Sincerely, a mum who's been there.
Having a baby is the most earth-shatteringly beautiful thing in the world.
Nothing in my life has given me more joy than the tiny people I cooked . I’m so obsessed with them that I’d probably have 10 kids if it didn’t mean being pregnant for a decade. It’s also HARD. Most people don’t want to tell you how hard it is because they don’t want to scare you. I’m not most people. Bringing home your first child is like trying to carry an elephant through quicksand. You’re handed the most precious thing in existence and you have absolutely no idea how to feed it, get it to sleep, or stop it from screaming. You feel like you’ve been hit by a car, you're bleeding, sweating, crying, starving, and sleep deprived. It’s not cute — no matter what it seems like on Instagram. Here is my unsolicited advice:
1. Don’t listen to unsolicited advice (except mine). Every man and his dog will try to tell you about their special cookie recipe that turns you into a milk machine, or the swaddle that you absolutely MUST buy if you want your baby to sleep peacefully for 12 hours. Every baby is different and you’ll probably try a million pacifiers/bottles/sleep sacks until you find the right one for them.
2. None of us know what we are doing. We’re all just winging it. First babies are trial by fire.
3. Create healthy boundaries. It’s okay to tell people that they can’t hold the baby or that you’re not ready for visitors. It’s important to tell relatives you’d like them to call first. Honor your needs or you'll end up in a heaving pile of the floor (yes, this was me). If anyone pushes back, tell them they’re welcome to come over and change the diaper pail.
4. It won’t feel impossible forever. It’s rough for days on end, and then one day you wake up and it feels a tiny bit easier. Suddenly, you’re in a grove and feeling good. You might even put on a lil makeup or do a workout! Then a sleep regression hits. Just ride the wave. Nothing is permanent.
5. Ask for help. Don’t try and do it all on your own. Even if you don’t have family or childcare, online communities can provide tremendous support. It really does take a village
6. Ask for food. People are super generous with gifts which is amazing, but you’ll probably end up with 500 onesies when what you could really use is a lasagna. When someone asks if you need anything, suggest a meal or two. Standing over the stove during witching hour is not fun.
7. Dad’s are perfectly capable of rolling up their sleeves. Try not to micromanage. They may not do everything exactly the way you would, but let them change the diapers or take on a night feed. Bath time can be a really special bonding moment for them. It’s hard to let go of control — especially when you’ve carried the baby for nine months — but trust me, take the extra sleep!
8. You don’t have to breastfeed if you don’t want to. No explanation necessary. As far as I’m concerned, the breast is best mafia can shove it. Breastfeeding gave me crazy anxiety and I pushed through severe pain because I thought I had to. A fed and loved baby is all that matters. Formula is perfectly fine.
9. It’s okay if you don’t connect right away. Birth is incredible but it can also be traumatic. Postpartum anxiety and depression can affect anyone. Tell someone if you’re having intrusive thoughts. Don’t be afraid to be honest. It doesn't mean you don’t love your baby.
10. Be kind to yourself and don’t rush to bounce back. That’s a BS concept. Eat, drink, rest when you can, and buy new jeans.
11. Try not to lose yourself. It’s easy to forget that you were a person with dreams and desires before you became a mother. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to work and pursue my passions. And it’s not just important for me, but for my kids — I want to show them that they can achieve big things if they go after them.
12. Having a baby will be stressful on your relationship. Try not to forget about quality time with your partner. Even just 15 minutes before bed to connect and speak about non-baby related topics. It seems easy but you’d be surprised.
Having kids is the best thing to ever happen to me. It’s also the most challenging. Some days I think I’m a terrible mother, and others I feel like I’m crushing it. The one thing I know for sure is that when they grab you with their tiny chubby hands and say I love you, time stops.