There are approximately 1,001 books about pregnancy, mainly about what is going on with your mind and body and your baby’s mind and body throughout those glorious 10 months of pregnancy. I can tell you that I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. I do enjoy feeling each kick, punch, and flip, but the rest of it is for the birds. But I digress.
Then there are all the “how to have a baby” classes. The hospital tours. The breast-feeding courses. The registering. The showers. The nursery prep. The nesting. The ever-expanding belly. The waiting. The waiting. The waiting.
Despite all the preparation that goes into actually safely carrying and delivering a baby, there is very little offered on what to expect, what to actually do, after your baby has safely made his debut. Oh sure, there are the What to Expect the First Year-type books and the Baby Wise-esque books. But come on. Let’s be real. There is nothing out there on the million ways you, and your life, are about to change.
Some things to know for all you expectant mommas out there:
First, the good news:
Cliché, yes. But oh so true: You are about to experience a love like no other. An instantaneous, overwhelming, can’t live without you, breath-taking, my life truly has meaning, kind of love. In that moment, that single moment, when you hear your sweet baby’s first cry, your life is forever changed, in the best possible way you could ever begin to imagine. Every morning (or middle of the night) when I would wake up after my son was born, it felt like Christmas morning. Times 1,000. He’s mine! I get to see him every day! How blessed I am that I get to be his momma for the rest of my life! Such a dream come true.
And for all you mommas-to-be the second time around, don’t you worry. I loved my daughter every bit as much as my son the very instant she was born. I just couldn’t believe I had been going along about my merry way, each day, living my life without her. “Oh there you are,” I said shortly after she arrived. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for you.” I can honestly say that I do not now, nor have I ever, loved either one of my children more than the other. I love them differently, equally, immensely, indescribably, and it truly is an all-consuming love.
Now for the harder-to-hear bits:
Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. Your sole job on this earth is now to make sure your child is alive. Other important jobs are to ensure your child is: 1. Eating. 2. Sleeping 3. Growing. 4. Hitting developmental milestones. 5. Attaching to you. 6. Learning. 7. Socializing. 8. Making life-long family memories. 9. Not becoming a sociopath. In no particular order.
I’ll say it again: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It is an extremely difficult realization to come to to know that your baby’s survival solely depends on you. There is very little in the way of “me” time in the beginning. Especially if you breastfeed. Exhibit A: Initially, your baby needs to eat every 2 to 3 hours. This is not 3 hours from the end of one breastfeeding session to the start of the next session. This is 3 hours from the start of one breastfeeding session to the start of the next. This time discrepancy makes a huge difference, especially since your newborn will likely nurse for about 0.2 seconds before falling asleep. At which point, you must wake him up. This is hard to do given that all your sweet little babe wants to do is sleep, sleep, sleep. So, you will strip him down, make up songs to sing loudly to arouse him (I have two particular, original faves I’d be happy to share), run a cold wash cloth over his skin to make him mad (and thus, awake), blow in his face, etc. Oh great! It worked! He’s awake! Let the nursing session recommence. For 0.2 seconds. Then, he will fall asleep again. Then, you will start this whole process again. Thus, after a 45-minute nursing session, you now have 2 hours and 15 minutes max to do anything else in the world besides nurse your child. Throw growth spurts in the mix and that 2 hours and 15 minutes is cut in half.
Again I say: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. Yes, you hear about sleep deprivation. It is harder than you can imagine. Sure, you will share some very sweet moments in the middle of the night when it’s just you and your tiny little one. But there will be other extremely frustrating, I-want-to-slowly-pull-every-hair-out-of-my-head moments when your child will be screaming, absolutely inconsolable, at 3:00 am for reasons you cannot explain. Of course, you try feeding him, rocking him, singing to him, changing his diaper, wrapping him in a blanket, unwrapping him from the blanket, turning on the dryer for some white noise, turning off the dryer because he clearly hates white noise, swaddling him, shhh-ing him, swaying him, side-laying him, and all the other 5 S’s (Stop reading now. Go rent The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Watch it. Make your husband watch it. You’ll thank me later). This is when it’s time for you to hand him over to his daddy and collapse in a heap on your bed (until the next nursing session, that is).
Want to venture outside the house? Yep, I’ll say it again: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It is impossible to go on spontaneous outings when you have a newborn, heck, child of any age, for that matter. A quick trip to the grocery store to get out of the house (and yes, this will become a luxury)? No problem. Let me just grab my 800-pound diaper bag, equipped with diapers, wipes, changing pad, burp cloths, a change of clothes (blow out in Aisle 2 anyone?), pacifier, toys, a nasal aspirator, first aid kit (because what if a can of diced peaches falls from the shelf, manages to open itself, lands on my baby’s arm, and slices it right open?!? I’ll be happy I have my Neosporin!), wallet, keys, and lip gloss (never mind that you are in pajama pants and a stained tee. With flip flops. And greasy hair. And no make-up. In January). Oh shoot. I forgot the grocery list. Oh well. I’ll just roam around the grocery store for awhile because my baby has fallen asleep and I will not risk waking him and thus ending this moment of peace.
Yes: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It changes your relationships. Some for the better: My hub and I are rock solid. We have each other’s back. We are doing this parenting thing together. That is not to say we don’t have our fair share of disagreements (the most famous of which involved me nearly burning our house down after leaving a pizza box on the stove and accidentally turned it on while trying to get my inconsolable son to PLEASE.STOP.CRYING. in the middle of the night. It was my hub’s shift yet he was sleeping soundly in our Good God, I-never-knew-our-mattress-was-this-comfortable bed. I was tired. I was cranky. I was careless. Pizza box went up in flames. So did my night.). Other relationships may seem not to exist for awhile: Those friends you used to talk to, gossip with, vent to all the time? They will take a backseat for awhile while you try to figure out how to keep your child alive, yourself sane, and your house from burning to the ground. If they are real friends, they will be around long after your baby has arrived. If they are momma friends, they will totally understand your absence and no explanation will be needed.
Becoming a momma for the first time is hard: Take the most worried you have ever felt in your entire life. Are you imaging that moment? Picture it vividly. Remember what it felt like. Now take that moment and multiple it by 1,000. Now take that moment and make it last for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a momma, you will worry. Is my baby still breathing? Is she getting enough milk? Is she growing? Am I causing life-long damage by letting her nap in her swing? Should I be holding her more? Am I holding her too much? Is that spit up or vomit? Why did no one tell me the world is encased in germs? Does she have on enough sunscreen? Is that a rash? Why didn’t she poop today? Did she poop too much today? And on. And on. And on. And this is within the first three days of life. My first-born is now almost 3, and I can safely assure you. The worrying? It never ends.
It’s true: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. But you know what? It is absolutely, completely, without a doubt, totally worth it. It’s why my hub and I proudly welcomed our second baby six months ago. And luckily, it is much easier the second time around. After all, after you’ve had one, you’re an old pro, right?!?
(Thank you to Jenny Lauren Photography for the beautiful pictures of my babies!)