Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking of all the things I wish I had known before the birth of my first child. I was also thinking that, in all the sleepless, hormone-pumped days that follow my next delivery, it is highly likely that I will forget most of the lessons in which I am so confident today.
So in honor of my friend and soon-to-be new mommy, and in preparation for the days and nights that will follow both of our deliveries, I give you:
A Few Things New Moms (and three-time moms) Should Remember.
1. Spend less time reading books about labor and delivery, and more time reading books on practical parenting. For a list of books that will offer real-life advice, search under the following topics:
- How to wash poop out of your newborn's hair.
- Breastfeeding: it's not for sissies
- Bottle Feeding: "now where did that nipple go?"
2. Ignore most of the books, especially any titles that include the following phrases:
- How to get your baby to sleep through the night at 2 days old
- Enjoying every. single. minute. with your baby
- A complete guide to no-tears parenting
3. There is no "right way" to love your baby. People will tell you the "right way" to hold her, feed her, rock her, raise her. They will tell you that a schedule is the most important thing, or that a schedule will ruin her for life. They will tell you to let her "cry it out," and they will tell you that a baby who cries will grow up not trusting the world....
Sure, there are the basic, common-sense things that you will naturally do from the second she is born. Clothe her. Feed her. Hold her. Love her. But the bottom line is this: YOUR way is the RIGHT way. And for her, it will be "the way mom does it."
4. Babies cry. It's what they do. They will cry after a busy day because they need to release some emotion. They will wake up screaming when you are mid-shower with soap in your hair. They will cry when you don't fix their bottle fast enough or if the wipe you use on their bum is too cold. They may even have a certain time of day that they cry for no reason, everyday. If you live those first few months trying to always prevent or stop the crying, you will drive yourself mad. If she's in a safe place (her crib, swing, etc.), finish your shower. Don't rush warming up the bottle (this from a mom who once scalded her hand trying to dump out the boiling water too fast). Know that she will not be permanently traumatized by a few wailing moments, and your sanity/peace will contribute to her well-being much more than a stress-filled feeding. Hence...
5. Relax. Practice deep breathing and meditation before she arrives. While it may or may not help during delivery, it will most definitely help during the midst of those crying fits discussed in #4. For me, the longer/harder she cries, the more tense/stressed I become. And the more stressed I become, the more my babies cry. About two months after Chloe was born, I learned that if I could relax myself, I could often (but not always) relax my baby. So hold that screaming baby, close your eyes, relax your shoulders, start taking deep, slow breaths. And know that, even if the crying doesn't stop immediately, your peace comforts your wee one and lets her know that all is okay.
If all else fails, remember this...
6. It came to pass. This was my mantra when baby #1 came around. In the middle of the night, when the baby just wouldn't stop crying! When I was washing spit up out of my hair for the second time that day. When I went to bed with spit up in my hair because I was too exhausted to take a shower. "It came to pass." It won't always be like this.
But it's also good to recite this mantra when your freshly-bathed baby is napping in your arms. When she flashes that first toothless smile. When she wraps her little fist around your finger and melts your heart. "It came to pass." And it won't last forever.