Things They Don’t (or can’t) Tell You

Lately I have been blessed to come into contact with a number of new moms. Not only does it afford me the pleasure of holding and loving a sweet newborn baby (without having to take said baby home for marathon night feedings and the like) but it also gives me a chance to love on these new moms as they navigate this new path of motherhood. A friend of mine said today, “I’d rather be the mother of a 4th child than have to be a first time mom again.” ‘Tis too true. The first time around is rough. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve been a nanny for ten years of never changed a diaper. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for what it is like to be a parent.

When I was pregnant, I had grand visions of what it would be like to be a mom. Didn’t you? I think most expectant parents, adoptive as well, have preconceived ideas about what it will be like. Even our best intentioned friends who are already parents have a hard time cracking our blissful parental bubble. We might hear the words “your life is really going to change, so sleep now or go to the movies,” but not really understand their weight. We think we’re too excited to sleep and then want to kick ourselves three months later for not indulging in those pre baby naps. Or, if a friend has a baby a few months prior to our little one’s arrival and we see her struggling at a lunch date to feed/burp/eat/maintain sanity, we tell ourselves that with all of the amazing skills and know how that we will have we will of course never have to deal with such chaos with our own baby. So many myths, so many unprepared parents, and so many young moms and dads about to lose their minds.

And so I offer you this, especially for those readers who have not yet become parents, as a true and honest list of things that I wish I had known before having children. If you are too far up in the cloudy stratosphere of expectant bliss to get your sweet little head around this, rest assured that it will be waiting for you when the pains of labor or shrieks of a hungry baby at 2:30 a.m. yank you back down to planet earth. You know, the place where the reality of parenthood lives. Know that the point of this is not to make you think I harbor any bitterness about being a mom. Not at all. I LOVE being a momma. Love it, love it, love it. Love my babies and love my job. Period. This is just, as I mentioned before, information that I think is helpful to have before becoming a parent, because then if any of it happens you won’t be shocked, surprised, embarrassed, or a multitude of other possible emotions. I’m sure it will be incomplete, but it’s what I got right now.

1. Any fatigue or exhaustion you thought you had experienced is a distant memory to the utter and complete drain you feel over your entire being. You will be more tired than you ever thought possible because parenthood not only draws from your physical strength, but your emotional, mental and spiritual as well. Make sure that you find ways to refill your tank and refresh your spirit daily.

2. If you didn’t know it before, you will now know without a doubt that you cannot do it alone. People need people and you will realize that your family, friends, neighbors and even a sympathetic cashier at the grocery store are crucial to you on a daily basis. Embrace the love. 🙂

3. Laundry, oh goodness the laundry. Little people + Little clothes=shockingly large amounts of laundry.

4. Babies cry. Period. They just do. And often you have no idea why.

5. Baby poop comes in different shades and textures and believe it or not, 99.9% of the time it is normal

6. Disregard, or take with a HUGE grain of salt, advice from anyone with a child of their own who is 5 years or older regarding your newborn. Believe me, parents forget quickly (hence why people have more than one child) and their well meaning advice about a, b and c can be way off base.

7. You will feel more frustrated than ever before

8. Your life will never be the same. Never. You gain so much, but for many there is a level of grief that comes along with the transition and that is okay. Talk about the things you miss doing and dream about the days that you will do them again. Always remember that nothing is permanent and that you will sleep again, will go out with your friends and husband again, and will one day be responsible for your bathroom needs alone again.

9. Whether you decide to go back to work outside of the home or stay home with your baby full time you will feel judged. It’s lame and you’d think society would be past it, but unfortunately women on both sides feel the tug from the other. So, be confident in your choice and know that you are the only one who can decide what’s best for you and your family.

10. There will be times when you don’t like your kids.

11. Everyone thinks that their kid is the cutest and everyone is right.

12. Being confronted with your own selfishness is no picnic. You will be forced to put your own needs behind another person’s in a way that is unlike anything else. It will be painful, and you might often go hungry, but hang in there.

13. It is okay to breastfeed in public, regardless of the dirty looks you may receive.

14. The love you have for your child is indescribable and crucial in the hard times. Cling to it and thank God that He knew so well you would need it.

15. You now understand why your friends with kids couldn’t hang out with you as much anymore and wish desperately that you could rewind and babysit for them more often.

16. Having a baby is hard on a marriage. So dig in, and even when there isn’t any time to make, MAKE TIME for each other.

17. Little people have lots of stuff

18. Traveling with a newly mobile infant is REALLY unpleasant

19. Motherhood will stretch you, bend you, twist you up, chew you up and spit you out. It isn’t glamorous and don’t expect to hear a thank you while you clean up the third round of vomit in an hour. In the meantime, go thank your own mom.

20. Speaking of our moms, nothing will make you love or appreciate your mom more than becoming a mom yourself.

21. Post-partum body issues…(in the interest of not completely freaking out the boys, why don’t we just leave it at that)

22. Engorged breasts are unhappy breasts. If the baby won’t nurse, run to the nearest store and buy yourself a pump.

23. Wear breast pads to the special event you’re wearing the cute dress to, even if you think you don’t need them.

24. Don’t be the mom who brags. Really, save it for the grandparents. And, I promise, if your child crawls early it is no guarantee of sainthood or genius status.

25. Your kid is going to embarrass you.

26. It is not okay to forego boundaries and discipline in your parenting. Not only do you suffer, but your children suffer more.

27. Sleep is just as important for your child as eating. If you wouldn’t allow your child to skip a meal, don’t allow him to skip a nap.

28. Taking your child to the doctor because you think he may have swine flu or some other random virus you read about on the internet is okay as long as it isn’t on a monthly basis.

