February 16, 2011

Unsolicited Advice (A Letter to New Moms)

Dear New Moms and Moms-To-Be,

There are a plenty of pregnancy books to tell you what to expect, from scientific to humorous, including one I just read for the From Left to Write book club, Exploiting My Baby. When I was pregnant with Moe, I read many of them, but I still had no idea what to expect. You won’t either. But there are a few things I didn’t read in books, and that I could only discuss with a few good friends, who swore to me to only tell the truth about their experiences. Here are some of these, though I reserve the right to drop my knowledge on you as I see fit. It is my blog, after all.

You need to do what is right for you. Be informed, but you and your husband get to decide if you will breastfeed, circumcise, co-sleep, let your baby cry it out, go back to work, or use cloth diapers. I am always happy to share my experiences (duh) as are most mothers (and grandmothers), but the best decisions you make will be the ones you can live with. You must, however, vaccinate your children.

Motherhood is not one thing. Your brand of motherhood is unique to you. Others can give you advice and help, but they are only talking of their experience. Do not feel guilty if you do something different.

You will feel guilty.

It is okay for your baby to sleep in the bouncy seat.

You may not bond with your child the first moment you see him or her. A week or so after Moe was born, some friends came over. One of them said, “the moment you saw him, didn’t you just know you’d jump in front of a bus for him?” And I remember thinking “Um, I guess,” because I knew I’d have to but I just wasn’t sure. I hope you love your child with every cell in your body the moment you see him, but if you don’t, don’t worry. You will. At this point, not only would I jump in front of a bus, I’m pretty sure I could fling that bus back into the air, Superman style. (And if you truly need help getting there, please talk to someone about it.)

Having a newborn is sometimes boring. It is terrifying and exhausting, but in those early days, you’re pretty much staring at a cute, needy blob. During the first month of constant breastfeeding, I watched the entire original series of Beverly Hills: 90210, from Minnesota through the marriage of Donna and David. (OMG, I just realized that my cousin Donna married a David. How did I never put this together before??) You’ll have so much time on your hands yet be unable to accomplish anything.

You will figure out how to go to the grocery store.

Sometimes, you just have to get through it. Those sleepless nights, where you are up every two hours? They suck. But they will end. It was still really hard the second time around with Jelly, but at least I knew it was going to end. (Specifically, for us, at four months when we started sleep training.)

Buy and use Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Happiest Baby on the Block (the DVD is fine). Don't bother with The Baby Whisperer. (Just my opinion. Feel free to disagree or add your own suggestions in the comments.)

You will wonder if you’ve made a colossal mistake.

Find other mothers to share experiences with. Even if they don’t become your best friends, they will give you an excuse to get out of the house. Find things that are not baby related to do as well, especially if you're not working. For me, that is my book club. It helps you keep some of your pre-mom identity.

The things you obsess over, like which stroller to buy or baby proofing you home, turn out to be the easy things.

Finally (for now), motherhood has been harder than I could have ever imagined. Having a child with autism was definitely not in the plan, and there are days when I just don’t think I can do it anymore. And though I sometimes miss how things were before children, I do not regret having my kids for one second. They will bring out your best and your worst, but they will be all yours, and you will love them in a way you never thought possible.

This post is dedicated to my cousin who just had her first baby, as well as to some of my best friends who are pregnant with their first babies. It was inspired by the book, Exploiting My Baby: A Memoir of Pregnancy & Childbirth by Teresa Strasser, which I received free of charge from the publisher. For other posts inspired by this book, visit From Left To Write.

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