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What Every New Mom Should Know

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It seems to be baby season in Arizona as I’ve attended quite a few showers in recent months. Ten years ago these were common events on my agenda, but as time has passed these gatherings are being replaced with birthday parties, recitals and graduations.  Wisdom supposedly comes with my increased age and child rearing experience.  I feel like my “wisdom” is giving me and a much different view of babies and motherhood in general.  Maybe it’s because I’m in the trenches, and the idea of a newborn makes me feel tired rather than excited.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother.  But, I’m living the reality of raising three kids and it’s not all pretty – and most of the time I don’t look pretty doing it.

At one of these parties, we were supposed to write a piece of advice for the new mom to cherish as she anticipates the arrival of her bundle of joy.  This seems to be a fairly standard tradition and one that causes me an incredible amount of stress.  First of all, they always seem to place these tables right at the entrance.  You are trying to get oriented, your hands are filled with an awkwardly shaped gift, and you want to scope out the guests to see if your friends have arrived.  Instead, you are handed a piece of paper and a pen (no erasing and no mistakes) and are told to be “inspirational”. The worst is when they are placing these in a scrapbook or frame for a keepsake.  That’s a tremendous amount of pressure to say the right thing that will inspire the new mom and to come up with something original.  I also don’t want that kid to read it when they are an adult and think, “Couldn’t she come up with something better to say?  That’s not really thoughtful.  Check it out, she even misspelled a word!”  Sometimes I think if I can’t be inspirational, then maybe I can come up with something really witty.  I’ve never really been known for my sharp wit, but maybe in that moment I could channel the late great Johnny Carson and come up with something that would make them laugh.  The spirits have yet to cooperate, so I usually end up writing something sweet and from the heart.  After writing one of my inspirational tidbits, I felt a little empty. To be completely honest, my advice was pretty useless.  I noticed many others struggling to come up with things.  Many were on their mobile devices looking for bible verses and song lyrics that would inspire.  Here was some of the stuff they came up with:

Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.

1 Samuel 1:27–28
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.”

These are all beautiful sentiments, but are no use when you are changing your first explosive diaper or your child projectile vomited on you right as you were going to leave for work.

What she really needs to hear is the stuff nobody will say.  So here it is – the stuff I think every expecting mom needs to hear.

 

It’s OK to Be Overwhelmed

You aren’t going to know what to do all the time.  Just because you gave birth, it doesn’t mean you automatically know everything about being a mother.  And even if you are the “Type A” person who memorized all the books about childrearing, this little angel will throw you some curve balls (and then pee all over you).  Sometimes even when you know what to do, you might be too exhausted to do it.  Almost every mother I know can pinpoint a moment where everything seemed to come crashing down and she was completely overwhelmed.  And at that moment she has thought, “I’m not sure I can do this.”  For some, it can be the moment this tiny life is placed in your arms.  For others, it’s 2 AM and the kid just won’t stop screaming.  Repeat this when the time comes – “It’s perfectly normal to feel this way.  I am not a bad mom.  I am not alone and I will get through this.”

Please Have Someone Help You

When you have that feeling of being totally overwhelmed, when the baby won’t stop nursing and your nipples feel like they are going to fall off, the dishes are piling up, the laundry isn’t done and you haven’t slept for 24 hours – you need help.  Ask someone, hire someone, trade someone – just get someone to help you.  I’ve heard many mothers say, “I should be able to do all this by myself.”  No, you shouldn’t.  Why do you think families lived in multi-generational households for so long?  There was always someone there to help with the baby and to keep the household running.  And on the same note, when someone offers to help, take them up on it.  The only time you are allowed to refuse help is when you know that person’s “help” involves holding the baby so you can clean the house, cook dinner and do laundry.  You can refuse their help or better yet, redirect them to the tasks that really need to get done.

Get Over The Superwoman Complex – Fast

We all know her, that woman with the four perfect kids.  The kids are always wearing matching clothes and their hair is neat and combed.  Her house is impeccable and there is usually a plate of homemade (usually organic) cookies on the kitchen island and her dinners are created with fresh vegetables grown in her backyard garden.  She is thin and always dressed more stylishly than you were even before children.  She’s highly educated, well read, works outside and inside the home and does charity work.  She nursed all her kids for over a year and made all their baby food from scratch.  You envy her and hate her at the same time.  You aim to be like her.

