I was one of those people who thought I knew everything about parenting before I became a parent. I was the oldest of four children, spent most of my free time in high school babysitting, and both of my full-time adult jobs included working with children. I loved kids, I still love them, but my perspective on the supposed ease of working with them has definitely changed.
All I ever wanted to be growing up was a mom. I had an excellent example of one, which certainly fueled this desire in me (and still does! Shoutout to my own saint of a mother! ❤️). But parenting looks a lot different when you’re the child, or the temporary caretaker, the “fun” adult, and you are not privy to the inner workings of parenthood that are so decidedly exhausting and challenging.
When my first daughter was born, I was elated and terrified. I instantly knew that this was not going to be an easy journey. She was a difficult baby. But I was finally a MOM! I had this, right? No biggie. Ha. I quickly learned that it’s one thing to “know” what you have to do…it an entirely different ballgame when it comes to actually applying that knowledge.
As far as my husband and I know right now, we are done having babies. But if God ever changes our plans for us, here’s a handy little acronym I will preach to myself every damn day: BREATHE!
The first letter is the acronym itself. Inhale. Exhale. This is so fresh and awesome and challenging and all of the emotions are going to slap you in the face at once…if they haven’t already. Take time, multiple times a day, to just stop and breathe. Step outside, count to 60, say a prayer, acknowledge your limitations and celebrate your victories…however small. You’ve got this.
This is a hard one but so necessary: let go of control. Both literally and mentally. Becoming a mother changes you. Suddenly you are responsible for raising a human. A living, breathing, personality-filled, tiny human! And that alone adds a level of love/concern/fear that you’ve never felt before, and may cause you to panic a great deal more than you are normally accustomed to panicking. Love does that! Love wants to protect and nurture and do all the right things. But you cannot do it all alone. The sooner you realize that it truly does take a village, the better off you will be. So let your partner help. Let friends and family step in. No one will do things exactly like you, but you need that. We aren’t meant to live life in a vacuum – that sucks the life right out of us.
Uh, who forgets to eat? New, exhausted-beyond-belief-moms, that’s who! And drink. Water. Breastfeeding or not, drink water like it’s your job! This is the most basic of self-care acts you can perform, and also one of the easiest things to ask for help with when baby first enters the world (see “release” again). All of those family members and neighbors and churchgoers and friends who want to shower you with food? Let them! You’ll be so thankful for those leftovers when you’re up feeding a baby at 2am.
I know getting back to (or starting up new) exercise habits isn’t exactly at the top of your sleep-deprived to-do list; however, moving in some way, every day, especially outside, does so much good for you! Physically, it’s bonus points. Mentally, endorphins feed good moods and boost energy. Activating your body and mind daily is one of the best things you can be doing as you adjust to your new normal.
And if no one has told you this yet, allow me: babies are extremely portable. Strap them in a stroller or wear them in a carrier and step outside! You don’t have to go far! Just get some fresh air. Take a walk. Get blood flowing. I spent so much time sitting on my PPD-infused butt when my first was born…I wish I’d had a friend come over and drag me out of the house.
Your intuition: you are stronger than you think and braver than you believe. And no matter what ANYONE tells you, trust your stinking gut. God gave you to your child and vice versa for a REASON. Never ever ever doubt that.
Your pediatrician: not the one who thinks he or she is God’s gift to parents, run from that one. But the one who listens to your every concern, takes you at your word, gives sound advice, trust them. No, they don’t know everything, but they do know a whole lot and are an invaluable resource (and certainly better than Google or WebMD at 2am when you’re losing your shizz over a weird rash).
Your own mom: she’s run this race already, she knows where the pitfalls are, the sharp turns, the detours. Sure, her journey was different than yours will be, but many of the same tools that helped her will help you. If you and your mom don’t have the best relationship, that’s ok. Find another mom that you respect and admire and want to be like when you “grow up” in motherhood. Listen to her.
One of the biggest and best pieces of advice that my own mom gave me was this: it’s only a phase. Nothing lasts forever. Is it hard in the meantime? Yes. Those nights the baby is waking every 2 hours to eat seem unending and unbearable. Later, it will be the seemingly never-ending tantrums of toddlerhood. Or the angst of teen years. But try not to get tunnel vision. Look back to before the last “phase” ended and remember that it did end! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel- press on toward the light! Your baby needs you to keep your head in the game. Don’t lose hope.
Seasoned parents so often tell new parents to “enjoy” a given difficult moment. No one really enjoys changing diaper explosions, middle of the night feedings that never end, toddlers that literally touch you all day long…you get the gist. But I’ve come to realize that, when seasoned parents say “enjoy those moments!” they’re speaking from a place of nostalgia, and realizing how fast time truly flies, and they’ve come to a place where they finally realize what truly matters.
It is OK to not like certain moments of parenting, heck, it’s OK to not like parenting at all sometimes. It’s OK to want a break. It’s OK that you don’t always enjoy it. But do take a moment every so often and just stop. Appreciate what you have. Enjoy the good stuff. That newborn baby smell, the giggles, watching them learn new things, celebrating when you get it together enough to be not *as* late to events anymore… 😉 Soon enough, you’ll be gathered with the ranks of seasoned parents, encouraging other newbies to enjoy it…and you’ll be so glad that you took your own advice. ❤