What I wish someone would have told me.

As a "seasoned" mom of three, the one thing I have learned above all else about parenting is that I know nothing about parenting. The longer I'm a mom, the more confident I get...not because I know all of the answers, but because I am acutely aware that I don't. It has allowed me to relax a little, enjoy the children more, and just breathe easier. I know that I don't know. And that, friends, is freedom.

There are still a few things, however, that I wish someone would have told me before I became a mom. Ultimately, I learned them through experience, mostly the hard way, but it would have been nice to have had a little heads up.

Let's pretend I had a wise, matronly mentor. Here's what I wish she would have said to me:

Dearest Jennie,

As you prepare to give birth to your firstborn, you are probably simultaneously thrilled and terrified. This is normal. The bad news is that you'll stay this way well beyond the newborn stage, into toddlerhood, elementary school, and beyond. It is the blessing and curse of being a mother.

You've carried your child in your womb for 9 months at this point, so you have undoubtedly had a taste of motherhood, like the sacrifices you've surrendered since being pregnant, be it spicy food, caffeine, comfortable sleep, or clear skin. Honey, you ain't seen nothing yet. Your world is about to be rocked (pardon the pun).

You know how everyone keeps telling you to rest up before the baby gets here? It's good advice (though not always feasible). Late in pregnancy, you're likely wearing out the carpet on the way to the restroom for potty breaks all hours of the day. This is God's way of preparing you for many a sleepless night with your newborn. (Also, you are going to refer to restroom stops as potty breaks henceforth. You don't think twice about it, but other people will. Especially if they've never been a parent. Don't mind them.)

You might have a birth plan. You might not. You don't have to do things one way or another. No matter what happens during labor and delivery, keep an open mind. You simply cannot plan nature. You are not a failure if you ask for an epidural. You are not a failure if breastfeeding doesn't work out. People will try to tell you this way or that way is better. Only you know what's best for you. Don't be afraid to voice it.

You've probably seen in the movies, when that little bundle is laid on the mother's chest, and immediately, she's in love. In reality, this might not be true. If you don't feel an instant connection to your child, it is okay. You are not a horrible mother. It will come. It may take days, or even weeks, but you *will* love that baby more than your own life. In the midst of new-mom fog, constant crying, and feeling like a cow (for more than one reason), it's normal for the overflowing lovey feelings to take a while to surface.

There's a saying about moms of two, that if you'd had the second child first, you probably wouldn't have had another. That might be true. It might also be true that your firstborn will cry all the time. Inconsolably. Again, you are not a bad mom if this is the case. Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, take them to the pediatrician. If they are fed, dry, and not tired, they might just be colicky. It happens to the best of us. Keep your sense of humor. Don't be afraid to try anything and everything. Be silly. Go outside, dance, make goofy faces with your baby.

If you decide to nurse (and I pray that you will at the very least *try*), know that even though it is one of the most natural things on God's green earth, it is NOT intuitive. It takes hard work on mom and baby's parts. It shouldn't hurt, but often does, particularly at first when your milk has not come in and your baby is nursing around the clock. Do not get discouraged. Stress is the worst thing for a nursing mother and baby. If you are having trouble, call me. Call someone. Call your hospital and speak to a lactation counselor or a nurse. Help is available. You *can* do it.

On a less serious note (or perhaps more serious depending on your perspective), Dad's need to change diapers too. No excuses. Moms have gag reflexes too, and don't enjoy changing poop either. The baby is 50% Daddy, so Daddy should change 50% of the diapers. It only makes sense.

As your baby gets older, you will have to figure things out as you grow together. What works for one family won't work for another. Motherhood is the very definition of on-the-job training. Pray for and with your kids. Don't grow apart from your husband. It is so easy to wholly devote yourself to your children and take for granted the love of your husband. Remember who came first.

Enjoy every moment. In a blink, you'll realize your child is having children of their own. It sounds so old-lady-like to say, but kids don't last long. Soon enough they'll be adults, and you'll wish you had them back. No regrets.

Call if you need ANYTHING.

Love & Best Wishes,

A Seasoned Mom

P.S.- Is there still a funny smell emanating from your newborn after a diaper change? Check their neck. Those tiny little rolls hold milk and it smells awful. I wish someone had told me that. ;)


Cara R. said...

Wonderful letter! You should start passing it out to every pregnant woman you see!

Kat said...

Great insights, Jennie! I especially like the part about not forgetting your husband. I know so many couples who have not made it because they put their child first always.

On a similar note, I really think motherhood/parenthood is something that can't really be described. What I mean by that is when people told me, "The way you love your child will be the biggest love you've ever experienced" I didn't know what that meant until I had a child. You know?

I was very unsure of how strong I was until I had successfully given birth. Everyone told me I could do it, but I didn't believe them until after I had done it.

Weird paradox.

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