There’s a reason that the cliché phrase “hindsight is 20/20” is so often quoted: it’s an experience that is nearly universal.
And especially as a parent, there are so many times I look back and think, “Wow. I would have done that differently.”
I’m now a mom of three, and while I know I still have much to learn, I have already learned so much in the last six years! I look back at the brand-new mom version of me and wish I could fill that tired mama in on a few things.
While there are so many things I would tell myself as a new mom (or any other new mom, for that matter!), here are just a few.
My firstborn was the kind of baby that nursed every 2 hours, on the hour. She absolutely would not sleep alone in her crib. Being held was her most favorite thing in the world, so as you can imagine, I spent a lot of time sitting. Often I was running on very little sleep, as new parents often do, and in order to stay awake I would pull out my phone and read.
The internet can be a dangerous and wonderful place, full of good as well as misguided advice. There are often a million ways to do things and a billion varying opinions, but the best way to make your path through all the noise and shiny things is to trust yourself.
Listen to your gut, your intuition.
Mother’s intuition is well-known for a reason. Lean less on the internet village and its myriad of opinions and rely more on what feels right for your baby.
What works for Mom A, B, C and E may not for you. It’s ok.
Get out of the house more.
When you’re first learning how to parent, going anywhere can feel like a huge ordeal. Besides learning how to care for a little human, you have to learn to navigate car seats, diapers, mealtimes, nap times, etc., etc.
But babies can be so flexible. And one is so easy so take everywhere and keep entertained. Don’t let having a baby make you feel like you can’t go anywhere anymore.
The more you get out and go, the easier it will get, and it will help with those feelings of isolation and loneliness that often crowd in on those first few months.
Learn how to set boundaries (it will change your life).
I know that as a recovering people-pleaser, boundaries can feel hard. I’m always worried about how other people feel. However, once you are given permission to set boundaries, things change. You will realize that boundaries are not just for your benefit, but also for your baby’s benefit.
Having a baby as an excuse for setting boundaries is a great way to practice setting them. As you gain confidence and reap the benefits, you won’t have to use the baby as a reason anymore.
I know, I know, everyone hates the “nap when the baby naps” advice. But there’s a reason it’s given. Now, as a mom of three kids, I look back and mourn the naps I passed up on.
So from future me to past me: the dishes can wait, the laundry can wait (at least for an hour), go lay down and nap while that baby naps. Especially since she won’t nap anywhere but your arms anyways.
Do what works for you.
Opinions are like…well, you know the quote. And guess what: babies are as different as adults! So what worked for Mama A may not work for you. What worked for Mama D’s baby may make your baby extremely mad.
Figure out what works for you and your baby, and do that. If it works for someone else but stresses you out, don’t do it. If it sort of works for you but is just a pain in the rear, don’t do it (unless you absolutely want to!)
Whether it’s sleeping arrangements, feeding arrangements or even diapering arrangements, you have to do you, boo. Being a new mom is hard enough without torturing yourself.
It gets easier and harder.
Going places will become easier in the sense that you no longer have to make sure your diaper bag is packed and you have feeding sorted out. It will also become harder because you will have to make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom recently and everybody has to be buckled in and then out of their car seat. You will suddenly miss the infant car seat that you used to lug everywhere and bang into your shin and hip, because it was so convenient to snap into and out of the car.
You get more comfortable in some ways and more at a loss in other ways.
Your baby grows and sleeps more, and that sweet little cherub develops an attitude. Instead of teaching them their colors and shapes and the names of things, you’ll be answering hard questions about death and love and God. Changing diapers will fade away and while you’ll still be wiping butts, it will be from a different angle.
You got this, mama.
Time marches on and you will get the hang of things. Even the hardest days will seem like a distant memory when you’re a year down the road. Heck, you may not even remember them at all. You will rise to the challenge and rock this motherhood thing. That baby and her sisters will flesh out your family in ways you never imagined, and it will be worth all the sleepless nights.
Hang in there, mama. You got this.