My little guy is about to turn 18 months old pretty soon, so I’d like to think I’m somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the whole parenting babies thing. Of course, that is until baby #2 comes along in a few months and totally turns our worlds upside down. But let’s ignore that for just a moment and let me tell you some of the things I’ve come to believe in, as a parent.
I believe…in sleeping.
Co-sleep, let them cry it out, recruit friends and family to come hold the baby while you take a nap…I believe in doing whatever you need to do to get your sleep. As long as you’re confident your baby is safe, then the second most important thing is that you’re getting some shut eye.
I believe…in feeding your baby.
Breast milk or formula does not matter to me. (D was given both.) As long as your baby is growing and thriving and getting the nourishment he/she needs, it doesn’t matter if it came from a boob or a bottle. I’ve watched too many women go absolutely bonkers trying to breastfeed their child, to the point of their baby actually losing weight and going hungry. That is ridiculous. I’d rather give my baby liquified Cheetos than let him go hungry. But that’s just me.
I believe…you can’t spoil a newborn.
If you want to spend your entire maternity leave holding and rocking your baby, then do it. Everything else in life can wait. Some of my older relatives would see me holding my baby and tell me, “You’re going to spoil him, holding him all the time!” I did not care, or listen. However, please refer to #1 above about believing in sleeping. This required me putting him down on occasion.
I believe…in a nice, hot shower.
Those early weeks, when days and nights are all the same and your body is a wreck between childbirth and leaky boobs, it’s easy to let things like personal hygiene slide. But the first day I managed to take a shower, shave my legs, and put on real clothes, I felt a million times better. Makeup didn’t come until much later, but it’s amazing what a shower and some real clothes will do for one’s mentality.
I believe…in just being a mom.
During my first pregnancy, I made a long list of to-dos for my maternity leave. What was I thinking?!?! Did I honestly think I was going to be sitting around with nothing to do? I had plans to organize the office, keep up with D’s baby book, blog probably every day, sort through photos and make photobooks, and keep the house spotless. HA!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! None of that happened. And anytime I thought about all the things I “should” be doing, or I stood looking at the piles of dishes and laundry that never managed to go away, I would feel like I was failing somehow. I spent those first two months just barely surviving. If I showered, it was a good day. If I had clean breast pump parts before it was time to pump again, I was a rockstar. If I managed to get more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep, things were really going my way that day. Those things sound crazy to anyone who has never had a baby, and looking back, it sounds sort of crazy now. But I quickly learned that taking care of myself and my baby was enough. It was more than enough. I was learning to be a mom, in the most basic sense of the word, and that was more important than anything else I could’ve been doing.
I believe…in asking for help.
You know the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? It’s true. Even most single moms I know have a pretty good support group of friends or family they can turn to in a pinch. I consider it both a blessing and a curse that most members of our families live out of state. So most of the time, it was just the two of us – my husband and me – figuring out this parenting thing on our own. We thought we were prepared. We took classes, we read books, but sometimes questions came up. It’s been 30 years since my mom spent any amount of time with a newborn so I didn’t really consider her a great resource on the topic. But I had an incredible network of friends and coworkers that I could turn to when I really needed answers. Not to mention I had a great OB and fantastic pediatrician I could call at anytime. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, but it was nice to know they were there. And for the first time that I can remember, when a friend asked if she could bring me anything on her way to visit us and our new baby, I took her up on it and asked her to bring me a snack so I wouldn’t have to make lunch.
I believe…in making friends with other moms.
This is a sensitive one for me. Having felt like I’d been dumped by other friends once they became parents and I stayed happily child-free, I tried really hard not to alienate my non-parent friends once I became a mom. But this didn’t mean I couldn’t make new friends with other moms. And it doesn’t matter how many friends you have; those first few weeks can be pretty isolating when you’re up feeding a baby at 2am and your non-parent friends are sleeping soundly. But do you know who else is up during the wee hours of the morning? Other new moms. For the entire first year and beyond, I found most of my support from my fellow moms on the Internet. Women I started building friendships with while we were all pregnant together, which suddenly became much stronger as we each entered the world of parenthood. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind at first, but it was comforting to know at least one other person was probably up with a baby. And if no one was at that exact moment, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before SOMEONE was. And so we’d chat. We’d answer each other’s questions, ask questions of our own, or just banter back and forth about how much we all miss sleep. I firmly believe in trying to maintain friendship with non-parent friends, but I also believe it’s just as important to develop friendships with other moms. Only they know and understand what you’re really going through.
I believe…in eating.
One of the first things every pregnant woman hopes and expects to do before their maternity leave is over, is find a way to lose the baby weight and get their pre-baby body back. Unless you’re filthy rich with access to a personal chef, personal trainer, and a round-the-clock nanny, this will not happen. At least not that quickly. And remember what I said about those first 2 months being completely about survival? Yeah. The most exercise I did during my maternity leave was take a walk around the block while pushing the stroller. Even that didn’t happen until about week 10. Not to mention that when you’re only sleeping a couple of hours at a time, mealtimes are completely out of whack. I’d eat breakfast at noon, lunch at 4:30, dinner at 10. And the next day, breakfast at 7, lunch at 1, and dinner at 9. It was never consistent so it was almost impossible to plan ahead. And I couldn’t cut my calories too drastically because I was still breastfeeding (and, let’s be honest, my appetite while breastfeeding was out of control). I don’t believe in crazy diets, diet pills, or starvation as a means to lose weight, especially while breastfeeding. It wasn’t until I went back to work that I was able to get back into a routine and start planning out healthier meal options and get my portions back under control. Still, I was never quite able to fit in regular exercise outside of evening and weekend walks at the park with the baby in the stroller, but it was still better than nothing. Am I happy with my body? Of course not. I wasn’t happy with it before I got pregnant. But a lot of that unhappiness post-baby was because I led myself to believe I’d be able to drop the baby weight the moment my doc gave me exercise clearance. I had no idea how long it would take me to feel like I had regained control of my body, which was about 8 or 9 months post-baby. A couple months after that, I started running again, only to find out two weeks late that I was pregnant. Oops! I’d like to think I’m better prepared as far as what to expect this time around, but I’m not going to stress out about it and instead, learn to cut myself some slack that first year.
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