20/20 Hindsight: Becoming a Mom
I recently attended a baby shower for a cousin of mine. It was beautiful and simple; just the way we dream motherhood should be. I'm sure no one seriously believes that it will be like that, but we still envision quiet nights gently rocking a cooing baby to sleep. It's easy to romanticize bringing a new bundle of joy home. In that new little person rests hope, love, and a future full of meaning and purpose. Whatever other choices you make in your life, you now have a guiding star to keep you on the right path and illuminate your way. Becoming a parent will influence everything you do, what choices you make, and what paths you take. Some will lead you places you never thought you'd go, others will bring you back to the start and see things through different eyes. When cards and pens were passed around asking for advice for the New Mom, it was hard to think of what to put. I'm sure there were a lot of "Sleep when the baby sleeps" or "Remember to take care of yourself too". I'm sure I put something similar as well, yet somehow I don't feel I'm imparting the advice I wish I could have given myself. So this is my attempt to do so. If anyone invents time travel, please make sure I get this too.
It's Not What You Thought
Whatever mental and physical preparation you did, the reality is you're never really prepared to bring a new baby home. Yes you'll be excited, but maybe a little terrified too. You'll be tired, yet have no idea you could be that tired and still function. You'll be unsure of yourself, but never realize you know more than you think you do. You'll find your way out of the haze one day, look back, and realize you did the best you could. That's exactly what you should do, the best you can. No one is born with a prefect mothering instinct. This is your first time becoming a mom, and it's that little baby's first time in the world too. You're both finding your new roles in it. It will take time, there will be bumps along the way. When you know better you'll do better. Don't beat yourself up if you don't know what to do right away. After two daughters, I'm still trying to figure things out!
Do What Works For You and Your Baby
One of the common denominators all new mothers face the bombardment of "helpful" advice. It will come from everywhere! Be prepared for total strangers to become experts on your child. "Oh she's tired!" "You need to hold her this way." "You use that? We never did that with ours." The list goes on and on. Some of it can become very personal and is truly none of their business in the first place. My advice? Take the high road. Dont' take it personally, a "I'll keep that in mind" or "I'm glad you found something that worked for you; this works for us" is much more empowering than going on the defensive. Other advice can come from friends and family that truly have your best interest at heart and want to help. Learning from another's experience can be helpful. Ultimately, there are as many different ways to raise a child as there are mothers out there. As long as you are doing what is in the best interest of you, your baby and your family as a whole, that's what's best for your baby.
Have a Sense of Humour
This is often a life preserver. I remember when I brought my second daughter home the utter chaos that ensued the first few weeks. A newborn crying in my arms because she was hungry. A toddler crying at my feet because she was hungry. And me, trying to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread that was slowly inching it's way to the edge of the counter. It was nuts! I imagined seeing this through a television screen in some sitcom. I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous a spectacle this was. If I didn't find some humour in what goes on day to day, I would totally lose my mind. Or perhaps I already have. My sister-in-law agreed with me, losing your mind can sometimes be an act of self defence.
Get Out of the House!
Once you feel up to it, I strongly recommend getting out of the house. Walling yourself up with the child, as darling as she is, is no good for either of you. I did that for the first six months and I did myself no favors. It is very isolating and lets face it, boring! Go to the park, take walks, join a mommy-and-me group, visit family and friends. Heck visit me. I was lucky the first time around. I was able to visit with my sister-in-law for the first year and it was always something we looked forward to. Later my daughter and I joined a number of classes run by the city. We both came out of our shell and are better for it. Plus my daughter and I were able to go out and have fun together.
Make Time for YOU
Yes it's kind of cliche at this point, but it's important. You need to have a life outside your child too. You are a mother, but many other things also. A friend, a daughter, a wife. You need to tend those gardens as well. Make going out with your friends, even just once a month, a regular thing. Take time to treat yourself to a date night every now and again. Find something that is just you and make time for it. A loved and cared for mommy makes for a good mother.
Some days you'll shine, and others you won't. You'll never be perfect or have this-parenting-thing down. You'll make mistakes. You won't ask for help when you know you should. You'll listen to that little doubting voice at the back of your mind when you know you shouldn't. It's OK. Stand up straighter, brush yourself off, and continue on. We all falter; picking yourself back up again is what matters.
Talking to myself would just be crazy; so I have a blog instead. I'm With Her http://www.Imwithher.blogspot.com