She’s perfect. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I was smitten. I patiently waited for her for 41 weeks. I took all the classes, posted the weekly pictures, ate the right foods, and went to all the appointments. I painted the nursery, bought all the baby gear, and celebrated in anticipation at my baby shower. I even took a 12 week class to prepare for the Big Push. I did the exercises and practiced the relaxation methods. I packed the hospital bag and printed multiple copies of my birth plan. I was prepared.
I was naive! I knew I wanted this child. I hoped I’d feel connected to her. But I never imagined how completely in love I would find myself. After 37 hours of labor, I was finally holding my tiny little miracle. I would no longer feel her kicks, jerks, and twitches from inside. I knew I would miss those, and I still do. But I spent 35 weeks dreaming what she would look like, and she’s far more perfect and beautiful than I ever imagined.
It’s what I dreamt of my whole life. Motherhood. That sacred sorority whose membership is literally earned through blood, sweat, and tears. A network of binkys and sippy cups. And finally, I’m officially a breeder. A stroller pusher. A lean, mean, breast feeding machine. Showing up late to mommy groups and play dates. Spending long days and nights feeling exhausted, looking disheveled, and smelling of breastmilk and diapers with mystery stains on her shirt. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. After 35 weeks of preparing for my Sweet Pea, here are just some of what I’ve learned in the first 6 weeks of being a mother:
For the first 2 weeks, I’d find myself just gazing upon her gorgeous face. Sure, part of me was checking to make sure she was still breathing. But mostly I was just in awe of her perfection.
She looked like a real-life Anne Geddes photograph. My own personal baby doll. And before I realized it, I’d have tears of selfless joy streaming down my swollen face. Sure, part of this overflow of emotion was from the oh-so-lovely post-pregnancy hormones. But the majority was sincere emotion. Disbelief that I’d arrived. Everything I’d always wanted was in my arms.
I’ve long felt this was my life’s calling. And so far, for the most part, it seems to come naturally. But there are so many things about every step of the process that no one tells you about. So much you’ll never find in a book. And most of it is far from glamorous. From the first pregnancy symptom to the first 6 weeks postpartum. And all these little surprises lead to a world of doubt and fear. It’s imperative to find a mommy mentor. Someone you can text pictures to or call any time to ask questions. “Does this look normal?” “Have you ever experienced this?”
I’m far from the experienced mom. I’m still figuring a lot of things out. But I can tell you that the first night home is the hardest. And don’t be surprised if you feel completely humbled and insecure by the end of your first sleep deprived week. And I can tell you that it gets easier. Little by little. Soon you won’t be so scared to pick up your newborn. You’ll be handling her like a pro, instead of that first ginger cradle hold. I can also affirm that you’re not alone. Generations upon generations of first-time mothers have thought to themselves, “what the hell am I doing? I can barely even take care of myself, let alone a helpless, defenseless little butterball!” But it is all so worth it. Nothing in your life has ever been, or ever will be, more worth it. With each little milestone you experience with your little one, your life before baby suddenly feels so small and insignificant. That first smile and coo makes your heart melt, and you completely forget about all those sleepless, tear-filled nights when you wondered what you’re doing wrong and what made you ever think you could be a mother.
It’s so easy to fall into the whirlwind of wanting to research every facet of motherhood and infant care to make sure you’re doing everything right. But that is a slippery slope. It’s so easy to tumble down the Google and WebMD rabbit hole. There is such a thing as too much information. The urge to do everything just right can be overwhelming. And then there’s those delightful societal pressures to be the best mom ever. Homemade pesticide and preservative-free baby food. Organic gluten free swaddlers and onesies. Free-range homeopathic baby sign language and tactile education.
I thought I would be the mom who puts her baby on a sleeping schedule and never once co-sleeps. Babies belong in their own bed. I didn’t want to create an ongoing battle where I have to right with a 10 year old to sleep in her own bed. Mommy and daddy’s bed is their own baby-free zone. I also thought I would never give my infant a pacifier. It can cause nipple confusion for an exclusively breastfed baby. It can also create ear nose and throat problems, and lead to dependence, creating crooked teeth and the need for braces. So I swore I would never use a paci. Or so I thought. But she had other plans. She always has other plans. And I love her so much, that I’m okay with that. I always had certain ideas about maternity and parenthood. And now I’m learning that Baby has her own ideas. She makes her own rules, for now. The biggest advice I have at this point, is this: All that is important is happy, healthy baby, and happy, healthy mommy. The rest is just details, and you won’t have the energy to sweat the small stuff.