My baby is fourteen months. That means I’m two months late publishing this post. So without further ado, the most important lessons I learned during my first year (plus two months) of motherhood, not ranked in order of importance. Feel free to pass this along to expecting or new parents – this info right here is priceless.
1) Your conversations will mainly revolve around poop. Deal with it. While in Hawaii, my dad asked me what I had found most surprising about being a parent. My response? ”How much I talk about poop.” It’s gross, but it’s true. When I was pregnant, I went out for coffee with a few other moms and the entire conversation was dominated by talk of poop and nursing. How cliché! I vowed I was not going to be one of those moms that could only converse about a baby’s bodily functions and breastfeeding. Then I had the baby, and realized that all moms are those moms. It is unavoidable. Because that is what your life primarily revolves around, at least for the first six months or so. Hubby comes home from work: ”Hey hon, the baby had four massive poops today!” Go to play group: “Hey ladies, how do you handled your child’s constipation?” To the flight attendant on your cross-country flight: “I’m sorry, but I have to ignore the fasten seat-belt sign. My daughter just pooped up her back.” The babes poop. All. The. Time. And since a baby’s bowel movement is a major indicator of his or her health, it’s kind of important to pay attention to. So no matter how uncomfortable you are talking the potty talk, get over it.
2) Celebrities aren’t lying when they say they lost their baby weight by breastfeeding. I always assumed when I saw someone like Heidi Klum modeling lingerie like, three weeks after giving birth, and then credited her weight loss to breastfeeding that she was a) lying through her perfect white teeth to seem more relatable or something and b) had a personal trainer and chef to whip her back into shape mucho fast. BUT SHE’ WASN’T LYING. I mean, not completely. She probably did have a personal trainer and chef and a magical tailor that designs all of her clothes to make her look 10 lbs lighter, but still, breastfeeding is the bomb. Nursing burns tons of calories. Besides pooping, babies eat. All. The. Time. So if you’re nursing, it’s basically like you’re exercising all day. But while eating whatever you want and watching TV. Awesome, right?
3) Babies make you tardy. I used to be a very punctual person; tardiness was – and is – a major pet peeve of mine. Yet no matter how much time I allot myself to get out the door, I am constantly running five minutes late. I’ll have the baby dressed, diaper bag on my shoulder, keys in hand – and Elisabeth will poop through clothes. (See! Everything is about poop!) Or I’ll get the car loaded and Elisabeth strapped into her car seat and then realize I am wearing slippers. I don’t want to admit how many times this has happened. (See #9). And obviously I can’t get a blog posted in a timely manner. Not quite the same thing as missing a train because I can’t carry a stroller and 20-lb munchkin up to a flight of stairs to the platform in time, but late is late. Sheesh.
4) Babies and Cashmere don’t mix. You may think this is fairly obvious. But at some point you’re going to think, Today I want to wear something other than yoga pants and a ratty tee. So you’ll chance it and throw on something pretty and soft and think, Baby won’t throw up on this gorgeous thing. She just won’t. She will. All over it. I have to tell you from personal experience that spit up on cashmere is particularly rancid. And that trying to wipe off the spit up from the cashmere with water makes the odor unbearable. Just throw the shirt out. Or better yet, don’t be stupid enough to wear cashmere around the baby in the first place. Seriously people, learn from my mistakes.
5) Don’t feel guilty about traveling with a child. I still get extremely anxious flying with Elisabeth, especially now that she’s entering toddler-hood. But you know what, if your kid cries on the airplane, yes it will totally suck and your fellow travelers may hate you, but it is only temporary. The flight will end. You will never see those travelers again. You may have read about the parents that made little goody bags for the passengers seated near them when they traveled with their babies. (I think it was twins, but I could be wrong.) People just loved this idea. I call BS. If I had to make freaking goody bags for all the passengers seated near me on all the flights I take, I would go broke. Just remember, all those people were snotty, crying kids once. And who knows? They might snore or smell bad or be rude to the flight attendants, so they probably aren’t perfect traveling companions either. I’m not advocating that you let your child wail and kick and be a little monster on an airplane. Obviously, you should do what you can to placate your baby and not annoy the people traveling with you. But sometimes babies cry. Their ears hurt. They are over-tired and there is too much stimulation. They are in a new, strange environment. Don’t feel guilty because you need to travel, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking an airplane.
6) Your baby will fall off of the bed. Or a chair. Or some other high object that you generally don’t want babies falling from. Elisabeth fell off a chair once and a bed twice. The chair was Damon’s fault. The bed was my fault. The second bed was a freak accident. She’s fine. She was fine almost immediately after falling. And so far she hasn’t exhibited any signs of permanent brain damage! Point is, don’t beat yourself up about it when it inevitably happens to your baby.
