You shouldn’t read this post if you’re pregnant. Not only will you not get it, but it may scare you just a bit. And we all know you don’t need to fill your head with anymore unknowns to fear at this point in your life. If you’re reading this and you already have kids, you may get a brief chuckle or you might just shut down the whole computer and breathe deeply while you return to your happy place. Your reaction depends on how far removed you are.
The people who should be reading this are about a week or two in. They are home with their babies and at this point they may be wondering why the hell they thought this was a good idea to begin with. They were getting along just fine on their own.
For you, the moms and dads that are there here is what I want you to know:
1. Yes, you have entered a time warp. You’re not sure what day it is and your body feels like it’s the middle of the night all the time. You eat whatever you can reach at any given time and you have no idea how most of the food got there. It’s ok. This will pass.
2. Yes, most of your emotions reside directly in the center of your throat threatening to burst forth at any second. You could cry at the baby snorting while he nurses. You could cry when your neighbor brings over brownies. You could cry when the dog rests it’s head on your lap and looks at you with those big questioning eyes. You could cry all day and usually have no idea why. This happens because if you’re the mom, your hormones are all over the map. Everything that took ten months to build is racing out like low tide and your body is in mild shock. Also, you are a kind of exhausted no one can possibly warn you about. Sleep deprivation makes you stupid. Keeping your emotions in check becomes a task on the very bottom of the priority list based on your level of energy versus what is now required of you. It’s ok. This will pass.
3. Yes, this new person that has invaded your home screams a lot. Your instinct is to stop the screaming because what you know is that when people scream there is something wrong. Sometimes, these little people scream and cry because they are hungry or over tired or have dirty pants and you, yes you, have the power to fix all of that. You have so many powers now. But sometimes, sometimes the screaming is just that; screaming. It doesn’t really mean anything except I wanna scream. These brand new people have no way of getting energy out so usually once a day, during the hour we lovingly refer to here as “bitch and moan hour”, that little person is going to cry and scream and there is nothing you can do about it. It will not last forever and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. You can jiggle and feed and sing and sway and it may stop for a second but for a while there is nothing you can do to make it stop for good. Nothing except put that baby somewhere safe and do the dishes or shower under loud hot water or lay on the couch and blast Bravo reruns. Everyone will feel better soon.
4. Yes, everyone has opinions about what you should be doing. Yes, even if you were very self-assured before this baby came you will now find yourself listening to everyone’s opinions and second guessing every single decision you have made or may make in the future. First, stop doing that. The only decisions that are the right decisions are the ones you and your partner (and any necessary medical personnel) decide are the right decisions. I want you to practice smiling and nodding and shutting your mouth.
Right now, pretend you are doing it to me and my advice. Go on, smile at me, nod and don’t say a word. I’ll wait…
Excellent job. Now, Practice this often so that when well-meaning (or just mean) people suggest/advise or (worse) passively comment about how interesting or different your choices are from theirs, you will not engage. You will not second guess. You will not spend your time arguing or defending your choice. You will smile, nod and shut your mouth. I wish I could say this too shall pass, but it won’t. People will be itching to tell you how they do it better for the rest of your kid’s life. At least now you’re prepared to graciously handle it armed with the knowledge that you are doing what’s right for you.
5. Yes, you have been struck by some inexplicable desire to make decisions for the next ten years. No, you can not. I know it seems like these first few weeks will go on forever and that every choice you make right now is of dire importance because it will affect the rest of your natural life. That is not entirely true. These first weeks home with a baby are just that-first and what should be your priority is survival, the baby’s and yours. Don’t worry about what you will do eight weeks out and how what you do today might wreck it. Nothing will be the same then so even if you make plans, they’ll change, probably seventeen times. Falling asleep in the rocker, one night while nursing a baby is not going to mean he’ll never sleep in his crib or take a bottle when you want to go on date night four months from now. Decide what is right in the moment. There will be plenty of time for schedules and “sleep training” and “spoiling” and worrying about going back to work and everything else you’ve been warned about by all the people from #4. In the beginning, you feed the baby, change the baby and rest whenever (whenever!) you can. Eat something sometimes and drink more water than a camel. There is plenty of time for everything else. Plenty.
So, new parents hang in there. Heck, if you read this all the way through without falling asleep, you are miles ahead of where I was at your stage! Congratulations, you have helped start a new little life. You are great at your job already because you love this child and want to do your best for her. All the worry and all the questioning and all the second-guessing just proves that. So go easy on yourself. This too shall pass.
If you’re interested in gorgeous photos like the ones featured in this post, contact Whitney King Photography. You won’t regret it!
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P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.