13 HONEST THINGS I WANT TO TELL NEW MOMS
When new moms-to-be learn that I am a mother of 6, they inevitably ask me if I have any tips or advice for them. In my head, I answer, "YES! LOTS!" But rather than share what I really think may be helpful, I chicken out. I just smile, congratulate them and ask the universally scripted questions and give the always-given answers about pregnancy, genders, and nursery decor. My justification for chickening out is that I don't know if they are truly sincere about wanting advice or are they simply wanting to have a light conversation about their impending joyful event. The truth is, 20+ years into my marriage and 6 kids on, I have a lot to share but I don't know how to go about it so I'm writing this post. If you are pregnant for the first time or recently joined the motherhood journey, this is for you, sweet mama.
1. TAKE THE EPIDURAL. Technically, this would be sound advice for a new 'mom-to-be' and apply to a hospital delivery, if that's your plan. "Take the epidural." Those wereDr. Mom's very first words when I dropped by the hospital to visit her and her sweet new baby boy. Our due dates were three weeks apart and throughout our pregnancies we shared, in great detail, everything about birthing that we could divine from the countless parenting books we poured over. In the end, we both opted for the epidural and we've never regretted it. As a mother of six, after baby #1, I went into the delivery room a little wiser, a little busier, and a whole lot more tired. Are my babies at home doing okay with the sitter? Did I leave good instructions? What important things did I forget to do in my sleep deprived, mom-brain state? Did I pack my newborn's going-home outfit and the car seat? Oh no, I forgot to fold the laundry! I haven't had a good night's sleep in months... The epidural allowed me to rest, relax, and reset for the big game coming up in the labor and delivery room and was invaluable in my birthing experience and recovery. Trust me, it still hurts and you get the full birthing experience in spades, from the contractions, birthing, and to the recovery. In addition, my babies came into the world healthy and were not negatively impacted by the epidural. Ain't no shame in your birthing game whichever way you get that baby out, mama. The birthing books suggested scented candles, lotions and oils, light reading materials, a journal, easy-listening playlist, dry crackers, and a birthing ball as essentials for the big day. I prescribed to this and stuffed many of those items in my first hospital "go-bag". I used none of them. Just sayin...
2. YOU NEED MORE SLEEP. No amount of pre-baby prep, research or rest can prepare a new mom for the insanely small amount of sleep she is going to have to survive on for the next 6 to 18 months. You know you're tired and should nap but there's a hundred more important things that need your attention when the baby's asleep. Sorry, but no. Make sleep a priority on your to-do list and watch everything else fall into place a whole lot faster and with more ease. I often hear people say, "get rested up now because once the baby arrives..." That is useless advice because sleep, like food, is something you need daily. It's not like we could stockpile hours of sleep today and use those extra hours months from now. The chronic lack of sleep is going to hurt, and make you feel out of sorts. Symptoms of chronic lack of sleep include: forgetfulness, poor judgment, exhaustion, chronic crankiness, depression, impatience, and over-eating, to name a few. The negative effects that stem from chronic lack of sleep will create a multitude of problems in your marriage, self-image, work, and even caring for your precious new little one. However, good sleep has the potential to solve or avoid many of those problems and create greater levels of happiness and productivity within yourself and your home. Try to catch a nap when the baby naps. And when your husband is spending time with the baby, drop that full laundry basket like a bad habit and take a nap, instead. And if possible, when a friend or relative drops by to help, actually let them help while you take a nap - don't play hostess or attempt to be superwoman. There is time for all of that later, girlfriend. Sleep - it's one of the very best activities you can do as a new mom.
3. IT'S OK TO SUPPLEMENT. Breast milk, formula, breast/bottle, or a combination are all excellent ways to feed a baby. Too often, we moms shame one another or even punish ourselves(!) for the choices we make on how we feed and nourish our babies. I was a bottle fed baby and I turned out kinda amazing and so did countless other adults walking around on the planet. The same can be said for people who were breastfed. Formula is not fast food or arsenic in a can, so get a grip and stop shaming other moms (or yourself) for trying to feed their babies. Let's not find reasons to divide this sacred sisterhood of ours but rather celebrate the worthy work we are all doing as mothers by feeding our babies to the best of our abilities with a common goal - to grow our babies into healthy, vibrant, happy little humans.
4. LOSE THE WEIGHT. As a mom of 6, I don't say those three words flippantly. I am not advocating self-unaccpetance or trying to put pressure on a new mom to attain impossible standards. You don't have to drop the 25 or 90 pounds in the first three months but have a plan and set small doable goals to gradually move towards freedom from the excess weight and obtain a fit and healthy you. I am going to be very honest here - people will tell you that you look great (and new moms always do so they are absolutely right) but once the months pass and the glow of new motherhood fades, if you don't drop those pounds, you are going to feel bad about yourself and a day will come when you wonder, "what happened to me?" When that day comes, have a good answer for yourself: "self-care is not a selfish pursuit nor a frivolous one. It is worthy and so is your health." The hard journey back to a lighter, fitter, healthier version of yourself helps to erase sluggishness, low self-esteem, and other negative effects perpetuated by keeping the extra pounds. Just remember, it's called "baby weight", not "forever weight." There's no reason to carry all that around and feel bad about yourself. Pro Mom Tip: when my little ones were around 6 months old, I would strap them onto my back, and walk (gently, of course) on the treadmill while my older kids did schoolwork or played in the yard. Sometimes we'd go for walks as a family but that took more work and scheduling on my part and that didn't fit in well with our daily lessons. The treadmill was convenient and I could do it most days. Planks, push-ups and leg-lifts take only minutes but are very effective and you don't have to spend time out of your busy schedule changing into and out of workout clothes.
