When your first baby was born, did you feel like you were dropped into motherhood? I could not seem to find that instruction manual. Sure, there were plenty of parenting books, but nothing could ever really prepare me for motherhood. You just have to live through it and figure some things out on your own.
We have four children. My last “newborn” is now 15 months old. I am here to tell you that hindsight really is an interesting thing. I will also share with all new moms some things that I wish I could have told my old self. You can look at it as advice, or you can just peek into the past life of a first-time mom.
- Get out of the house! It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut… at home, especially with your firstborn. Oh, that first month. It’s not easy. I know. Shower, get dressed, and get out. Go to the store, even if it is just to browse. Go to the library and get yourself some reading material for those late nights. Go for a walk to the park. Visit a friend. Anything. Anywhere, really.
- Don’t be afraid to nurse your baby in public. This was hard for me to do with my first one. But, you don’t have to hide in your car every time your baby gets hungry. If he’s hungry, feed him. I know my newborns were ready to eat every couple of hours! Invest in a nice, comfortable nursing cover… or three, like me. Ten years ago they didn’t have the cute options available now. I used a blanket and tossed it over my shoulder. That works, too. If you want to be a nursing mom, don’t let everyday outings get in the way. Just do it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I still struggle with this one. Thank goodness for my mother, neighbors, friends, and relatives. You’d be surprised how many people are dying to hold your precious bundle. Let them. (Have them wash their hands first, of course.) But, then go, and take your shower. You’re sleep deprived. Take a nap. If you are worried about the baby’s feeding time, set a timer.
- Connect with other moms. There are tons of moms going through the same thing as you. (Corpus Christi Moms Blog’s owner, Beth, created CCMB for just this reason!) Arrange play dates, attend a mommy and baby group, or simply invite a mommy friend over to your house. I know other CCMB moms connected with other mothers through our partner, Fit4Mom in the Corpus Christi and Portland area. They could get some exercise, participate in weekly play groups, and even have a mom’s night out. Remember, there are other moms out there just like you.
- Don’t rely strictly on all those baby books. When we traveled with our first baby, I always packed one of those baby books that told all about a baby’s first year. The book was my “just in case anything happens” crutch. But, I am here to tell you to put down all those baby manuals and stop googling “everything you ever wanted to know about your newborn.” Sometimes you just have to experience motherhood. No book will tell you how to love your baby. And, while your head is stuck in one of those books or you are scrolling continuously on your smart phone, there is a sweet baby waiting for his mother’s attention.
- Share your baby with daddy. By this, I don’t mean hand your screaming newborn to your husband as soon as he walks through the door. (Yes, you will do that anyway out of exhaustion.) But, let him hold and bond with baby. Let him enjoy being a father. (Try to feed, change, and comfort your newborn before handing him off to daddy.) Oh, and have the camera ready. You do not want to miss these precious moments. I still love to watch my husband hold our children.
- Spend time with your husband. Since we are on the subject of daddies, I advise you to keep your relationship alive. You might not leave the house. I know the struggles of date nights with a newborn. But, you can still show your hubby how much you appreciate him. Snuggle on the couch, or have a quiet dinner at home. Hint: Put your baby in a bouncer next to the table. You might luck out with a sleeping baby while you and your husband get some adult conversation.
- It’s OK to get lost in the moment. It is okay to watch your tiny baby sleep. It’s okay to want this baby to stay little forever. Forget the advice of others to not let your baby fall asleep in your arms. Don’t worry about “spoiling” your baby because you hold them too much. I give you permission to hold and rock your baby to sleep. You will not get these moments back, so enjoy them. Sometimes you will will have to put the laundry on hold. But, you will soon realize that you will want to treasure these newborn moments more than you will want a clean house.
- Take care of yourself. Sleep whenever you can. I don’t do naps. But, I make an exception during my last trimester of pregnancy and when I have a newborn. Every minute of sleep is bliss during this time. I know that if I want to function with a newborn, I need at least some sort of shut-eye. Eat right. You will definitely need the energy from good food, and the extra calories if you are nursing your baby. I quickly learned the importance of these two things!
- Don’t worry so much what others think. Everyone has advice, everyone has an opinion, and so many mothers think their way is the only way. Don’t worry about the whispers and the stares. Yes, your baby will cry when you are out in public. Your baby will not always stay still or sleep during church. It is easy for moms with older children to forget that they were there once, too. Just do your thing, and do what’s best for your baby.
The mommy experience really is awesome. Parenting seems to get a little easier with every child born after that first. Still, we learn as we go, and we are aware that we don’t have everything figured out. We make mistakes, we correct them, we try harder, and we remember that we aren’t the only parents missing their copy of the “Perfect Parent’s Handbook.”