Things I Wish I Had Known as a New Mom
Being a new parent to a helpless baby can be a daunting experience in many ways. Columnist Vanessa McManus shares some of what she has learned in the early years of parenting.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently who is expecting her first baby in a few weeks and it got me thinking back to the days when I was in her shoes. It was such an exciting time – confusing, nerve-wracking, and overwhelming. Mostly, I was filled with anticipation for what was to come. As much as people would tell me what to expect with a newborn, there is only so much you can really understand until you’ve lived it yourself.
So while I have PLENTY more to learn from my kids and other parents, I thought I would share some of the little things I wish I had understood more fully when I was a new mom.
You may think you need every baby gear item ever invented, but I can assure you, you really don’t.
Baby gear is daunting, especially if you are registering and looking at all these different contraptions wondering exactly what they all do.
At a baby shower recently, I asked a friend without children what she had given the soon-to-be mom. She thought for a moment and said, “I got a thing that, well, you stick the kid in it!” So then we had a guessing game as I asked, “A jumperoo? An exersaucer? A Bumbo?”
My friend looked at me like I had five heads and said, “Honestly I don’t know, but you put the kid in it and there were giraffes or something to look at. She registered for it, that’s all I got.”
In short, you don’t know what the heck all this stuff is for except you think you need it. I will say having a nice swing was my absolute baby must-have item. Both my kids loved the swing, but could have cared less about bouncy seats. We never had a jumperoo and Jack learned how to escape the Bumbo as soon as he was old enough to sit in it. And before you know it, that gear item that cost over $100 is gathering dust in the attic because baby has outgrown it already.
There is always Craigslist or consignment stores to get some of that gear at a fraction of the price. Or better yet, borrow used from a friend.
Breastfeeding is hard work, but well worth it once you and baby adjust.
I was not prepared for how challenging and unnatural nursing a baby was for me with my first. My daughter had none of the natural nursing instincts everyone told me babies would have upon birth. My son on the other hand, made it easy. It is such a personal thing and my own experience taught me to never judge another mom’s decisions because you simply do not know their situation.
Taking a shower will never feel so good.
Really. In those sleepless nights of the newborn period, taking a shower every day was not always a reality for me. But if you can hand off your baby to someone for just 15 minutes to take a nice, hot shower, you will find yourself feeling glorious and refreshed, or in my case, at least merely human again.
Your privacy is a thing of the past.
Well, if you have a newborn, you can still use the restroom in peace, but once that baby is on the move, I’m sorry to say you can probably say goodbye to solo bathroom trips. My kids follow me everywhere I go and a closed bathroom door is no obstacle for them.
You may find yourself quite easily annoyed, but don’t worry, you’ll get back to your normal self again sometime in the not-too-distant future.
While I did not experience post-partum depression, I had something I liked to call post-partum rage. I was inexplicably upset, perturbed and emotional over small things in the weeks following the birth of my first child. I’m not sure if it was the hormones, the huge change of lifestyle, the lack of sleep or what but I was not very nice, especially to my husband. Luckily, he did not leave me and we lived to laugh about it.
It’s okay not to get anything “accomplished” all day.
Sitting and holding your baby all day, changing diapers, feeding and soothing him or her and just admiring that miraculous little being is much more important than the laundry or cooking or cleaning. Give yourself permission to let some things go and enjoy your new baby without guilt that you should be doing something else.
It just keeps getting better.
One of the best parts of motherhood for me has been enjoying each new phase even more than the last. Celebrating those milestones of smiling, walking, talking and more truly are amazing and make me look forward to what my kids will be doing next.
Similarly, I have found that every rough patch of parenting eventually comes to an end. Have a baby that won’t sleep? Take comfort in the fact that someday, she will sleep through the night. Having a frustrating go of potty training? Eventually he will be out of diapers.
Whenever I want to rip my hair out over whining or tantrums, I remind myself that it won’t last forever and I try to enjoy the current age and phase for what it’s worth, because the next day is usually a better one.