5. BREASTFEEDING HURTS. It does, girlfriend. I have read countless articles by professionals that say breastfeeding NEVER HURTS if you do it right. Take it from a homeschooling mom of 6 and her many girlfriends who nursed their babies - breastfeeding in the beginning stages hurts. The first few days, no pain. But once your baby gets stronger and you nurse more frequently and for longer periods, you will run into the "ow factor". The good news is that it's only for a short time and there are simple and easy things you can do to minimize the pain and discomfort. A good latch (a wide open mouth like a suction around the areola instead of pursed lips clamped onto the base of the nipple - if your baby is attached onto the nipple like it's a straw, then that's gonna hurt badly and reap poor feeding results so gently break the suction with your finger and try again for a wider mouth opening. Think "chug", not "sip".) Also, there are many creams and ointments available for new nursing moms. You won't need them for the entire time that you nurse your baby, only in the beginning until your breasts adjust. After a short transition period, you'll ease into a beautiful nursing experience with your little one. Sometimes, a baby has a physical impediment in their mouth that may prevent proper nursing - check with your pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant if your baby seems to be struggling to latch naturally.
6. STOP CRITICIZING DAD. He's not your assistant or an employee. It's not his job to hit parenting goals and meet parental performance standards set by you. He's going to do things very differently, not necessarily 'worse' than you or 'inferior' to your ways. Just 'different'. He's dad. Let him Dad. Let him do his awesome dad thing. Be generous with your gratitude and compliments when he's doing great in his new parenting role and be very frugal with the criticism. Take a deep breath, sister, and bite that sharp tongue and use it sparingly when criticizing the love of your life. He's probably doing better than you think he is - let him keep going. Don't harsh on his dad flow.
7. YOU REALLY DON'T NEED ALL THAT STUFF IN YOUR DIAPER BAG. Here's a general rule to follow when packing for a typical day out: *If your diaper bag weighs more than your baby, it's time to re-assess the essentials* When Baby #2 arrived, I admittedly panicked at the prospect of being a mother of 2. I felt that I had not quite gotten the hang of one baby and now I was in charge of 2... my overly compensated diaper bag reflected my anxieties as I packed less for a day at the park and more for a total catastrophic zombie apocalypse. Less is more when it comes to packing your diaper bag. Pro Mom Tip: get the travel size everything; toss the wet bag (unless you're actually going somewhere "wet" - unless you like to have an extra thing to have to wash, dry, and have to remember to place back into the diaper bag, later... too many steps) and instead, use large ziplock baggies or recycle plastic shopping bags - "toss it" and "forget it"; limit the toys (too much bulk) and pack a lip gloss for yourself that stays in the bag at all times (you are still a hottie, after all.)
Pro Mom Tip: I use these bag organizers for my diaper bags as well as my regular bags to keep organized. Click this affiliate link to amazon if you want to learn more.
8. YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE ARE GOING TO FIGHT MORE. It's going to happen so just remember to fight fair. Keep your words clean, and don't hit below the belt by saying or doing something you can't take back when all the dust settles. When a baby enters a relationship for the very first time, he's not the only one who has to grow up. Mom and dad are going to be forced to grow, stretch, and learn to forgive all sorts of new stuff that never came up before the arrival of a precious little one. The couples with a faster learning curve will stay together longer and share greater joy and prosperity within their family.
9. BABIES AREN'T GALLONS OF MILK, THEY DON'T SPOIL - LOVE THEM HARD. You can never love on a baby "too much" but sadly, it's possible to love on them too little. If anyone tells you not to spoil your baby, smile, and tell them to back the hella up while you love on your baby.
10. BABIES ARE SIMPLE. MOTHERHOOD IS NOT. Before I had babies and kids of my own, I loved everyone else's little ones with ease. It was so effortlessly fun and easy to love on them and play with them and see their quirks as adorable. Then, I had my first baby and things became complicated as I took my place in the motherhood journey. I instantly felt a vulnerability and huge responsibility as a new mom in charge of protecting and raising my own child. I would often overthink every decision and plan until it all became unfun and purely exercises in efficiency and safety. Don't complicate things or second guess all your moves because there are many excellent ways to be a good mom and you're probably making many good choices every single day for your baby. Overthink less and enjoy yourself more.
11. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A FAILURE. All the good moms do. Keep going, mama. You are doing amazing and your fails yesterday have no place in your mom game today. Keep a clear head and remember that if you learn from your failures, they will contribute towards your successes. Don't beat yourself up over it - take away something valuable that you can pass along to your future self, like, tomorrow.
12. SEX WILL TAKE EFFORT. Easing back into the swing of things in the sex department will take time for a new mom as you heal and recover physically. That's totally normal. But also, juggling many new responsibilities such as breastfeeding, caring for your new baby, significant sleep loss, and returning to work as a working mom, can be overwhelming mentally and emotionally and kinda suck the fun out of sex for a while. Don't worry, once you start getting better sleep and start feeling more like yourself, everything gets easier and familiar again, including sex.
13. WELCOME TO THE SISTERHOOD. If you haven't heard it yet today, let me be the first to say it, "Welcome to the sisterhood. You are doing amazing and your little one is lucky to have you for a mom. Keep swimming and thanks for taking precious time out of your day to read this. I hope it helps you."