I entered motherhood six years ago as all new mothers do: completely clueless. Don't get me wrong, I was a grown woman with a good head on her shoulders, years of babysitting experience, and even a college child development course under her belt, but I was still clueless. Anyone who hasn't raised another human being would be! I don't fault myself for knowing nothing, but that doesn't mean there aren't things I
did as a new mom that make me cringe now.
Are there some things I wish I could go back and do differently? Of course. That's called "
being a parent" and, more generally, "being a human." At the same time, part of what ultimately makes me a good mother (and yeah, I'm not going to feign modesty because I , thank you very much) comes in part from having grown into the role. Any artist or craftsperson will tell you that learning what am a good mother not to do is an important aspect of learning what to do. What you learn along the way — what you learn and how you learn it — enriches how you move forward and helps to inform your future choices and decisions more fully.
Of course we should try to
prepare as best we can for a baby — practically, emotionally, physically — but it's OK to accept that, as parents, we're going to screw up. And while I think we should look back on some of those less than perfect moments with grace, some of them are just... ugly.
All things considered I healed super well and had great post-birth recoveries (after a C-section and a vaginal birth), but as a naturally competitive person (even with myself) I felt like I wanted to "win" recovery or something and treated it as a race rather than a process that works best when you
take it easy and relax. This hurt me in the end and ultimately prolonged my healing. And, of course, I couldn't learn that after the first time. Oh no, I made the same mistake twice. Now, as a two-time mom and attempted recovery overachiever who was really just bad at allowing herself time to bounce back, I have seen the error of my ways and shudder at the foibles of past me.
Feeling Guilty For Using Formula
After my C-section, it took a while for my milk to come in. Not an undue amount of time (ultimately five days, which is normal) but my hungry baby, while healthy, was still getting a little cranky about only getting colostrum. He was famished, I was exhausted, and we were both sobbing all the time. Supplementing with formula was an appropriate choice for us (and wound up being
a really good move), but the first few times I felt like a horrible, garbage person and a failure. Looking back, that is so ridiculous. I wish I could go back in time and just be like, "Girl, it's fine. You're making me uneasy with how much you're beating yourself up over this. Calm down, please!"
Not Having A Pediatrician Lined Up
So to this day I still don't know why I didn't get on this sooner. We never chose a doctor for our son before he arrived. "We'll figure that out after he's born," I thought, not realizing that you have
appointments every, like, three minutes starting right away for the first few weeks and months, at which point, of course, you have a newborn and no time to research. I'd seriously underestimated just how much you have to hit the ground running once you pop that baby out.
(We wound up with a provider we really liked through the hospital, but he was super inconveniently located. Still, we didn't want to change providers.)
My Grand Plans For Maternity Leave
I serious laugh/cringe when I think back to the time when I actually told some friends over dinner that I was looking forward to getting some "good writing time" in during my maternity leave. HA!
Not Knowing Proper Car Seat Safety
Car seat safety is a hot topic among a lot of moms because (I theorize) unlike a lot of other parenting issues, there is One Right Way to do things, generally speaking. And that means that those who know the One Right Way cling to it, because when else can a parent be so sure?
But car seat safety is also something that's very easy to get wrong if
you don't know the rules, and I definitely didn't know the rules at first. It took a few corrections (just because you're right doesn't mean you have to be mean, people) from people who were in the know. So now I look back at pictures of my little one strapped into his car seat totally wrong and definitely cringe.
Not Pooping For Nine Days
There's nothing I really could have done about it (thank you, naturally finicky bowels and constipating pain killers) but it still makes me shudder to think about it because
nine days, people. Good Lord.
How Many Diaper Wipes I Used
Many a good diaper wipe will be sacrificed upon the altar of your inexperience and sheer panic upon seeing
that much poop. My God, where did it all come from? I once used 13 wipes on one diaper. Thirteen. Now, granted, even with experience there are some messes that will require more than one wipe. I've dealt with quite a few three-to-five-wipe situations. But 13? Regularly using 13 wipes? Stop. Work on your technique.
Past Me: *looks at sleeping child and nudges them*
Present Me: *appearing from a time warp vortex* "Stop! What are you doing?"
Past Me: "He hasn't moved in a while. I wanted to make sure he's breathing."
Present Me: "He's breathing."
Past Me: "OK, but... is he OK? He normally only sleeps for an hour and it's been an hour and 12 minutes!"
Present Me: "He's fine!"
Past Me: "But what if..."
Present Me: *slapping on every word* "Do. Not. Wake. Up. A. Sleeping. Baby You. Idiot."
Not Taking Every Possible Opportunity To Nap
whyyyyyy did I not take more naps when I had the chance? So I could be exhausted in a slightly cleaner house? Girl, come on. There will always be laundry, but you have so few opportunities to get in a power nap. I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old now and I haven't been able to nap in about four years. I suspect I will not have the opportunity to nap for at least another four. It's a damn shame I didn't take full advantage of those few golden years of napping — back when I had one child who napped regularly — when I could have.
Always Thinking The Baby Was Hungry
I was so paranoid about my child not getting enough to eat (
#ItalianMom) that I assumed every cry was a hungry cry. So every whimper, at least for a while, resulted in me whipping out my boob. Was it the worst thing in the world? No. But was it the most effective use of my time, or breasts? Not at all.
Trying To Wrangle A Baby's Head Out Of A Poopy Onesie
So, so, so, gross... and unnecessary!
Onesies can be pulled down over the shoulders! They're designed that way (that's why they sort of cross-over at the shoulder)! I had absolutely no idea and, I'm sorry to say, wound up getting poop on my son's head more than once (how else was I going to get him out of that thing)? I am really sad I learned this fun fact about onesies too late!
Worrying About "Stimulating" My Infant
Here's something they don't tell you about babies: babies do not need to be entertained for
a while. They find their own fun. Like, your face? Your face is fascinating. That's all the stimulation they need for a while. I had a million infant toys and baby gym time scheduled in and I look back and it's like, "Girl, why, though?" That boredom I sensed was some hardcore projection, for sure.
Similarly, I also heard a lot of talk about "overstimulating" your baby. Genuine deep concerns, Largely from other new parents who had read about the concept briefly and took it as a Big Important Concern thereafter. Let me assure you that before a baby is overstimulated by toys they'll just tune them out.
Not Taking All The Videos
Because it's clicé, but it goes by so unbelievably fast, and before you know it your baby doesn't make those weird little grunt-like baby noises anymore. They don't nuzzle your boob looking for milk. They look like
people, not clueless little squishbutts. I have a ton of pictures but not so much video, and I wish I did because I miss those little babies and their clueless, cringe-inducing, but ultimately well-intentioned mother. Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload , where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.