Preparing for a baby is a rollercoaster of emotions: excitement, anxiety, stress, fear. And it seems like no matter where you turn, there is a person or book telling you how to prepare and what you need to expect before and after having your baby. Our son is almost three months old, and in these three months he has taught me so much. I’ve become more patient, stronger as a person, and I’ve learned to become a better multitasker because, let’s be honest, being a mom sometimes means you have to cook dinner while holding a screaming baby.
There are a lot of things I have learned since becoming a new mom that I expected, but there are also a few things that I wish I had known before the birth of our son.
- You can never be 100% prepared. My husband and I learned this the hard way. I am a very organized person, always writing lists and making sure things are done early. Our hospital bags were packed and ready to go at 32 weeks, his bassinet and swing were set up, all clothes, towels, burp cloths and bibs were washed and folded, and we had done our best to prepare our dogs for their little brother; I wrote a separate post about preparing the dogs for baby. The car seat was going to be installed after our getaway trip but our little man decided to come that weekend (read about my birth story here). No matter how prepared you think you are, there is no way to predict how/when your baby will decide to make his or her appearance to the world. Take it from me.
- You will be so tired, more so than ever before. What is sleep? Newborns need to eat every two hours so sleep is a very precious and rare thing for new parents. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is a popular saying new parents hear. The only problem with this statement is that when the baby sleeps is the best time to get some ignored housework finished. I also always had a difficult time sleeping when my son was asleep because I would just want to stare at his handsome face. Babies grow up so quickly, take the time to memorize their tiny features before they get bigger – sleep will come later.
- It’s okay to lean on others, you’ll need the help. Navigating life with a newborn in the house can be difficult for new parents. The sleep deprivation, learning what works best for your child, having alone time, or even sneaking off for a date with your spouse…it all can add up. Leave your pride behind, and ask. for. help. Welcome those prepped dinners with open arms and take all the babysitting time that’s offered to you so you and your spouse can escape for a small date night. Any little bit of help is worth it.
- Breastfeeding is hard. Like really really hard. It’s tiring, frustrating, time consuming, and it can hurt. If you baby isn’t eating enough, breasts can become engorged but if your baby is cluster feeding then you’re basically tied down to a chair for hours. Not to mention feeling like a 24-hour food truck, struggling to choose a breastfeeding-friendly outfit each morning, and the stress from worrying if your supply is keeping steady. It’s hard, and I wish someone told me just how hard it can be.
- Motherhood can be very lonely. This is something that very few people are open to discuss. Being a mom can be a very isolating, lonely thing. You spend all day taking care of a little baby, often neglecting taking care of yourself. 24 hours a day revolves around a schedule of feeding, pumping, changing diapers, losing sleep, all while trying to keep up with cleaning the house or making dinners. I know firsthand how lonely motherhood can be, but keep in mind that you can’t pour from an empty cup…you need to take care of yourself first in order to take care of someone else.
- Every baby is completely different. No two babies are born the same. I’m not just talking about physical appearance, but their personalities, likes, dislikes, how they learn, how much and often they eat, etc. Comparing your child to someone else’s child is pointless. Every baby grows and learns at different speeds. For example, our son does not like being swaddled or sleeping flat on his back; he enjoys his hands up by his head while being slightly elevated. Despite figuring out that he wouldn’t sleep while swaddled, I was determined he would grow to like it because everyone and every book says that babies love being swaddled because it reminds them of the womb. After about two weeks of him crying every time he was wrapped up, we stopped caring about fitting in with “the norm” and ditched the swaddles and let him sleep how he wanted. Only YOU know what’s best for YOUR baby, listen to your gut.
- Being a parent is scary! Google became our best friend the first two weeks of having our little boy home. I’m pretty sure “is it normal when…” and “should babies…” were my top searches. No one is automatically perfect at this parenting thing, we all learn as we go. But it’s okay to be scared. I mean, you are responsible for this whole little human…being scared is normal. But just listen to your doctors, research any FAQs you have, and trust your instincts.
- You will love this little human more than anything. Honestly, I thought I knew true love when I met my husband. But nothing will ever prepare you for the intense amount of the purest, most true love that will hit you so hard and fast when you meet your child for the first time. It’s amazing how much you can love a person who hasn’t even done anything except be born. From the moment they take their first breath, you love them with everything you have. It truly is the most powerful bond there is.
Becoming a parent is the ultimate dream come true for me. It really is the most wonderful feeling in the world to wake up every day and see the tiny human our love created. Keep those little ones close, they grow so fast.