So I’ve officially been a Mom for a month. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. On the other hand I’m *starting* to feel like I might be getting some small understanding of what I’m supposed to be doing. Some days are better than others. Other days are…let’s just say not good and leave it at that. Still, I don’t feel as though I’m lost in the fog anymore, and that’s definitely an improvement.
I figure every month I’ll have at least 10 things I’ve learned from being a parent to my daughter. I could be wrong, and will change this bit at a later date. But, for now, here’s my list of ten for month 1.
1. Plans are Made to be Broken
Seriously, I had so many plans before Chloé was born. She was never going to have formula. She was going to nap in her crib during the day so that it would be easier to transition her there after we moved her out of the pack ‘n’ play in our room. I’d sleep every time she did. None of that happened. I mean, sure, as a guideline my plans are/were fine, they just all didn’t make sense in the actual practice. You know why I don’t sleep every time Chloé does? Because I like to eat food. And not have a completely filthy house. Oh, and sometimes it’s nice to actually do my hair and makeup. So, yeah, I sleep when she sleeps…just not every time. I’ve talked about the formula issue already. And naps happen in her bouncer more than anywhere else, but I’ll get to that next. Honestly, to all the A-Type/OCD/Planners out there: There is nothing wrong with having a game plan, you just really have to be ready to throw it out with the bathwater. (But not the baby. Baby does not get thrown out with the bathwater.)
2. Put the Baby Down
I don’t think Chloé was out of someone’s arms for the first two days of her life. She was just so cute and little and OH MY GOD CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE THIS BABY SO I CAN PEE?!?! Yeah, it was notsogreat. As I mentioned before, Chloé sleeps in the newborn napper of our Pack ‘n’ Play in our bedroom at night. During her first few days she slept, you guessed it, in someone’s arms. That’s exhausting on so many levels. If I was in the bedroom, or across the hall in the bathroom (with the door open) I felt okay putting her down in the napper, but in the living room or kitchen? I just wasn’t confident about the whole situation. I almost felt like I needed a whole other Pack ‘n’ Play for the living room. When my Mom flew up at about two-weeks post birth, she brought up the bouncer she got for us. And halleluiah, it was a game changer. I get to sometimes eat dinner with (as opposed to taking turns with) MFH because of that thing. While I’m by myself, I get to eat outside of the bedroom because she sleeps in the bouncer. It’s marvelous.
3. Breastfeeding Sucks
I talked about this in my last post, but I’ve found there’s even more. I think it’s really important to say my peace, to talk about how breastfeeding isn’t all magic and roses. Personally, I find that it often sucks. Oversupply has me dripping milk on my feet in the mornings. I have a ton of t-shirts and bras covered in breast milk (even when using pads). I feel like a cow a lot of the time. Chloé basically ignores me while I’m feeding her, unless it’s to claw at my boobs or bite me to slow down the flow of milk. I gave her a bottle of breast milk the other day; just to get her aware that it exists and so we don’t have huge fights over bottles in the future. It was amazing, she kept eye contact with me the entire time. Oh, and don’t believe the people that tell you breastfed babies poo doesn’t have a smell. It does. It may not be as bad as formula or solid food poops, but is not something you want to leave around the house either. I often know Chloé needs a change because of the smell alone. I don’t think breastfeeding is the most amazing experience of my life. It’s fine, and I’ll continue to do it, but at some point I’m going to shift to exclusively pumping and feeding with a bottle. It may be 6-months, or when Chloé gets teeth, or starts talking, but it’s going to happen. And I’m 100% okay with that. For all the mothers who’s lives have been wonderfully altered by breastfeeding, I salute you with all sincerity. But for all the one’s out there who fight every day to feed their little ones, I get it.
3. Taking Help was Amazeballs
I am one of the most independent people you’ll ever meet without sliding over into agoraphobia. I have no real issue with being alone and, on occasion, even seek out time alone. My mother swares that when I first went to preschool/daycare, while all the other kids were screaming and clinging to their parents’ legs, I basically waved and went on my way inside. So I really wondered about having people come over all day and help out. Yeah, I was crazy. It was so helpful. Either they could do housework or I could. They could watch Clo while I slept. Or even just offer me the option of a break. Maybe I just got lucky and have amazingly considerate/helpful family and friends. Still, I’d recommend taking help that’s offered, even if you’re unsure of actually wanting/needing it.
4. Babies are Cute for a Reason
They are so adorable so that when you are exhausted, starving, crying your eyes out, and dirtier than you’ve ever been (or maybe ever been since 24 hour parties at University), you don’t do something terrible to your little one. Long before I was pregnant, I read this article from Pregnant Chicken. I recommend you all read it. It prepared me for the feelings of helpless irritation that comes with a screaming person who can’t articulate her needs. I think, though, my midwife put it best: They’re cute so you don’t throw them off the balcony.
