I recently learned that several friends are pregnant which has me thinking about when I was a new parent. Back then I was given a lot of advice from people. Some solicited. Most not. In hindsight, I wish I had listened more to my own voice and not stressed so much about everything.
In that spirit, here’s some (unsolicited) advice I would give to expectant mothers or new moms just beginning their journey in parenthood.
On being a parent:
- You’re never ready to become a parent. Go in stumbling like the rest of us with the understanding that no one really knows what they’re doing.
- In the most stressful and challenging times remind yourself to take it one day at a time. I spent sooooo much time worrying about whether I was doing the right thing. Every decision seemed agonizing and overwhelming.
- On that note, make a choice. It may not matter what you choose, just that you choose.
- What works one night with your child is 100% guaranteed not to work the next night. Madison was supremely fussy at night (fondly nicknamed “the Kraken”). I eventually thought I found the solution by bouncing with her on my medicine ball, in the bathroom, with the fan on, while making a shhhhh sound, but that, too, stopped working. You adjust.
- Ignore the unsought advice. Decide as a parent what you want to do and don’t let anyone make you feel like they know what’s best for your child.
- Don’t use the internet to diagnose your child’s problem. You will inevitably find the worst case scenario. If you have concerns, call your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed. Being a new parent gives you access to the crazy card. They are used to all those strange questions.
- Try as hard as you can and then let it go. Stop thinking you’re not good enough. You are someone’s whole world.
The sleep factor:
- There is nothing worse than sleep deprivation. It affects every single part of your life. Steal naps when you can. I avoided numerous naps because I chose to work, clean, cook, or exercise while the girls slept. I would have functioned so much better if I rested at times.
- Without sleep everything else falls apart. You’ll pick fights with your spouse, you’ll make poor decisions about food, you’ll make poor decisions about a lot of things. Just remember this shall pass and all those hurtful things you said to your husband will be forgotten.
- And, yes, you can go one more night without sleep. You will survive. And when your child starts to sleep through the night on a regular basis you won’t be able to remember those countless nights you spent up every hour.
- Sleep training could be helpful. We did this with our girls, but it took a while to make that decision. I know there are varying opinions about this, but I believe one of the best things a child can learn is to self soothe. You don’t need to agree with me.
- Your relationships will suffer for a while. Being a new parent can be very isolating. You may feel like you will never have your adult friends again. You will.
- Your relationship with your spouse will also suffer. You status as a couple kind of falls off, but with good reason (or two!). Your baby is the most important thing now. You’ll find yourselves in a silent routine working next to each other at all hours of the night getting bottles, feeding, grabbing diapers, changing, rocking, soothing. Sometimes you won’t say anything to each other all day, but never doubt your love. It’s so much stronger than you think and getting stronger each day.
- Avoid social media when you feel disconnected. It sounds contrary, but believe me on this one. There’s nothing worse than nursing your child at 2 am wearing the pajamas you still haven’t changed out of from the day before and scrolling through Facebook feeling like you are from outer space.
- You deserve a break now and then. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
- Take people up on their offer to help. I rarely did this when the girls were infants. Almost never. I felt like it was a burden. But, friends and family want to help. And if it’s really horrible for them then they wont offer again.
- Stop trying to get back to the old you. Look towards the NEW you. I used to think I was trying to get back to the person I was before kids, but I now know I was just trying to make sense of my new life as a parent.
- Your emotions directly influence your child’s feelings. Even as infants, they can tell when you are happy, sad, scared, or stressed. Try to always give them the best version of yourself.
- While I was pregnant I worried that I wouldn’t be able to love both girls equally. That I wouldn’t be able to divide my love. I realize the way this sounds. Crazy, right? But, my fear was real. When the girls were born my heart actually exploded. I felt such overwhelming, unconditional love for both. So much love that it actually terrified me. And, it still does.
- It goes by so fast, appreciate it all. I look back at the photos of the girls and feel sad that I will never again have those days back. My tiny girls are getting so, so big.
- Above all, remember how blessed you are.