So as the mom who's still in the trenches and only a short year and a half away from those sleepy, crying, happy, crazy, newborn all-nighters, here are some things I wish I would have known that I don't feel are often said.
- Trust your gut, and wait until you know what it's saying. Okay, we'll start off with the one you've likely heard before, "trust your gut," but I'm going to bet you're probably thinking, "But I don't know what my gut is saying!" Totally valid. Here's what you need to know: If you don't know, then wait. It's like labor, you wonder if you are in real labor like a million times when you're pregnant, and all the veteran moms tell you, "YOU'LL KNOW." But you feel those Braxton Hicks and all you do is think about them, consider them, mull over whether or not they're the real deal for as long as they last because you just can't help yourself. But then the real thing comes and YOU KNOW - and you finally get what all those veteran moms were saying. That's how it is with your newborn. Don't know when to move them to the nursery? Give them a pacifier? Drop a feeding? No? Just wait it out. You'll know. And if you don't, then it's probably not the right timing.*
- Sometimes, you just have to get sick of something to make a change. Along the lines of trusting your gut, sometimes your gut looks an awful lot like you just getting fed up with something and finally being ready to try something different. Like getting sick of your kid getting out of the swaddle for weeks on end. Like getting tired of your child needing to suck on your finger or nurse all night instead of just sucking on a pacifier. It's okay to get annoyed and try something new. That usually means you'll have the gumption to stick with it and endure whatever repercussions (good or bad) that come with.
- Learn about your baby with your husband. As mom, it's just a fact that you're likely more tuned in to your child's needs than your husband is. He's trying, really. But take it from someone who's been there, as moms, sometimes we can hinder our husbands in being really great dads because we're moving too fast and not helping them learn about raising a baby. And when your husband doesn't feel confident with the baby, he's not going to want to help - because no one likes to do things they're not good at! Slow down a bit and learn about your baby as a couple. Involve your husband in the day-to-day and explain the "why" behind your methods, rather than just narrating instructions like a broken record all day and then being frustrated when the information isn't retained. He can successfully bathe your child, change their diaper and feed them dinner - just give him the chance.
- It's okay to worry. Whoa, did I just type that? I feel like that's a pretty bad thing to say - I mean, we're called not to worry and to trust God, right? Well, here's what I mean. YOU WILL WORRY. You're human and you have a child who literally relies on you for their very life. That's a BIG DEAL. It's normal to worry! But let's make a deal, okay? When you start to worry, call a friend. Preferably a veteran mom-friend who's near the stage you're in so she remembers what it's like, but ahead of you enough that you trust she knows what she's talking about. Listen to her; believe her. You probably won't at first until you start seeing some sort of change in your kid, but try. The goal here is to acknowledge the worry, then let it pass, rather than let it sit, simmer and swell until you can't function. Yes, give it to God, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to talk to someone who's been there, done that and can talk you off the ledge. It's okay to worry, as long as you deal with it.
- If all else fails, just guess and check. Parenting, to me, is just one big game of guess and check. As much as people like to claim it, there's no one-size-fits-all solution and it's hilarious that anyone has ever claimed there is. When your kid is crying for no apparent reason, read the books, do your research, go to the end of the great, big www and back, and then turn to your child, and try something out. Some trick, some time will likely work, but I'm gonna be willing to bet that most of the time, you'll never really know the answer to why your baby was crying. Plus, as parents know all to well, as soon as you have something figured out, your child's going to change and you'll be guessing and checking all over again. But take heart, it's what we're all doing. ALL parents are clueless, and don't let anyone trick you into thinking differently.
- You will always be the one that cares the most and you'll get sick of it. At some point, you'll wish someone else would just make some of the decisions. You won't care what you eat for dinner, what the baby wears to church or how heavy a blanket you bring with you on the walk. You will care about why your baby is crying for hours on end, if they're gaining enough weight, and if they're reaching their milestones on time - but at some point, you just won't want to care so much. You'll want someone else to problem solve, tell you when to call the doctor, and read a parenting-book for you and give you the cliff-notes, but no one else will do it for you. It's okay to get sick of caring - it's a lot of questions, information and decisions coming at you faster than any crash-course in college. Just do the next thing you know, and if you don't know, take a wild guess. That's what the rest of us are doing anyway.
- Don't try to figure out who got your kid sick. Babies get sick, it's a fact of life. Stop talking with your husband about who brought their kid to nursery with a runny nose and gave it to your kid, or who babysat your baby even though they definitely must have known that their child would come down with a rash the next day and infect your precious child before any evidence was apparent. Your kid sucks on shopping carts and eats dirt. You have no idea who it was, and even if you do, someday you'll be that parent who "allowed" your child to infect someone else's kid. Give up the detective work and just know when you have a kid, runny noses are as sure as changing diapers.
- It's okay not to enjoy every moment because this time can go by oh, so slow. Completely the opposite of the usual saying, right? Well, it's true. When people tell you to enjoy every moment, they don't actually mean you have have to enjoy the sleepless nights, the high fevers, the TEETHING, or the crying from shots at well-visits. What they mean is to enjoy the good moments: the first giggle, the arm rolls, those bottom two teeth finally peeking through their gummy smile, the hilarious pumping thighs in the jump-a-roo, the first steps and the first words. Because some of those tough moments feel like 10 million years and they can't go by fast enough - and that's okay to wish them away. No one should have to enjoy their child crying! I promise, as the time passes, you'll find you won't remember those looooong moments that you've wished away - you'll remember those great moments that pass in the blink of eye. You don't have to enjoy every moment - just as long as you take time to soak up the good ones.
Motherhood is awesome. It's truly the best thing you'll ever do, but it's also the hardest. And those first weeks and months with a baby are full of questions and doubts and second-guessing yourself, and that is totally normal. It just shows how good of a mom you are, because you just want to get it right!
You're doing great momma - a whole heck of a lot better then you give yourself credit for. So go on into that nursery and hold that baby - and if they're not currently crying - soak up that moment for everything it's worth. Remember, trust your gut, take wild guesses for what to do next, and remember that you're not alone - none of us know what we're doing, but at least we're all in it together.
**Photo courtesy Melinda Dawn Studios.