Three of my friends are either pregnant or recently had their first babies. 18 months in for me, and they’re looking to me for support and advice. Though I hardly feel like I’m an expert, new moms like to talk, read and connect with other moms regardless of their ”expertise”.
Being a mom is, without a doubt, the hardest thing you will ever do. It will challenge you emotionally, physically and spiritually in ways you didn’t know possible. I don’t want to sound like I am excluding fathers from this but being a mom is different. The relationship your child has with you, will be different then the relationship they have with their father. Not good or bad, just different. Mom is mom and the challenges that face us are different. We will also face challenges united, as a parenting team, but you as a mom will face challenges with your child that the father will never truly understand (reciprocal is also true).
Take Care of Your Emotions
The relationship you form with your child is quick and intense. You grew this baby inside you for nine months. For me, after she was born, there was an awkward adjustment period of getting over the fact that I was no longer pregnant and nurturing this baby inside me. Sure she was now on the outside, which is all I wanted, and I was caring for her, but it took me a week or so of getting over not being pregnant. I can see how easily some women could fall into postpartum depression, for me it was weird and sort of sad. I was not at all prepared for the emotional changes that took place in the first day or so.
I can say without a doubt that breastfeeding helped me keep these emotions in check. I know there are circumstances preventing some women from being able to breastfeed, but if you can, do it. Breastfeeding is a hard skill to master but once you get a hang of it, it is an amazing experience. Once you can relax it becomes almost meditative. Breastfeeding is what helped me bond with my baby and move past the ”I’m no longer pregnant” emotions.
Nurture Your Marriage
Give your spouse attention. Married or not they need attention. The first year or marriage is a cakewalk compared to the first year with your first child. Talk about it all you want but until you become parents you have no idea what the other person will be like as a parent. My husband continues to surprise me and I’ve known him almost 15 years.
My experience is that my husband felt sort of useless the first few months. I was breastfeeding which meant me doing all the feedings and since I was off on maternity leave for the year, I was doing almost all of the child care duties (diapers etc). He was working full-time and supported us in other ways (breaks, even just for a shower, helping with meals, laundry) but not being directly involved with the child duties, especially feeding in a breastfeeding relationship, is tough on dad.
Dad needs reassurance that you’re still his wife. He will see you flourish as a mom but he also needs to be reminded that your his wife too. Don’t let your marriage (or relationship) get put on the back burner when you become a mom. Get a babysitter, even for an hour during a nap and be with each other, without baby. It’s hard at first but you both need it. Trust me.
Roll With The Punches
Before becoming a mom, I would admire all the mothers in my life and think, how do they do it? How do they have all the answers and know so much? I’ve learned very quickly that there’s a lot of rolling with the punches, making it up as you go and most importantly, being in tune with your child.
Only you as parents will really know the exact distinction between cries and understand their non-verbal language. You see a baby crying in a store and all you hear is crying. A mom knows the difference between pain, frustration, overtired or want/need something. This innate skill is what makes parents look so informed.
Being a parent is hard but so rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.