry Bush and Other Odd Things
Parenthood takes you back to a whole new world of music, poetry, rhyme, and dance. A world that maybe you do or don't remember from your own childhood; however, this time you are wiser, and you start questioning these lyrics. Why is the monkey chasing the weasel around the mulberry bush? The biome of a weasel can be classified as temperate forest or perhaps the farmlands of the Great Plains where as monkeys are indigenous to parts of South America, Africa, and Asia. HOW DID THE MONKEY AND WEASEL MEET UP?
Is there deeper meaning to Nick Nack Paddy Wack? Like is the Old Men a sexual predator? Should we call #metoo on this one? This old man he played three. He played nick nack on my tree. Is this some kind of euphemism?
Did you know that there was another verse to Jack and Jill? Jack Jack got up, and home did trot As fast as he could caper To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob With vinegar and brown paper. On top of the verse being obscure it doesn't make sense. How was his head cured with vinegar and brown paper? I would like to know! It would save us a lot of money on doctor's appointments and medicine.
These are the kinds of thoughts that I find myself pondering during the day and the kind of rhymes I fall asleep to singing over and over. If you are a new parent, call me so we can dive deeper into the philosophies behind these jingles. If you are rookie parent, I bet you are just like *%$# it. They start to make sense to you somehow.
4. The Number One Piece of Advice
People love to tell any expecting mom, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." This adage is written down at any baby shower that has a Write Advice to the Mother station. It is tossed around like a hot potato at a kid's party. Maybe this trite saying is so popular because, in fact, it is actually good advice....until it's not.
In the early days of motherhood, I was so exhausted that I felt like my body was drifting among the clouds and my mind was in a permanent fog. My eyes begged for sleep. My muscles and bones yearned to rest. Then the moment my baby took his hundredth nap of the day, my brain went into high alert thinking about all that I could do. I can finish writing in the baby book. I can fold the laundry. I can sweep the floors. I can catch up on some TV or reading. I can return calls and texts from friends and family. I can stare at the baby to make sure he is breathing. It seemed as if I could do anything but actually sleep.
At first, despairing thoughts filled my head. What is wrong with me? Why can't I nap? Slumbering was so elusive these days I ended up stressing myself out that I needed to "catch up" on it, which, in return, made it harder for me to sleep. That was until I found out that many new moms struggle with the same thing and wish people would stop spouting out this advice.
Once I stopped ruminating over napping when the baby napped and ceased willing my eyes to close anytime the baby closed his, I became less anxious and rest came more readily. Sometimes, I would still give into the temptation to get all the chores done. Other times, I would simply sit on the couch with a book or scroll through my phone. Either way I tossed the Number One Piece of Advice aside and got more peace of mind.
5. LaMEze Class
Before Baby even arrives so much focus is already placed on him or her, not to mention your body's grueling metamorphosis throughout pregnancy. Then, Baby enters into this world and even more focus is placed on him and your body undergoes even more changes. And in the midst of all that who gets lost in the shuffle? You! Therefore, I have learned as a new mother that it is vital to my sanity to schedule in some Me Time (partner time too).
For example, I enjoy the following: reading, blogging, scrapbooking, running, crossword puzzles, yoga, and listening to Bobby Bones. I make sure I do at least one of those things every day. Preferably, two of those things.
At first, there was some guilt associated with taking time for me. Mom guilt is real, you all! When I finally would get to leave the house alone, I would just end up feeling guilty and stressed over if my son was okay. I would place him in his swing to either read or scrapbook myself, and the guilt would creep back up. I could be reading to him or playing with him or practicing Tummy Time with him.
No more! I learned that I need time for myself in order for me to be the best parent to my son. I read a good novel while breastfeeding instead of always reading him a children's book. I listen to the Bobby Bone's podcast in the car instead of always singing him nursery rhymes or engaging him in "conversation." On Wednesday nights I either go to run club or yoga...alone. During breakfast I do a crossword puzzle while my son sits in his chair nearby. Sometimes, I put him in my lap to "help" me. I blog as he coos and squirms right next to me. At the time of writing this article, I plan to go back to work in a week because I love teaching, and I am good at it.
And guess what? I am happier because I take time for me. Now when I read to him or play with him it no longer feels forced or out of guilt. It's enjoyable. Once you start adding some "me" back into your time, you won't feel so "ti"ed down!
6. Joy to the World
I will be honest. I was pretty anxious during pregnancy. I worried that I would have no idea how to raise my child, how to hold him, and how to even keep him alive. Then I had him and, poof, that all went away (Side note: It's totally normal to love pregnancy and then be anxious after giving birth). I learned that I could trust my instinct most of time and that I knew more than I had given myself credit. What was even better was that I learned that I was capable of experiencing immense joy. A joy that rivals any other joy. Sure, there are still times where I miss the freedom of getting up and going wherever I feel like or going anywhere I want to go without thinking about all the logistics of a baby. I sometimes envy those who still can sleep through the night. However, the joy of holding my child in my arms surpasses everything else and in that moment I am fully content.
7. We Are All in This Together
The last and most important thing I have learned as a new mother is that women need support. They need support throughout their pregnancy and they certainly need support after they give birth. I would like to think with my deepest resolve I would be able to handle being a mother all by myself, but I don't know if I could, and if I could muster up the strength, I am sure I wouldn't be as happy.
In these first few months I have gained support through my faith and prayer. Likewise, my husband, parents, in-laws, other family members, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers have all been enormous sources of support. From just encouraging words to bringing over food; volunteering to watch my baby; holding my baby while I fixed myself a plate of food; treating me to a massage; letting me call up to vent or ask for advice; helping with the household chores; sending gifts and cards; and simply holding the door open for me as I maneuver a large stroller all of these people have shown me how much they love me and my son.
However, there are many women who do not have the life and choices we have These women can come from poor and impoverished nations, or they can be your neighbors down the street. Women who do not have access to affordable day care or food. Women who do not have time to read and play with their children because they are too busy working to provide basic necessities. Women who are struggling to do it all on their own.
Therefore, what I have learned is that these women and their children desperately need our love, support, and kindness. They need medical care throughout pregnancy and beyond. They need paid maternity leave. They need self-care days. They need smiles instead of stares as they juggle their children and errands. As Mother Teresa said, "Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love wherever you go." Love one another, especially mothers, for they carry our future.