When I was pregnant with my daughter, those nine months felt like the longest months of my life. I spent a lot of time dreaming about what this baby would look like, and wondering if we would have a boy or a girl. I worried about labor and delivery, our first few weeks home, breastfeeding and just generally surviving with a newborn.
Now that we have successfully survived the newborn stage, I found myself thinking back on some of those worries and wishing I had known some things then that I know now. Here is my advice for you, written with love from a new-mom:
- You might have a very long, painful labor. But you might not. If you are visibly pregnant, chances are you have heard everyone’s story about how awful their labor and delivery were. Chances are you’ve heard this from strangers at the grocery store, and that your husband’s brother’s wife’s cousin’s aunt has even surfaced to tell you her story. Yes, labor and delivery are a big deal. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it can take a long time. But it also might not. You might be one of the lucky ones who has a 6 hour start-to-finish labor. Those people don’t tell their stories as often, but they are out there. Worrying about something that is really pretty much out of your control isn’t going to make you feel better.
- Breastfeeding is hard. Really, really hard. It was really important to me to breastfeed my daughter, and I was committed to it come hell or high water. Which is good – because the first few weeks of breastfeeding easily qualify as the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including giving birth. The best advice I got was that if I could make it to the two week mark, I could make it. And that person was right – two weeks seemed to be a magical corner and it did get easier. It would still be awhile before it got easy, but it at least got easier.
- You will have a new understanding of the word exhausted. There is nothing I can think of to compare this to. Imagine being the most tired you’ve ever been, and then multiply it by a billion. You’ll be exhausted. But that’s okay. You’re supposed to be exhausted when you have a newborn. People understand that and you don’t need to apologize. And it’s temporary. I promise.
- Don’t listen to people who aren’t helpful. Even if one of those people is your mom. Or your best friend. Things are different from when we were children. You can’t just put a newborn to sleep on their tummy anymore, no matter how much your mom wants you to know that you turned out just fine when she did that. Get advice from people who you feel are helpful and try to ignore everyone else.
- You’re not an expert, but you are your baby’s expert. I don’t know everything about being a parent. I have needed a lot of help and advice. But one thing I realized pretty quickly was that I am the expert when it comes to my baby. We spent an awful lot of time together during those first few weeks getting to know each other and it didn’t take long for me to start to anticipate her needs. People will try to tell you what they think your baby needs – if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “She probably has a stomachache,” we could pay for her college right now – but trust your gut. While you won’t always know exactly what to do, you’ll figure it out together.
- You’re going to be just fine. You’re going to be great, even. There will be days you aren’t sure how you’re going to survive, but they will be few compared to the days where you don’t know how you ever lived before this little baby was part of your life. The day that baby smiles at you for the first time will be one of the best days of your life. I hear that her first words are going to be that same way, which is why we have been practicing saying “mamamama” for months…
Good luck, almost-mom. You’ll be snuggling that sweet baby before you know it. Now go take a nap. You’re going to need it.