Tee was only 10 weeks old when my first Mother’s Day rolled around. I remember how exciting it was to be celebrating Mother’s Day for the first time as a brand new mom, but also how unprepared I felt for this whole motherhood thing.
In an ideal world, mothering is a set of skills and knowledge passed down from your mother, or aunt, or grandmother, or another older mother figure… In my situation, my mother died long before I ever had children, and to be perfectly honest, she would not have been my first choice of a teacher. My grandmothers had already passed away, and I had no other relatives nearby. Learning to be a mother for me was a patchwork pieced together from what I wished I’d had as a child, books, online articles, and my gut feeling.
In our changing and increasingly mobile society, lots of new moms are in the same situation: without a village to rely on. Luckily, online communities can be an alternate source of support for many. For Mother’s Day, I asked a group of moms to let us know the best piece of advice they received when they were pregnant or brand new to parenting, and they graciously agreed to share these nuggets of experience and encouragement with you.
There’s no one right way to parent and every baby is different.
Not while I was pregnant but shortly after, I was so sleep deprived and my little spent the night in bed next to me for the first time and we slept! I totally freaked out because the hospital had said that you aren’t supposed to bed share like that I told my mom and her words were, “Well, she’s your kid.” It was a moment of realization for me that she was mine and I knew what was right for her as her mom. We co-slept until she was about 4 months old.
I don’t know if it was when I was pregnant with #1 or I just heard it along the way, but the best advice I received was, “If it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem.” This covers all sorts of choices from bottle vs breast, crying it out vs co-sleeping, cloth diapers vs disposable, and even things like when to night wean, and when baby should move out of your room.
“This too shall pass,” from my now late grandmother. Heartburn, sleepless nights, cracked nipples – all of those hard times will pass. Even if it doesn’t seem so at that moment.
You will never stop worrying about them! I kept thinking that once the baby was born I would stop stressing about them so much (Are they moving enough? are they healthy?) Nope. Nope. Nope. You will ALWAYS worry about them! Once I accepted this I felt much better. Oh, and trust your gut.
Sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed, as long as baby is in a safe place, fed, and has a clean diaper, it’s okay to take a short “time out” to collect yourself. It won’t hurt your baby to cry for a couple minutes while you keep your sanity.
At my baby shower someone told me that motherhood would “the most.” I had no idea what she meant at the time but as time has gone on I’ve realized what she meant. Being a mother has been the most happiness and sadness. Bittersweet doesn’t even begin to cut it. With every new milestone your heart will soar and break all at once. There’s no other feeling like it!
Let the little things go and pick your battles. If the baby empties an entire box of wipes, it’s worth it if you can go to the bathroom alone. If your toddler needs to watch TV so you can feed the baby, that’s okay too. Your sanity is what matters.
“You’ve got this!” That’s what my doula kept saying during labour, and it became my mantra. I got a mug afterwards with the phrase on it and every day it helped remind me that I could get through it, even if I felt like I couldn’t. “You do you” was also great advice – what works for you may not be what you thought would work or what your friends are doing or what you see in parenting books/articles, but you know what is best for you and your baby.
When you nurse after birth, your uterus will contract and you will feel like you’re in labor again.
My mother in law told me about the transition period where the baby’s head is passing through the birth canal. She’s a massage therapist and nutritionist with 6 kids, and consequently extremely knowledgeable. She told me that the closest thing the body has to compare the transition period to is death. Your body literally thinks you are DYING!!!! Seeing the shocked and I’m sure terrified look on my face she than tried to comfort me by explaining how the body has “muscle memory”. So your next baby won’t be as bad because your body knows what to expect. I’d never heard anything about the transition period before and would have been completely caught off guard.
My mum told me, “My one piece of unsolicited advice is not to listen to unsolicited advice. You’re going to get a lot of it. Trust your instincts and do what is right for you and baby.”
Let it go! Frozen came out while I was pregnant with my first, so anytime I needed the reminder I’d bust out Elsa style in the shower! Oh, and savor those showers while you’re singing.
My mother told me not to listen to all of the horror stories you will start to hear. You will be just fine and so will the baby.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to accept help when it is offered.
My aunt had a very long story about spilled Kool Aid… but it all boiled down to, “Messes are going to happen. Things are going to spill. Accept it now. Save yourself the stress.”
“Go with the flow.” Everything you thought you would do or wouldn’t do will change once baby arrives. You do what works for you and your family.
I was told: Lots of people will give you advice. Listen to it, try what makes sense to you, and forget the rest. You don’t have to try something just because it worked for someone else.
I panicked almost my whole pregnancy because we lost our first. I remember my Mom saying to me that “It’s out of your control. You and your body do the best that you can, and the rest is in the hands of fate.” I think it made me feel so much better about everything. I spent so much time blaming myself and fearing the worst when in reality a lot of it is completely out of our control!
A friend’s mom told me, “Don’t be too proud of a ‘good’ baby’ that sleeps well, doesn’t cry, and eats well. If you feel like it’s all your doing, you’ll be convinced you’ve done something wrong if your next baby is fussy or ‘spirited'”.
“The days are long but the years are short.”
What advice did you find most helpful when you were expecting your first baby?
*Some answers were edited for length and clarity.