STOP!  You are not her, so don’t try or you will lead yourself into great despair and disappointment.  This is not a realistic goal.  As I have met more of these women in my life, I can let you in on a little secret – it’s a ruse.  Everything may look perfect, but there are things (some quite important ones in fact) that are slipping through the cracks.  It may not be obvious to you, but their lives are not what you think.  Do not run yourself ragged trying to live up to this fantasy.  There will be days when you never change out of your pajamas and the only thing you will accomplish is feeding and changing the baby.  We all have those days and just making it through should be considered a success.  We are all human and we can’t do it all perfectly all the time.

It’s OK to Want Some Alone Time

You love your children and you are completely devoted to them.  That doesn’t mean that you need to spend every waking second with them.  No matter how deeply you love your children, they are going to drive you crazy sometimes.  You are going to lose your temper and you may feel like you are losing your mind.  If possible, this is the time to take a little break.  Even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes (just ignore those little hands at the bottom of the door).

Ideally, you need a couple hours or even a day to remember the person you were before you had children.  Go to lunch with your friends or see a movie that has sex, swearing and adult themes.  Get a massage or go for a run.  Have dinner with your significant other and remind each other why you fell in love.  Time alone is time to recharge your batteries.  You should not feel guilty about being away.  In the long run, this will make you a better parent.

Pinterest is not reality

Pinterest is a great tool to find recipes, decorating tips, party ideas etc.  Many women look at this website and begin to feel inferior.  They begin to imagine all good moms make these beautiful meals and plan these elaborate birthday parties with the most imaginative crafts.  You need to look at Pinterest in a different way.  There is an awesome mom out there (just like you) who took a lot of time to make this amazing thing (food, party, craft etc.).  She’s done many things like this before and they didn’t turn out well.  In some cases they were complete disasters.  But, this time everything went right.  In fact, it went so well that she grabbed a camera and took multiple pictures and posted it on Pinterest.  Pinterest is the exception – not the rule.  Very few people would log on to a website and post their epic fails.  Although I bet there would be a lot of people out there who would enjoy looking at that.

Do Not Expect to Lose the Weight Immediately

Yes, I am aware that Heidi Klum was in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show a mere 6 weeks after giving birth to her fourth child.  For the remaining 99.99999999999999999% of us, it takes more time.  Don’t expect to walk out of the hospital in your favorite pair of skinny jeans.  The Dutchess of Cambridge was applauded for wearing a dress that didn’t try to hide the “post baby bump” 24 hours after giving birth to Prince George.  Maybe I’m just a simpleton, but I really didn’t see her dress as her grand statement to all new moms out there.  She probably picked something that she knew would fit but didn’t look too much like maternity clothes.  Let’s be honest, we pretty much want to burn the maternity wardrobe at the end of pregnancy.  But, she did show new moms that the majority of people leave the hospital 8-10 pounds lighter, but we still look pregnant.  It’s going to take some time to lose the weight.  Don’t rush it.  It’s not healthy for you or your baby.  It will come off as long as you are eating healthfully and aren’t leading a sedentary life.  Nursing does help, but the experts seem to say that it takes up to 9 months to get the weight off (it did take that long to put it on).   For me, I was able to fit into some of my pre-pregnancy pants after 6 weeks (they probably didn’t look that good but once you can button that top button – it’s a victory).  Three months later, things are getting closer to normal.  Even though the scale may have a similar number to your pre-pregnancy weight, your body will have shifted around and things may not fit the same.  Welcome to your post pregnancy body.  Embrace it – your body just did something amazing.

If You Feel Depressed – Tell Someone

Post partum depression is real and it can be much more serious than the “baby blues”.  If you feel depressed or have any thoughts of hurting yourself or your child – seek help immediately.  Please know that there is nothing to be ashamed of and there is help out there.

So Here’s the Inspirational Stuff

Words cannot express the amount of love and joy you will experience when this child enters the world.  Even though parenthood isn’t always easy, it will be the best part of your life.  Enjoy every moment.

One Response to “What Every New Mom Should Know”

  1. Mary says:

    Motherhood is not a contest. It just feels like one.

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