Photo by Andria Lindquist
When I was 25, I became a mother. My son Will was born early one July morning by emergency c-section. He wouldn’t latch and hated breastfeeding, so right away I learned about nipple shields, breast pumps and the agony of spilled milk (yes, I sobbed).
Only one of my friends had a baby back then. It was uncharted territory in my circle of friends – no one could really relate to what I was going through. Everyone else was still in their 20-something fun stage. But I was married, settled and trying to figure out this motherhood thing. Back then, it felt very lonely. But in retrospect, I think it was just new mother nerves.
Here’s what I wish I knew as a first time mom:
It’s Okay If You Don’t Breastfeed … or If You Do.
With Will, I fell into the category of new mothers who didn’t have an easy time with breastfeeding. Will wouldn’t latch, but learned to with a nipple shield. But in the end, I pumped and bottle fed because it worked better for us. And that was okay. We stuck it out as long as we could – about six months. But I felt so guilty when I finally threw in the towel and chose bottle over breast. Looking back, I wish I’d really accepted that either breast or bottle is good – as long as baby is loved and nourished.
Yes, You Will Change.
No matter how hard you try to fight and deny it, motherhood changes you. For me, the biggest change was in the way I looked at my work. Before children, I could easily detach my self from my work – which meant as a journalist I could cover very serious, heartbreaking events focusing on the facts, the events and the truth. I wasn’t personally invested beyond wanting to be sure that my reporting was fair, accurate and did a service to the community. Once I became a mother, I felt things far more deeply – which meant those very serious, heartbreaking events became a lot more personal to me.
Don’t Be Ashamed.
The stretch marks. The breastfeeding. The strange changes to my body and self – plainly put, I was a little ashamed of it all since it was so unfamiliar. Looking back, I wish I could have seen the beauty in pregnancy, new motherhood and more.
The Picture Perfect Ideal Isn’t Real.
If baby’s socks don’t match, it’s okay. If he cries a little, it’s okay. If he has a little stain on his shirt from lunch or needs to be changed in an inconvenient place or needs to see the doctor for something that just doesn’t seem right: it’s okay. That vision of a picture-perfect child who is always impeccably dressed is only for airbrushed magazines. In real life, childhood – and parenting – is messy.
Let go of the waiting.
When Will was a baby, it felt like I was always waiting for something – the perfect time for his baptism, baby pictures, to check out the local library. All that waiting translated to a lot of … nothing. I wish I’d seized the moment more and gotten out with my son to explore our local library and all the other great resources for parents of young kids. The fact is that the only perfect time is the time you decide to go.
Losing It IS a Good Goal.
When I was in my 20s, I took weight loss for granted. When I had my son, most of the weight melted away. What I wish I knew was that it would be fleeting if I didn’t keep at it. Living at a healthy weight requires vigilance and dedication – well beyond the initial loss.
Multifaceted is Fabulous.
When you become a mother, you don’t lose the woman you were. You just adapt a little and change. And that’s okay. Heck. It’s fabulous. Don’t be afraid to embrace the new and old you all together as one great multifaceted you.
The sleepless nights, midnight feedings and difficulty learning your child’s cry language? Want to try your hand at making your own baby food? These things are fleeting. Before you know it, you will be walking your child into their kindergarten classroom. So enjoy every single moment.
You are More Like Your Parents Than You Think.
Look, none of us want to believe we are like our parents. We can list hundreds of ways in which we are different. But in the end, you learn to parent based on how you were parented. Perhaps you will make adjustments and improvements (heck, one would hope you do) but the bottom line is that you are like them and you parent based on what you know.
You Will Make Mistakes.
I sobbed the first time I cut my son’s nails – because I accidentally nicked his delicate skin. It was a mistake, but I felt like the worst, most incompetent mother ever. I wish I knew back then that mistakes like that are bound to happen. You just have to learn and grow from them. And in the end, don’t sweat the small stuff.
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