When I first found out I was pregnant, I was elated. I had always known I wanted to be a mom, and being the oldest of five kids, I felt my child rearing skills were up to snuff. I mean, I made a killer pot of boxed mac and cheese, I knew the words to well over three-quarters of all Disney songs, and I had the mommy sway down solid. If you don’t know what a mommy sway is, don’t worry - it it a natural reflex you will develop after you hold your fussy baby for more than .0058 seconds.
I was so wrong. There were so many things I didn't know that were definitely not discussed in the birthing or breastfeeding classes I took. Don’t fret, though - I am here to bridge the gap. I will bestow unto you all the knowledge and wisdom I learned the hard way in the same manner all the great sages throughout history have done - in list format.
If you aren’t already ambidextrous, you will be forced to learn. Quickly. Why, you ask? You will be holding your baby in excess of 16 hours a day, and if you want to get anything done, or...you know...eat something, you will need to learn to do it with whatever hand is less tired. In addition to ambidexterity, the “picking things up with your toes” skill you developed during your pregnancy continues to be invaluable. Burp cloths, blankets, socks, and stuffed animals are all much easier to pick up with your toes when you have a little one in your arms.
Even if you were germ conscience before, the term germ freak takes on an entirely different meaning when you become a new mommy. And when your little one becomes mobile and starts crawling around on the floor? I should’ve bought stock in Purell and Clorox.
Then, when your baby starts eating solids, you start dong research on baby food production methods, organic versus non-organic food sources, and GMOs and before you know it, you are making your own baby food because you are too afraid to buy anything in a jar. I personally might have become a teensy obsessed about what I fed my daughter, but at the very least you will quickly become an expert on all things baby food. For those that share my passion for baby nutrition, I will be posting another blog post sharing my adventures in making my own baby food soon and will provide a link after it’s ready for the world.
Umbilical stumps. Seriously - why didn’t anyone mention this? It is just a quick thing the nurse mentions as you are leaving the hospital, “Oh, by the way, don’t touch it or wash it or anything until it falls off by itself or it could get infected. Okay, bye!” Side note: gross.
You will be a nervous wreck the first few times you wash your baby. Sure, the cute little plastic bathtubs are great, but you will still feel you constantly need to have a hand on your little one, and the first time they realize they can kick their little feet and slide around in the tub, it will be terrifying. Even more stressful is getting them out of the tub and into a towel. I still have flashbacks.
Whatever you think sleep deprivation is, you have no idea. Oh, you pulled all nighters in college all the time, huh? Oh, your body naturally only needs 5-6 hours of sleep, does it? Sure, you could be awake for a day and a half if necessary, but after cramming for finals, you could crash for 16 hours the next night. You will consider yourself blessed if you sleep for longer than a 90 minute stretch for the first few months of your baby’s life.
Related, you will learn what cluster feeding is, and you become even more sleep deprived. Then there’s sleep regression. Someday, your child will sleep through the night, but until then, master the power nap.
You will completely freak out when anyone else holds your baby for the first few weeks, even if that someone is your own grandmother. You know, the woman who raised two kids of her own and then took care of you and all of your siblings. Yeah, she clearly doesn't know what she's doing. You will have a full-on mental episode, but you will internalize it, smile and try to not let the rest of the world know how crazy you are. Every mom goes through this, and it's okay.
You will find yourself attempting to converse with other adults again after a couple of months of seclusion in your home with your newborn, and you will realize you have become completely out of touch with society. You have absolutely nothing to talk about aside from your baby, and surprisingly, most people aren’t nearly as interested in your child’s feeding patterns as you are nor do they really want to know how many diapers your baby goes through in a day. Shocking, but true.
You will get more unsolicited advice from well-meaning people in your social circles than you can process, and it will probably surprise you when you are occasionally offended. My (also unsolicited) suggestion is to hear everyone out, but take it for the anecdote that it is and evaluate whether the suggestion might work for you and your family. People mean well, but we as parents are extremely sensitive to anything pertaining to our little ones. Do what feels right to you and trust those mommy instincts.
And a bonus for mommies who plan to breastfeed:
You will walk around the house in just a nursing bra for the first few weeks, because there is no point in putting on a clean shirt that will just get wet when you start leaking. Plus, you will be feeding your little one so often that shirts really just get in the way.
Milk doesn't come out of just one hole; most women have anywhere from 5 to 20 openings per side. Also, milk can shoot out in multiple directions like a sprinkler nozzle, and you never know when one might "go off." Outside of feeding time, I highly recommend you keep them contained.
You will decide one day that you are going to finally take some time for yourself and go out without your little one in tow. Then, you will hear a baby crying or you will see a baby or you will think of your baby and you will look down to find your shirt is completely soaked through. (Expert tip: always keep an extra shirt and sports bra with you at all times. I always kept one set in the diaper bag and one in my purse. You will thank me one day.)
Someone you are not close to, potentially a complete stranger, will walk in on you feeding your baby or, even more awkward, pumping at some point. It could be very awkward for the other person if he or she has not been exposed (see what I did there?) to breastfeeding before, but by that time you probably won’t care.
You will get asked when you are going to “stop doing that and switch to bottles,” along with several other unintentionally inappropriate questions. Try to ignore the indignation you feel and remember no one is going out of his or her way to offend you. It is simply a lack of knowlenge on the subject. You just keep doing what is right for your family.
When it is finally time to wean your little one, it will be a bittersweet milestone. You think you will be relieved to have your girls back. You think you will be ecstatic to wear a normal bra again. You’re completely psyched about being able to drink a glass of wine any time you want. Then you think about that early morning feeding at 4:00 in the morning when everyone is asleep except you and your little one. That special time only the two of you share will be coming to an end, then you think about how fast time is going, how your little one is only getting bigger. Soon, your baby will be a little kid, then a teenager, then a completely independent adult. You’ll look at your little one and swear he or she has definitely grown at least half an inch since yesterday, and you realize that, despite all your newly discovered mommy powers, you are powerless to stop your baby from growing up. You’ll probably cry, and anyone who has already gone through this is likely tearing up thinking about it. I still do and it’s been years since my daughter stopped nursing. Enjoy the time you have and buy extra tissues when the time comes to wean.
So there it is, ladies, in all its’ unfiltered glory. Seasoned mommies, please add anything I missed in the comments below so we can help out these new mommies and mommies-to-be.