When I became a mom for the first time, many of my more experienced mom friends passed along their favorite pieces of advice for new moms to me at various points. Naturally, I didn't end up remembering a damn thing, because I was so sleep-deprived. That said, I strongly believe there are things about early parenthood that I never read in any of the innumerable books I read. I mean really? Books focus on pregnancy, and then books focus on the baby. They certainly don't talk about the baby poop that ends up decorating your wall when you're trying to change a diaper, not realizing your kid isn't done pooping. (I know that wasn't just me.)
It sometimes seemed, when I first became a parent, like there was some kind of parents-only club where the secrets of what you really go through are finally shared. Maybe the more experienced parents don't want to scare the newbies off? I don't know. Once I finally figured something out, I spent so many moments wondering why no one had enlightened me about this or that, and I know I wasn't alone in that feeling. Here are some of the main things I wish I had known when I was first coming out the gate:
You Will Be Shocked At Your Ability To Function On So Little Sleep
You will wake in the middle of the night to hear your baby crying, and you will want to cry yourself. In fact, you may actually cry. OK, you will definitely cry. I certainly did, more than once. But somehow, you will be able to drag yourself to the upright position and help that little being you created to stop crying.
You Will Obsess Over Tiny Body Parts
Sweet sweet tiny fingernails! Those little wrinkles at their knuckles! The dimple above their upper lip! You will stare at these tiny, beautiful parts of your baby and possibly make everyone else around you nauseous from the love you emanate. And that's totally OK.
You Will Resent Your Partner, No Matter How Much They Help
It's sad to consider, given that most moms just want a little break after carrying that baby non-stop for 10 months, but the reality is that moms usually end up doing more than their partners in the early stages of a baby's life. And it's not like we don't want to do all the things for our baby, and it's not even like we don't know that this is going to be the case, to a certain extent. I mean, obviously if you're breastfeeding, there's only so much your partner can do in that department. But it's still a shock when it happens, and at 4a.m., when your baby needs to be changed and you know your partner has to be up in a few hours to get ready for work, you may find yourself giving them the finger as you roll out of bed.
You Will Put Yourself Last Sometimes, And Probably Too Often
And you shouldn't, but you will anyway. At some point, though, it's important for you to shake yourself out of the new-baby martyrdom, and starting putting your own health back on the priority list, because it will make you a better parent.
Your Ability To Fall Asleep Anywhere, Anytime, Will Increase Ten-Fold
Maybe even 100-fold. Trust.
There Will Be More Exposure To Bodily Fluids Than You Thought Possible
All the different types of poop. Urine: sometimes in your face as you're changing your bundle of joy; sometimes into the freshly-drawn bath water; sometimes leaking onto your only clean pair of pants. Vomit, because I guess sometimes that burp you got out of them just wasn't enough. Breastmilk, pumped or sucked, or leaking all over your shirt. And that's only in the first week.
Your Notion Of "Clean" and "Dirty" Will Change Forever
On so many levels. Like, how come I can wear the same yoga pants with the same food stains on them, day after day, and yet the moment my child touches a surface on public transit, I'm losing my mind trying to douse them in Purell?
Your Nipples Are Probably Going To Hurt For The First Few Weeks Of Breastfeeding
I hate it when the experts tell everyone that if your baby is latched properly, then breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. Well actually, even when your baby is latched properly, that first week or two of breastfeeding is all about the skin on your nipple (an extremely sensitive part of your body to begin with) getting used to being sucked on for hours every day. That, my friends, can really hurt. That said, guidance from a certified lactation consultant can really help you through that tough time in the beginning. It will probably hurt for a while, but it doesn't have to be miserable.
Not All Babies Are Born Knowing How To Latch
I felt like a gigantic failure when my daughter just couldn't latch after she was born. I thought breastfeeding (and my presumed each with which my kid and I would take to it) was the one thing I could count on, and I had a great supply that was just waiting for her. Instead, I found myself pumping, finger feeding, cup feeding, bottle feeding, and eventually using a nipple shield. It took four weeks of using the nipple shield before she finally started latching directly onto my nipple, and the whole process sent me into a depression.
Fear And Anxiety Of Something Happening To Your Baby Will Become A Constant
I'm sorry, this part sucks. Intrusive thoughts are very common for new mothers. You will, however, get better at living with them.
It Does Get Easier. Well, It Changes, At Least.
Wherever you're at, whatever stage you currently feel like you'll never see the end of, it will turn into something else soon. Your colicky baby will eventually stop crying, your exclusively breastfed child that you feel tethered to will eventually wean, and those teeth will eventually finish cutting. Well, in three years or so. Sorry about that.