When I was pregnant with my first baby I had so many questions. From when I was going to start to show or start feeling the baby kick, to what I was supposed to eat or what exercises I should do. I tried to plan and prepare for the arrival of my baby, but everything I read or the advice I was given all went out the window when I brought my little human being home for the first time.
With several best girlfriends of mine now pregnant, they’ve been asking me for advice. Despite offering minor tips, I know that everything I suggest won’t be used, and that they too will be as clueless as I was as they first embark on their new journeys as moms. Once that little human being arrives—no matter how prepared they think they are—only then will they understand what I’m talking about.
I’m so excited for them to become moms. It’s almost like a right of passage. Now they’ll know why sometimes I can’t attend events or why I seem to have lost my mind or why I’m always tired or why I spend my Friday nights at a princess party instead of going out for drinks. They have no idea how their lives are about to change, so I wrote down these tips for them—and for every mama-to-be—to let each of you know know that this is going to be the most amazing experience of your lives.
I am so excited for you to become a mother. There is nothing like it: from the moment that baby arrives and you hold him or her in your arms, your life will change forever. Having experienced the birth of three children, I feel that I can now give some words of wisdom. The second and third children are absolutely amazing and probably more enjoyable simply because you have some experience and aren’t as nervous—but there is nothing in the world like that which you’ll experience with your first child.
I wish I could relive those first days, weeks and months again after I brought my first baby girl home. You’ll be running on pure adrenaline, excitement, joy and pride. You’re going to make many mistakes—believe me, everyone does. You’ll smile a lot (at your precious baby), cry more than you ever have in your life (those hormones are still raging), and experience what it is to love something so much it hurts (even if you think you have experienced this already, believe me, you haven’t).
Some of the things below might sound really scary, but I survived—and you will too. Babies don’t come with instructions and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to raising a child. I want to share my experience with you so that while you are going through some similar things you know that it is all very normal. Here are my nine pieces of new mommyhood advice.
The first night you bring your baby home is extremely scary—but it gets better, I promise.
My husband and I were tremendously shell shocked: We both thought, “What the heck did we do,” even without saying a word to each other. I look back at pictures of that first night and you can see the terror in our faces.
We both slept on the couch with the baby in the rock-n-play and I literally stared at her all night, checked that she was breathing 5,000 times—no, seriously—and breastfed her every hour. It took her an hour to eat so I think I just really fed her all night! However, you’ll start to get to know your baby as your baby gets to know you. You’ll learn what their cries mean and you’ll get on a routine. Everyday gets easier and soon you will be a pro at this mom thing.
It’s okay if you call the pediatrician—even at 4 a.m.—if you have a question.
That’s what they’re there for. They take turns being on call and they know new parents have a lot of questions. In that first week I embarrassingly admit to calling our pediatrician at 4 a.m. because my daughter’s poop wasn’t looking like the chart of what it should look like—that they gave me, of course. I know, as a second time mom that sounds absurd, but I did it.
I literally looked at my daughter’s poop and discussed it with my husband for about two hours before I finally called. The doctor said it was fine and that was all I needed. Sounds ridiculous? I know, but if you find yourself stressing about a sniffle, cough, cry or poop color (OMG can’t even believe I did that), just call already!
Accept help from others.
If someone says they’ll watch the baby so you can sleep or they’ll make dinner for you, say yes. And if no one asks, ask them! Don’t try to be superwoman. In other countries, some moms have generous maternity leave—sometimes months—after baby is born. In the United States, we are unfortunately lacking when it comes to reasonable maternity and parental leave and are expected to get back to our normal routines fairly quickly.
I tried to be superwoman postpartum until I started having unusual bleeding and my doctor told me to take it easy. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized having a baby is serious. If your house is dirty and the dishes aren’t washed, people who may come to visit will understand that you just had a baby. You and your baby are your first priorities.
Make time for you.
Don’t feel guilty about it. In those first few weeks you will be attached to the baby, sometimes literally if you are breastfeeding. Give yourself at least 30 minutes a day to have some alone time. Take a walk, get a manicure or watch TV—whatever you love to do, do it. Your partner or family can watch the baby. While you want to spend every second with your baby, taking a break is healthy and necessary.
Make friends with other new moms.
This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you. I went to the new moms’ group at my local hospital when my baby was two weeks old. It gave me a reason to leave the house and I was surrounded by other new moms who shared my same concerns and questions. The staff that ran the group let moms ask their questions, while other moms who had experienced the same things could offer advice. It was amazing.
I met an incredible group of women who had children two to three months older or younger than my baby and we became so close. They were my biggest support system as we were went through the same thing at the same time: They understood sleep deprivation, hormone and everything else us new mom were going through together. They even helped me through meltdowns.
I am still friends with a lot of them and we share such a special bond because we saw each other at our worst. Whether you see a new mom on the street, at the park or at a moms’ group, don’t be afraid to approach her. She is going through the same thing and will probably be grateful to connect with another new mom.
Mom meltdowns are normal.
About those meltdowns I mentioned—I had them weekly in the beginning, and, to be honest, I still have them every now and then. Your hormones are still going crazy and having a new baby is stressful. Anything can set you off. Take a deep breath, talk to your husband, talk to your family or talk to your new mommy friends. You will get back to feeling normal—it just takes time. Being a mom can be overwhelming at times.
If you think it’s more serious where you feel depressed or you feel really off, contact your doctor immediately as it may be something more serious, like postpartum depression.
Don’t be afraid to laugh!
As my husband always tells me, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Sometimes I get into Mommy Mode and I get upset when something doesn’t go as planned. When things go completely wrong, laugh—and laugh often: laugh at yourself, laugh at your husband. It feels good and it will make you a better person.
As hard as it can be, don’t compare yourself to others.
Don’t compare yourself to other moms and don’t compare your baby to other babies. Remember everyone is different. If you see a new mom who looks like she never had a baby and you haven’t lost any of your pregnancy weight, don’t compare yourself. If someone tells you her baby sits up, rolls over and sleeps through the night at two months—yes, be prepared to meet those bragging moms—and your baby doesn’t yet, don’t compare. I remember I was so stressed when everyone’s babies started walking at 10-12 months and my daughter didn’t walk until almost 15 months. She was completely fine—she was just going at her own pace. Everything about motherhood and raising kids goes at its own pace, so stop comparing.
Savor every moment.
It goes so fast. I’m sure you hear it all the time about how fast it goes, but when you have children, time really does seem to go faster. It’s truly remarkable how much your baby will change over the first year. Hold your baby as much as you want. Who cares if you spoil them, hold them or hug them too much? That’s what parents are supposed to do! Your babies are only this small and precious for a few months. Soon enough they will be crawling, walking, talking and going off to school and you won’t be able to hold them for hours on end, or even sneak in those extra snuggles. So stop cleaning, comparing, or doing whatever you are doing and just enjoy and be in the moment with your baby.
Good luck! I know you’re going to be an amazing mom—and that little baby is about to be the luckiest baby in the world.