John Paul jokes that I thought having a baby meant carting an American Girl Doll around town like a Toy Pomeranian. This “doll” would be sleeping through the night by the ripe age of 6 weeks old, rarely make a peep and most certainly would manage its bodily fluids in a polite fashion. Now, I am not delusional. This is not what I thought having a baby was like. I knew it’d be hard and tiring and stressful and ALL OF THE THINGS. I guess you could say that I had the PG version of motherhood in my mind. I also thought I’d be watching tons of television and learning how to use my new (used) DSLR in my “free time” on my maternity leave. Maybe I was delusional. Any free time I had was spent trying to catch up on 4 months of lost sleep. Now that I have officially been a mother for a year, I thought I would share a few things I wish I had known before having a baby! This is not wisdom and I wouldn’t call these tips, but rather insights into the “R” rated version of motherhood- some material may not be suitable for children, but don’t let this stop you from having them.
1 . There will be tears- I cried because I knew he’d never be this small again. I cried from exhaustion. I cried because I was pumping. I cried while reading Dr. Seuss books. Every “little” thing was a big thing and that’s ok. No book or class can prepare you for how you’re going to feel those first few weeks after having a baby. It’s like you’re on this new, tall, scary, awesome roller coaster and sometimes you’re giddy with laughter with your hands in the air, and then sometimes you just want to be let off the damn thing. The only way out is through.
2. Hands, cleavage, scarves, you name it- all are fair game as receptacles for baby vomit. Better on you than almost anywhere else. Go ahead and get used to doing laundry at least once a day.
3. You will be a sweaty mess. Once the night sweats finally end, you will continue to break a sweat daily in the most unexpected way.
4. Diaper changes become a form of cardio and carrying the car seat is your strength training. You will become a pop star or at least a well-loved juke box. I still sing “Jingle Bell Rock” to Paul John nightly, with the occasional Rihanna mixed in. This is his equivalent of a Sleepytime tea. You also know more songs that you realize.
5. You will compare yourself to other moms you see on social media, but try not to. Social media should be inspiring, not a platform that makes you feel bad about yourself. It’s really easy to click unfollow when you find certain accounts causing more harm than good.
6. There will be blood. Even if you had a C-section.
7. Accept help and don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it.
8. Breastfeeding might not help you lose the baby weight. I was really hoping I’d be one of those moms that said “Yay, down to my pre-pregnancy weight from all this breastfeeding!” I could not drop those last 10 pounds until after I “shut down the milk factory.” It’s so crazy that we produce milk, like- what?! It’s truly amazing. It also gave me a truly amazing appetite.
9. Some people told me I wouldn’t care about beauty treatments like getting my hair colored or getting a wax anymore. For me, that was so far from the truth. I was in the threading salon a week after having Paul John. Those are the things that help you feel like yourself. Having a baby doesn’t suddenly make you not care about the things you used to. Self care does not make you selfish, it makes you a better mom.
10. Everyone will tell you how FAST it all goes, and mostly, they are right. But there will be moments that move at a snail who is trapped in hot tar’s pace. Thirty minutes of crying might feel like 30 days and no matter how many times you sing Rihanna’s Umbrella, it’s not going to make a difference. Patience becomes a VIRTUE and it can be really hard to share these struggles! I enjoyed the book The Sh!t No one Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year. It made me laugh out loud while pumping at 3 a.m. and reassured me that no one out there thinks this is easy.
I have learned more about myself in the past year than I have in a lifetime. Parenting is hard and you’re going to get dirty, but it’s the most rewarding and meaningful thing I have ever done.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” – Fred Devito
Mamas-to-be: what scares you about becoming a parent?
If you have kids, what are the biggest challenges you have come across as a mom, expected or unexpected?
Photo by: Eben Adrian Productions