7) Don’t feed your baby a hard-boiled egg the day you have your home professionally cleaned. Or ever. Again, I beseech you, learn from my mistakes. I thought hard-boiled eggs would be a great meal or snack for little Elisabeth. They are easy to make and a great source of protein. But they are the messiest thing ever. I don’t know how this happened, but I was finding bits of yolk all over my house. For days! That ish got everywhere. I can handle broccoli thrown on the floor at dinnertime; I’m not a big fan of finding old egg in the toy bin.
8) Babies are fickle creatures. When Elisabeth was younger, she loved being on the changing table. Changing her diaper was a breeze. She also loved baths. She also ate anything. Tofu and spinach? Sure! I naively thought she would stay that way. But one day, out of nowhere, changing her diaper became a contact sport. I could not keep that girl still on the changing table to save my life. Suddenly she hated baths. One night, she was happy as a clam, the next night, she screamed bloody murder when I put her in the tub. Like the water was stabbing her. Recently my champion eater decided that she only wants refined carbs and now will methodically pick out all the veggies from her plate and throw them on the ground. What the heck? How do they love something one day and hate it the next? I don’t know. But now I know not to expect them to stay one way for long. They like to keep us on our toes.
9) Those brain cells you mysteriously lose while pregnant and caring for a baby will regenerate eventually. Actually I have no idea if this is true. I just pray it is because sometimes I’m such a forgetful hot mess it’s embarrassing. I’m still holding out hope that my brain will function on level “intelligent” sometime in the near future.
10) Books lie! Their are about a bazillion and one books on how to take care of your baby. I read almost all of them. And I tried to follow their methods. And I failed. The one that told me to get my daughter sleeping through the night by 8 weeks – lied! She was not sleeping through the night by 8 weeks because no matter how I tried to follow the book’s suggested schedule, I just could not keep my infant awake after she nursed. Elisabeth was determined to sleep, so sleep she did, book be damned. The book that told me all it would take to calm my crying child was to swaddle her and give her a pacifier – lied! Sure, sometimes that would work. But every time? Yeah, right. I could go on, but I won’t. There are so many “experts” out there all championing different things – they can’t all be right. Ultimately, I figure you have to do what works for you and your baby (barring anything harmful or illegal) to keep you sane and your baby happy.
11) If possible, don’t have your baby during the holidays. Planning a birthday party around Thanksgiving or Christmas is far too stressful. And at some point the kid will feel gypped that their big day gets overshadowed by a national holiday.
12) Throw expectations out the window. Before Elisabeth was born, I had so many expectations of what kind of baby she would be and what kind of mom I would be, none of which came true. I somehow thought that my baby would never have an explosive diaper in an inconvenient location (Again with the poop! I can’t stop!), that she would be a good sleeper because I willed it so, that I would be one of those women that looked put together no matter how little sleep I had gotten. Pshaw. Like I can control when and where Elisabeth poops. Or anything else for that matter. Sometimes life just gets in the way and things don’t go as planned. You want some more examples? Behold:
I was going to eat a totally healthy, mostly organic diet when I was nursing. But then we lived in an out of hotels for months and Thai takeout and pizza delivery became staples of our diet. Asking the pizza man, “Is your pepperoni organic?” just felt weird.
I was going to start teaching Elisabeth baby sign language at five months old. But as of around 11 months, the farthest I had got in the Baby Signs book was to the page that recommended beginning at five months.
I was going to keep Elisabeth on a strict routine once we got settled in Japan. But then I realized that meant I would pretty much have to stay at home all day, every day to accommodate her three-naps-a-day schedule. I am very grateful to be able to stay home with my daughter, but I don’t actually want to stay in my home all day, every day. So Elisabeth has learned to be flexible, and I have stayed sane. (See #10)
I was going to be a creative mom who makes up fun sensory activities to aid my child’s development or whatever. But then I tried, and it was a disaster. It’s just not me. I’ll save the story of my finger-painting failure for another day.
And so on and so on. I didn’t do a lot of things I thought I would. But I did do a lot of things I didn’t think I would do! And Elisabeth seems pretty happy and well-adjusted. And brilliant. So I must be doing something right. I now know it is impossible to predict how your baby will behave, and how you – a newbie parent with no previous experience – will react to that behavior. I’m guessing my next kid will act completely differently than Elisabeth, forcing me to relearn everything over again.
13) Sleep is overrated. Heh. I’m lying. Sleep is sooooo underrated. You’ll understand when you’re not getting any.
Your turn! What unexpected lessons did you learn your first year as a parent? Please share!Read More