Motherhood is crazy.
When we brought Jack home from the hospital, I realized that I was completely in over my head. As it turned out, all the pregnancy magazines and baby books in the world couldn’t begin to prepare me for the adventure we were embarking on as new parents.
There are some really tough and surprising curve balls motherhood’s going to throw your way – that I can promise you. You can read all the books, ask all the questions, babysit all the kids…and you’ll still find yourself falling short every now and then.
Parenting is awesome. It really is.
But, WOW…it can be really freaking hard, too.
Although the only way to really learn it is to jump in and do it, I’m going to share a few experiences that I learned the hard way…in hopes that new moms out there can be a little bit better prepared for motherhood.
1. Sleep deprivation ain’t no joke. Oh, sure…at your baby shower, your friends all laughed and joked about how “tired” you would be after the baby was born, and you’ve heard the advice “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” a million times. But until you’ve been there…until you’ve been up all.night.long.AGAIN, pouring every last drop of energy you have into a fussy baby who for the love of God and all that is holy WILL NOT SLEEP – it’s really hard to understand. Prepare yourself by keeping your energy up with healthy snacks, drinking lots of water, and be ready to (you guessed it!) sleep when the baby sleeps. OH! And good news…it does get better!
2. Sleep isn’t linear. I always assumed that baby would be born, maybe take a few days to get settled, and then gradually start sleeping longer stretches at night until, somewhere around eight weeks or so, they’d be sleeping through the night. HA! Ha HA HA!! It doesn’t work like that. If you have one of those magical babies who sleep through the night, count your lucky stars and sleep when that child is sleeping. Because you never know when this will change. Babies sleep patterns can be interrupted by anything, it seems. Teething, a stuffy nose, a growth spurt, learning a new skill…all of these things mess with your kid’s sleep.
3. Postpartum recovery is…weird. There are so many things going on with your body, so many hormones getting all crazy up in there, so many places that hurt. There will be blood, and rock-hard boobs, and spontaneous crying. You’ll feel overwhelmed, scared, and sore. Don’t worry. This is all temporary and you will be back to “normal” (a new normal, but still) within a few months.
4. Breastfeeding hurts. But only for a little while. It’s totally normal for breastfeeding to hurt the first few weeks. But after that, it shouldn’t hurt at all (if it’s still hurting after two weeks, see a lactation consultant). So if you are breastfeeding, hang in there – never quit on your worst day.
5. It’s going to be hard to eat for awhile. Get used to eating one-handed, because SURPRISE – newborns like to be held, and they aren’t particularly concerned about whether or not you’re hungry. In the newborn haze, I also found it was easy to forget to eat…and you really need to eat to keep up your energy levels (remember that thing about how they don’t sleep?). When Jack was a newborn, we would practically beg people to bring us food. When Claire was born, I was prepared – we stocked the freezer with our favorite meals (made by our mothers, of course). A freezer full of healthy meals and snacks will save your sanity.
6. There will be a lot of bodily fluids. Each baby is different. But mine? They pooped almost every few hours – for the first several MONTHS of their lives. That’s a lot of poopy diapers! And little boys? They pee on you. Frequently. And some babies spit up every time they eat, for no reason whatsoever. All of these fluids require a lot of diapers (I used cloth diapers, which meant more laundry…but no late-night runs to the store for diapers!), a lot of laundry, and a lot of changing clothes (for baby, and for you…projectile spit-up is craaaazy). And this doesn’t even take into account your own bodily fluids (leaky boobies and post-partum bleeding, ladies!).
7. Babies get super fussy around 6-7 weeks. When they are just 6 weeks old or so, they gear up for some intense fussing. With Jack, that meant inconsolable crying and/or fussing all.day.long for several weeks. With Claire, it simply meant she’d cry in the evenings for no apparent reason. This is temporary! Your sweet baby will return shortly.
8. You’re going to feel like a different person for awhile. After both of my kids were born, I experienced this weird alter-reality in which I just stopped feeling like myself. I was another person entirely, a mom…and little else. I remember heading out to Starbucks by myself when Claire was about 4 weeks old thinking, “Here I am, again!” Things will get back to normal, and you’ll find yourself again.
9. It’s okay to need a break. When you’re caring for a little being 24/7, things can get intense! It’s okay – essential, even – to have some time to yourself. You will be a better parent for it, I promise.
10. They really do grow up fast. There will be a time, when you’re so sick and tired of poop and pee and leaky boobs and fussy children, that you find yourself thinking, “Oh, if only she were a few months older…”. And in your heart, you know that they grow up so fast and you should be cherishing these early days…but it’s so hard when all they do is cry and eat. The thing is…all those grandmas and moms out there who like to tell you how fast these days fly by are telling the truth. They do grow up quickly. Claire is 18 months old and those early baby days are just a vague memory. Just keep this in mind – they grow up so fast – on those days you feel like will never end.
What would you add? When it comes to parenting, what did you learn the hard way?