When we finally announced to the world that we were pregnant for the first time, we were showered with so much love and excitement and the attention we got was a bit overwhelming but we loved everything about it. And then came all the unsolicited advice. Some were good, some were just annoyingly bad... but none really prepared me for what to really expect. I'm all about being positive in this thing called life but sometimes, ya just have to be REAL. And new parenthood is one of those things where I feel, you should be brutally honest with people especially when they solicit your advice. Because it's definitely NOT easy. And even though I had been warned that it is HARD... it would have been nice if people didn't try to sugar coat it. I would have preferred to know all the not-all-rainbows-and-unicorns details of what it was really gonna be like instead of the enjoy-every-minute-because-it-goes-so-fast stuff.
With all of that said... I have compiled a list of advice I wish I would have received before my life changed forever. And these are also pieces of advice I give to my expecting mother friends who have NO idea what's about to happen... and only when solicited, of course.
1. Be kind to yourself
You freakin' grew a baby AND pushed it out. Your body did a miraculous thing. It's going to take some time for your body to get back to a new normal. I say "new" normal because your body will never be the same. And it's not a bad thing! I had very unrealistic expectations of my body bouncing back because I was that fit chick who worked out all the way up until I gave birth and thought that my body would just go back to the way it was. And that mentality set me up for some major disappointment when I left the hospital lookin' like I was still 5 months pregnant. I never gave myself a break and felt the need to hurry up and get back into the gym as soon as I could. And looking back now, I feel like such a fool. So just be kind to your body. Be patient. And do things to take care of yourself - mind, body and soul.
2. You will go through an identity crisis... and will have to navigate motherhood trying to figure out your place in this new life. And you will miss the old you... but you'll realize that the new you is so much better.
I definitely struggled with this. A lot. Having Ella rocked my whole world and it was difficult for me to accept that my life would never be the same. I thought for sure, having Ella would be just like taking on another job (I've worked 2-3 jobs all at once before) and I'd adjust to that life easy peasy. But it's just not the case. Especially with me. I felt like I was going through an identity crisis. And I started to miss the life I had before baby. Having a baby changed EVERYTHING about who I was mentally AND physically. And I realized that I couldn't be who I used to be. The "old me" was pretty selfish - had a career and was ambitiously working hard on it and continuously striving for more, spent a ridiculous amount of time at the gym workin' on that Summer bod year round, and still had oodles and oodles of time to do a whole lotta nothin' even though I swore I was busy all the time. The "old me" was pretty awesome. But the "new me" is 100x better. To be honest, it took me some time to get to know the "new me" and to fully accept her for who she is...and while I do wish I had more time to do the things the "old me" enjoyed, I would not trade this mom life for the world.
3. Do NOT compare yourself to other moms
We are in the age of technology and social media. So it can be difficult not to get sucked into the comparison game when you see all the pretty pictures of moms with their newborns - you know the ones of them with their make-up on and hair all did lookin' so perfect and happy. While you're over here with leaky boobs and chapped nipples feelin' like a bus hit you and then reversed and ran you over 10x more. It's a difficult pill to swallow especially when you're a zombie and hormones are just ragin' through you like nobody's business. Part of you kinda knows that these pics are curated or staged but the majority of you just feels like that insta-mom totally has her shit together while you, on the other hand, does not. Yup, I've been there. And while I'm sure some moms have seen my pics and thought the same... we really just need to stop torturing ourselves with all that nonsense. Social media is a highlight reel of all the great moments... but every mother has their own struggles no different from our own so just don't even waste your time with that comparison game.
4. Admitting motherhood is hard or that you're not lovin' every second of it OUT LOUD does NOT mean you are ungrateful or that you don't love your baby... it means you're HUMAN.
There was a time, during the newborn haze, when Daniel and I were so completely exhausted and sleep deprived.... when we were up in the middle of the night for one of Ella's feedings and we were talking about our day and how hard it was. And I remember one of us saying "you think it's too late to drop her off at the fire station?" I honestly can't remember if it was me that said it or if it was Daniel because I was delirious at that point. But it made us laugh and it became a running joke between us especially on the hard days. The days when we felt overwhelmed and defeated. Of course we weren't serious. We would never give our babies up. But the early days of parenthood is probably the hardest. And if you're not allowed to joke, vent or complain about it, how are you supposed to survive?