4. Try to Stick to Your Normal
I read a lot of blogs/articles about how just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you can’t shower and put real clothes on everyday. This benchmark of parenting success sort of confused me; because I don’t shower every day unless I’ve been doing something to make me sweaty, and no one in my house gets out of pajamas unless we’re going out in public. So, yeah, doing those things would not be normal for me without a baby. I certainly won’t be doing it with one. But I do straighten my hair and put on makeup when I’m doing more than grocery shopping. I get out of the house about as much as I did before, if not for as lengthy periods. I eat real food and love on my husband and watch new releases. It’s not everyone’s normal, but it’s mine. It helps me remember that I’m still me, just with more. Everyone needs that, I think.
5. Schedules Help Keep Sanity
It’s early days yet, but I see no reason why setting up a basic outline of Chloé’s day is a bad thing. And it seems to be “working.” Sort of. Clo’s more alert during the day between feeds. At night, she gets back to sleep relatively faster. Generally we try to move into the bedroom by 8pm. Low lighting and voices. When she wakes up at night, things go like this: Pick up, Change diaper, Move to living room, Feed, Re-swaddle, Hold until sufficiently drowsy, and back to sleep. On really good nights, I get up to 4 and a half hours until she wakes up again. On bad nights it can be as little as 45 mins. Generally, though, it’s about 2 hours to 3 and a half hours. During the day, we do things differently. The first four moves remain the same, but then we chat. (Or I chat at her.) We move around the living room and kitchen, and I chatter and/or sing. I wash her and/or apply lotion as needed. We spend awake time together. When she dozes off, I put her in her bouncer and go about my day. Having said all that…
5. Remember that thing about plans?
Just because we have a semi-set routine doesn’t mean we’re awesomesauce all day, every day. Sometimes a day is bad. Sometimes a night is. Sometimes a whole 24 hours passes before I feel like I’ve got my mind back again. Sometimes it’s my fault. MFH comes home late from work and I want to spend time with him, so I don’t move Clo to the bedroom until 9:30…which sets off a chain reaction of horrible. Sometimes Clo’s just not feeling it, for whatever reason. So, schedules are good, but remembering that they need a lot of wiggle room is equally important.
6. This Too Shall Pass
The thing about bad days/nights/whatever is that they don’t last forever. (I suppose the same could be said about the good days/nights/whatever, but let’s stay positive, shall we?) One night of a total of 4 hours often seems to be followed by a night with a total of 8 hours. A day of fussiness is followed by a night of calm. I’m told that every month gets better/easier, and also comes with a new set of challenges. So far, so good.
7. Sometimes…It’s Boring
Newborns aren’t really all that interesting. I mean, they don’t really have personalities yet. They aren’t all that reactive. I talk to Clo (and talk as Clo) mostly to entertain myself. I’m really looking forward to actually making her laugh, as opposed to her just randomly laughing. I say that to people and they warn me not to rush things. I get that as well. She’s only going to be this tiny for a short time. I do enjoy it, I’m just also often really bored.
8. Body Changes
There are some things about my body that will never be the same again. I have stretch marks I didn’t before. My organs have moved around and been squished. My stomach grew to accommodate a 7 pound human. I didn’t expect to get my waist back in a day. I was honestly surprised how quickly I dropped back to a non-maternity size. I’m still not 100% back to pre-pregnancy, but I’m a heck of a lot smaller than I expected to be a month in. What is odd, is how…shall I say squishy I am. Nothing between my boobs and hips feels quite right. I’ve always had a strong core, even when I wasn’t particularly fit looking. So this softness is extremely foreign to me. I already mentioned the leaky boobs. Then there’s my face. The last time my face was as smooth and clear as it is now, I think I was prepubescent. So, take the good with the…weird and move on.
9. Keep up Connections
I’ve said how wonderful my family/friends have been through all of this. There is nothing to discount that and nothing to take away from that. However. There really is something to be said about having connections that are dealing with the exact same thing(s) you are. It was important during pregnancy, and now it might be more so. I met up with my (no longer) preggo friend AB on Tuesday. Her daughter was born the day after Chloé, so it’s a really helpful barometer to see the two together. It’s also pretty awesome to talk good, bad, and ugly with a mom who’s going through it all right now. Our stories are so similar, it makes me feel like I’m not a total waste of a mother. (Actually that’s far too harsh, I feel like I’m doing a fairly okay job of things so far.) My connection with AB is something I wouldn’t give up for a straight 8 hours of sleep. And if you know me, you know how crazy that is for me to say.
10. Thank God for MFH
One thing that always bothered me on the Preggo boards was how women would rant about how terrible their significant other is/was. First of all, maybe talk to them, rather than a nameless interweb of hormonal women? Secondly, why on earth did you get with and conceive a child with this person if they’re really as bad as you’re sayinig? I didn’t get it then, and I certainly don’t get it now. MFH is my biggest support system. He was when I was pregnant, and he’s even moreso now. He sees when I’m frustrated with Chloé’s crying and takes her to try his own methods of soothing her. He loves and plays with her even after a long, bad day at work. And he is nothing but complimentary about me, my body, and my journey through figuring out how to be a mother. I never wanted to have children before MFH. I realize now that was because I couldn’t do all this by myself. I wouldn’t have made it through pregnancy, let alone the last month without him by my side. I loved him so much before Chloé, but now that he’s her father I find myself even more in love with him. Sappy, but true.
So that’s all for now. One month down. One lifetime to go. 😀