Simply put - things all first-time moms should know.
NUMBER ONE: SET THE BAR LOW - In those first few weeks at home, you will measure a day's success by whether or not you change your underwear.
NUMBER TWO: BE NICE TO YOURSELF - As a culture we really are sort of harsh on new moms. The public discussion about pregnancy (by which I mean Us Weekly, naturally) begins and end at the scale, which is silly and completely irrelevant to what's important about childbirth and motherhood. Your baby doesn't care how long it takes you to get back into your jeans and neither should you. Celebrate the small victories that benchmark your growth as a mom instead, perhaps with these badges of accomplishment that I made just for you because I like you and I want to share in the excitement that is getting through a whole day without being pooped on by another human being. High five.
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Speaking of being nice...
NUMBER THREE: OTHER MOMS WILL HELP YOU. (LET THEM.) - I once cried in the parking lot of a New Jersey grocery store after a wonderful and kind older mom helped me load my groceries into my car. I had just moved to the area, the birdie was three weeks old, my son was barely two and it was my first trip to the grocery store alone after my husband went to work. I protested her offer to help, but she was smarter than me and ignored my idiotic "you're so sweet, but I'm okay" refusal. She put the bags in the trunk and ordered me to start the car, crank the AC, buckle in the kids and sit in the driver's seat until I heard the trunk close. She was going to put my cart away, too. Her simple act of kindness at a time when I needed it more than I realized propelled me face-first into a big puddle of ugly-cry.
Take the help. You'll need it. And one day you'll pay it forward. Just last week the new mom behind us in line at the grocery store panicked when, after remembering everything on her grocery list, she realized she'd left her wallet in the car. I guess we didn't look like baby snatchers because Mike & I, with the birdie in tow, convinced her to let us watch her cart (and her baby) while she ran to the car to get her wallet.
NUMBER FOUR: YOU MAY FEEL CRAZY - I was relatively normal before my first baby was born. I showered. I brushed my teeth. I ate lunch sitting down. Then I came home from the hospital with a new baby and things got real. All of a sudden I'm labeling plastic zipper bags full of breast milk and showering with the curtain open because my son would cry if he couldn't see me at every moment of every day. No matter where I was, he was always there. Watching.
Creepy baby stares aside, the most surprising shift that arrived alongside my bundle of joy was the mental and emotional change. You know that feeling of panic when, for a moment, you think you've lost your wallet or locked yourself out of the house? For the first few weeks after the duckling was born, I felt an inexplicable and irrational level of anxiety ten times greater than that of any lost keys or missing wallet. This teeny weeny person I was responsible for seemed so ill-suited for the outside world. If my husband walked down the street with the baby in his arms, I could literally hear the smack of their skulls hitting the sidewalk in my head. Sick, I know. But I'm telling you this because at the time I thought I was the only one who had these horrible "what if's" following me around. What if a hawk tries to snatch my baby out of his stroller? If that dog tries to eat my baby, should I punch him in the nose like a shark? Turns out lots of moms have this new baby anxiety. I'm guessing this is a relic of our caveman days when we had to protect our young from saber-toothed tigers.
Eventually this went away and I now let my kids eat snacks on the subway.
NUMBER FIVE: YOUR PARTNER IS NOT THE ENEMY - Knowing that sleep deprivation reduces me to only two states of being, hysterical crying or maniacal anger, I should've warned my husband before the baby came that my lack of sleep meant that he'd basically be living with a hormonal baboon for the foreseeable future. It may have saved us both a little frustration had I told him beforehand not to poke the zoo creature through the fence. We were a little rough on each other, taking our baby-related frustrations out on each other as we clumsily navigated our needs, limits and insecurities as the guardians of this strange little creature. Little by little, as we became more confident in our parenting skills (and more well-rested), we also became nicer people. It got better. Then it got great, and the second time around we did a much better job.
NUMBER SIX: EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY - I asked my fellow mom friends on FB what the best advice they received was when they were new moms. More than one person said the same thing in different ways - nothing lasts forever, and everything is a phase (thanks, Kristin, Meg & Amanda). Is your baby waking up at 3am after weeks of sleeping through the night? Does your baby suddenly hate the swing that you've been relying on to take a shower? Is your baby refusing to be held by anyone but you? This too shall pass. Good or bad, what's normal today will be gone tomorrow, and tomorrow will bring new challenges and joys you couldn't have imagined. Babies are sneaky little creatures who are always one step ahead of us. Deal with it.
All the "what am I doing?" moments from baby one will one day be, "oh, I got this" high leg kicks as you revisit the newborn weeks with baby two. Hang in there, sister. You got this.
What would you add to this list as advice for new moms?
Photo credits: (badge templates from here, sandwich from here, diaper from here, undies from here, scale from here, retro mom from here, baby feet from here, storm from here, boy photo by Laney Griner, Kristin Wiig from here)