5. Let people help you or don't be afraid to ask for help!
I was totally stubborn about this. After we came home from the hospital with Ella, Daniel waited on me like the supportive husband he is. He cooked my meals and brought them to me in bed, he cleaned and offered to take the baby so I could sleep, he did everything. And instead of letting him, I made a big stink about it and even took it as an insult. Because I had this stupid expectation that I needed to be super Mom right from the get go. When I ended up in the ER a week postpartum because I thought I was hemorrhaging, I had no choice but to slow down and let people help me. You really can't do it all. And it really is nice to let people do things for you especially when you've got a tiny little baby to keep alive. Plus your body is healing and you really should let it heal. This applies to any season of parenting! Not just the newborn stage. And you betta believe I took advantage of the help with Baby No. 2. Because, not sure if you experienced this, but people were more willing to help out with Baby No. 1 than with Baby No. 2.
6. Fed is best. And also, it's nobody's damn business if you're exclusively breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or formula feeding.
Okay so breastfeeding is HARD. And the mom culture these days is Breast is Best. Which doesn't seem so bad especially to those who are successful at it, but it definitely puts a lot of pressure on the women aren't quite as successful. My breastfeeding journey didn't go the way I had hoped. And it wasn't because I didn't try hard enough. I did everything right, I put in a lot of effort, and Ella latched on perfectly. But even still, she wasn't getting enough milk to gain the weight she needed because she'd always fall asleep at the breast before she got her fill of milk. Which then affected my milk supply. But because of the expectations of Breast is Best, when I was told I needed to supplement with formula, I was horrified and felt like a complete failure as a mom. I worked hard to try and bring my milk supply up with pumping around the clock IN ADDITION to nursing around the clock and the stress that caused me almost pushed me in to a depression that scared me to death. So I stopped the pumping madness and just decided to do both nursing and formula feeding.
7. Find your mom tribe
Because motherhood can get so very lonely! My friends and family either have older kids or have no kids at all. So going through the newborn phase was such a lonely experience for me. Almost every one in my life couldn't remember much about the baby days and couldn't relate to the things I was going through. And even those late night feedings when it's just you and baby up, your sleep-deprived thoughts consume you and it gets super depressing sometimes. So join a local mommy + me support group if you can. Or take advantage of the mom communities that exist on social media. There are so many other mamas going through the same exact season you are. So you are definitely NOT alone!
8. Your hubby/partner may be your rock, your ride-or-die, your PIC... but after kids? There will be times where you will question why you chose him to procreate with.
And it can (and will) happen more than once. In one day. But just like I talked about in Advice #4... admitting that does not make you love him less. It just means you really wish he had the boobs to nurse Baby so that you, too, can sleep through the night.
9. Happy Mom = Happy Life
Do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Whatever that may be. Go for a walk. Go to Starbucks and enjoy your favorite drink. Roam the aisles of Target. Get that mani/pedi. Just do something that makes you happy. I wish I had taken a lot more time for myself when I first had Ella. For some reason, I thought I didn't deserve a break. Because I'm supposed to be her mom first and foremost. But I learned that you can't take care of your family if you don't take care of yourself. So even if it's longer showers/baths at the end of the day or just taking a 15 minute walk outside.... just do it. You will feel SO much better afterwards.
10. Embrace the chaos because there IS light at the end of the tunnel!
Finally! Something positive after all the debbie downer emo advice! Motherhood is hard AF! The entire transition to new motherhood is so full of challenges and hormones and it's such a mind f-ck and nobody tells you these things!!! If someone would have given me any one of these tips... it would definitely have helped me get through those dark and lonely moments. I remember saying out loud to Daniel once "is this my life now?" because for some stupid reason, I never saw beyond the newborn stage. Obviously I wasn't thinkin' clearly.
What's the best parental advice you've been given? What's the worst? And what pieces of advice do you offer to new parents?