29. Your child is not your neighbor’s child. Don’t force her to be or blame yourself if she’s not.

30. Children are unique individuals. They come with lots of prewiring. It is your job to direct, instruct, teach and shape their character while preserving and celebrating their individuality.

31. Nap time is happy time

32. You are going to make LOTS of mistakes.

33. If your child comes into contact with her feces at some point, she will survive.

34. Poop is poop and vomit is vomit. If your own child’s makes you gag, totally normal. No it is NOT different with your own kid.

35. Your child may be nothing at all like you.

36. Terrible Two’s are nothing compared with the Totally Terrible Three’s

37. Don’t buy the bouncy chair, swing, exersaucer, etc. Choose one to own and then borrow the rest. It is never hard to find another mom eager to cast off a baby item.

38. Dresses are completely worthless for babies before they walk and particularly ridiculous while they are learning to crawl or walk. Just stick with the pants/shorts/diaper and blow off all of the “oh HE’S so cute,” comments.

39. Your kids really and truly don’t care if you smell, have on your pj’s all day, or forgot to brush your teeth

40. All your children will ever need from you, is you

41. You will parent differently than your best friend and it may cause tension at times.

42. Your kids might not play well with your best friend’s kids and that is okay. Don’t expect them to be bff just because their moms are.

43. Older men will always think your baby is a boy, regardless of apparel choice, so just go with it and save yourself the aggravation.

44. People with boys think boys are best and people with girls think girls are best. Those with a mix are left in the middle. Point is, everyone is right. Once you meet your child, gender is a non issue. You simply want to love that little person.

45. All moms struggle just like you. They might not have the same issues, but they do not have it as put together as their hair and makeup suggest.

46. Making decisions that make your child unhappy is part of the job. You cannot be a “child pleaser” and a good parent.

47. It is okay to go through the drive thru.

48. Extra t.v. to save your sanity will not emotionally scar your children.

49. Enjoy the snuggle time in the early days. Seriously. It is gone too soon.

50. Keep your eyes on the present and try not to get caught up in the “next phase.” When they sit, don’t think about when they’ll crawl and so on. Savor it all.

There is the start. So much more I could write, but it’s midnight and I think I’ll sleep. I am blessed beyond words to be the mother of our beautiful girls. What a privilege and honor to be their mommy. I think I’ll go look at their sleeping cuteness one more time…

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7 thoughts on “Things They Don’t (or can’t) Tell You

  1. A couple I’ll add, lessons from my #1….

    I was surprised that rarely in the first year (or two?) did I eat a hot meal while it was still hot.

    Baby poo happened in the tub.

    My boy peed one way and pooed the other during a diaper change once.

    I stressed, stressed, stressed about not having enough milk. #1 was borderline failure to thrive…#2 got supplements sometimes, both did fine, but I did better with the stress off. (Way back in the day the dr told my aunt to drink a beer a day to solve this problem, um, not recommended today, but interesting none the less)

    I vowed my baby would sleep in his crib from night 1, he didn’t.

    I vowed I would not this or that, and I did most of this and that and never did some this or that’s that I said I would do.

    I worried that my baby was not following what the books said, not “falling into a routine”. The best advise I ever got was “follow your instincts”. I finally threw out the books and became much happier enjoying my unique baby.

    I like my kids better every day, they were and are more fun every day. They are people developing into themselves every day, it’s amazing! (and challenging)

  2. Great list! Totally agree with Jamie. Never say never.

    * All children are different. Just because that other mother can’t control her two year old doesn’t necessarily mean she is doing something completely wrong. Your kid is just different. Some children are born difficult, by no fault of the parent.

    *There is guilt at every turn. Get over it or be consumed by it.

    *Lack of sleep mimics/causes depression. As does having a baby.

    * Not every mother feels an instant bond to her baby. That is OK. It will come.

    * When searching for opinions, get more than one.

    * Some parenting practices were much different in generations past. If someone is pressuring you to do something a certain way they did it you can always fall back on the line, “my pediatrician says we should _____”. If it is your pediatrician giving bad advice, find a new doctor.

    * everything changes. Tomorrow will not be like today.

    I’m sure there are a million more!

  3. Hey, your list of 50 is wonderful and gives us yet another example of your remarkable gifts for insight and writing. However, I’m surprised there aren’t more references to incorporating the Dad into this process.

    You do mention the stress on a marriage and the importance of making time with him, but he’s a huge part of the parenting piece as well. And a huge part of giving you a few hours away from it all from time to time.

    Set expectations early and often. I realize your circumstances are not entirely representative of all young couples, because the time demands and odd scheduling that a young doctor faces are unique. However, it won’t always be that way. One item on your list should say, “Make some girl time for yourself. Feed her, hand her to Daddy, and go have a pedicure.”

    Love to you and Your Hubby,

    Houghton Hutcheson

  4. Amy, I laughed and ooohed and uh-hummed as I read your list 🙂 There’s really nothing like being a parent! A few I would add (forgive me if they are similar to some of yours…:)

    *Daddy might not have the same response to the baby stage as I do…something in our house clicked at about 18 months with each kiddo pulling him WAY more into everything!

    *What works with one kid in a family doesn’t always work with another kid in the same family!

    *We should expect babies/toddlers to act like babies/toddlers…don’t be surprised when your 2 year old acts like a 2 year old! 🙂

    *It’s ok to ENJOY your child! Taking extra time to snuggle, reading one more story, coloring together, just sitting and staring into your babies eyes…that IS real life!

    *Just because every other parent seems so busy, doesn’t mean you have to make your family’s life busy!

    Love your blog, Amy! 🙂

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