Not sure about you guys, but I got kinda tired about the “babies don’t come with an instruction manual!” jokes I heard throughout my pregnancy. I mean, there are plenty of books and websites, and there’s that one crucial YouTube video of the mom with the lovely accent showing you how to take a onesie off a baby, so it’s not like we’re completely unsupported—there are a lot of instructional manuals, actually. Besides, I think it comes down to just a few basic points. Everything else is just icing on the cake (or ribbon on the diaper cake, whatever). That said, if I were to put together a definitive guide for parents, it’d probably be pretty short. Something like Rule #1: Meet your baby’s biological and emotional needs, and Rule #2: You do you at every given opportunity.
And one of the crucial things about that second one is allowing yourself to feel all the feels that come with being a new mom. It’s not all snuggles and teddy bears—there’s a whole array of feelings that rarely get brought up in friend circles, and certainly not in the guidebooks either. But you know what? Most of us feel them, and that's completely OK. Join me in acknowledging some of the most common feelings we’re not talking about as often as we should:
In the immortal words of Frances “Baby” Houseman from Dirty Dancing: “Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never hearing when the baby needs me.” OK, that might not be the exact line, but it’s definitely something like that.
Missing Your Pre-Baby Life
I seriously wonder why we have bachelorette parties to say goodbye to our single lives, but not parties to say goodbye to our childfree lives? My best guess is that it’s because some of the fun, like wine and brie, has already ended with the start of the pregnancy. Or perhaps because pregnant women are usually pretty tired? Or maybe it’s because we’re trained to treat pregnancy and the parenthood it brings like an unwaveringly blessed, positive event, and bidding farewell to our childless lives might seem like a departure from that one-dimensional narrative. Like we’re not supposed to feel anything other than blissfully happy about this monumental change coming our way. Regardless, I’d like us to really consider this: Perhaps it could involve painting pottery, seeing a movie in a theater, or eating our dinner while it’s still hot. You know, the luxurious things about being childless.
Eagerness for Next Week, Next Month, Next Year...
In those early weeks, I was constantly counting down to imaginary deadlines. The first sleep through the night, the first smile, the first time we managed to breastfeed without any tears. The milestones arrived, slowly and steadily, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t looking forward to the “best days yet to come” that everyone had told me about. It somehow seems like no matter what stage your kid is at, nor what milestone is looming ahead, there’s a part of you that looks forward to the future and some marked degree easier or better it’s going to be “as soon as.” It’s so easy to worry that, in feeling this way, you are taking for granted where you are, and who your kid is right now, but don’t. You’re not taking anything for granted. You aren’t neglecting to relish in the awesomeness of your kiddo right now just because you daydream about them being 9-years-old and leaving for 12 whole hours to go to a sleepover.
A Certain Degree Of Laziness
YOU JUST GAVE BIRTH AND YOU’RE NOT SLEEPING. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE BLOB MOMENTS.
Swaddle snugly but not tightly. Watch for him to show signs of hunger, but don’t let him get too hungry. Change the diaper, then nurse him. Or was it nurse him, and then change a diaper? What time is it again? Where’s my phone? Who am I? What is life?
Questions About Your Past Choices
Should I have travelled more before having a baby? Should I have picked a different career path? Should I have sowed more oats? AM I DEFICIENT IN SOWED OATS?! I’ll never know.
Discomfort With Major Decisions
It was just last year when I spent my time deciding what to have for brunch, when to take a long weekend off, and when to make lasagna from scratch. Now, I’m researching things like optional medical procedures, college savings plans, and vaccine schedules. Yeesh.
Everywhere you turn, or click, there are moms who appear to be doing it better. Guess what? Somewhere, someone’s thinking the same thing because they saw something in you. The best bet is to shame yourself as little as possible, and be as generously, demonstrably supportive of other moms as possible (but don’t hate on yourself too much if you don’t do as much of that as you feel like you should either).
Images: Twentieth Century Fox; Giphy(8)