I was one of those people. You know, the “when I have kids, I’ll never (insert just about anything)” types. I had such a clear idea of what kind of mother I’d be, I didn’t even realize how many judgements I was making about the choices and suggestions of others. I had the perfect vision built up in my head about how things were supposed to go. Here’s the thing though, after only a few months into this gig, motherhood has already humbled me many times over.
In just a short time, I have already done so many of the things I swore I’d never do. I’ve overshared baby bump progression photos (oh look, this week he’s a rutabaga!), cleaned a pacifier with my mouth after it dropped to the floor, and discussed my nipples with an acquaintance. So, before making any sweeping proclamations about what kind of mom you’ll be, or how you’ll handle certain situations, I recommend you learn from my mistakes and consider the following lessons:
Tips for a First Time Mom
Connect with other moms.
Don’t get me wrong, before I became a mom, I had nothing against other moms. But creating friendships around that singular commonality seemed so forced. I was tired of women telling me I’d need mom friends to survive. I’d roll my eyes when someone suggested I follow local mom blogs and groups on Facebook. I just didn’t get it. There was no way to foresee the immediate bond I’d experience with others who had been there. I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend thirty minutes talking about poop habits, or that someone would actually care and reciprocate the conversation. I had no idea how much I could learn and gain from the support of other women, a tribe if you will.
The reality is, we all need a tribe. I cherish my friends without kids just the same, but there is something wholly magical and unexpected in the friendships strengthened through experiencing the same journey together. Immediately after having my son, I bombarded my friend Jill, who had a seven month old daughter at the time, with nonstop questions and anecdotes. She became a coach who saw me through my rookie season, whose friendship I appreciate so fiercely. Jill, along with other friends who gave birth around the same time, and a seemingly infinite number of mothers I’ve connected with online, became a touchstone of women to seek wisdom from, share laughs with, and most importantly, encourage. Truthfully, I’ve always been a pretty selfish person, but now I can’t wait to support and coach friends who experience motherhood in the future. Having my son is what made that happen.
Expect Ta-Ta troubles.
Wow, the whole feeding situation was the most humbling experience I never could have expected. I remember assuming that because it was such a natural thing, breastfeeding would also be easy. I politely smiled when Jill suggested I attend a breastfeeding class while pregnant. (Again, I didn’t value motherly wisdom yet, sorry Jill!) Why would I need someone to teach me how to give my kid the boob? It seemed simple enough, and always looked so effortless and glamorous in photos. I didn’t even register for bottles, that’s how confident I was.
Then I had my son. He couldn’t latch at the hospital. Three lactation consultants helped, but to no avail. Our anatomy didn’t fit right, and he initially refused the aid of a nipple shield. If I had attended a class, I could have better anticipated possible roadblocks. I could have lined up a home visit for after the birth. I could have at least avoided being so painfully disappointed and ashamed when things weren’t perfect right away.
Before effectively nursing at the breast, my son and I had seven weeks of support groups, lactation consultants, weighted feeds, exclusive pumping, massive oversupply, clogged ducts, nipple shields, bleeding, never-ending washing and prepping of pump parts and bottles, wanting-to-quit-so-many-times-I-can’t-count misery. Thanks to the support of a tribe, I became informed and we stuck with it, because I knew we weren’t alone.
Before becoming a mom, I had no idea about the various feeding complications women face. I had no idea about supply stress, supplement shaming, or fearing your baby wasn’t getting enough. I had no idea how judged some women feel for pumping, or formula feeding, or nursing in public.
Learn to love the mom in the mirror.
I loved my pregnant body, and remember excitedly telling my husband I’d jump right back into my pre-baby shape right away. I’d love my postpartum body, be patient with it, but also be instantly motivated to pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD and sweat it off.
Oh, what a fool I was! Almost as terrifying as that first postpartum trip to the toilet is encountering a full length mirror right after birth. For some reason I just wasn’t prepared to see myself like that. The large stomach soft and drooping, the linea nigra still darkly pigmented, the veiny engorgement of arrived milk. It was all so foreign and humbling for typically athletic me. The weeks to follow were the first times in my life I wanted to hide my body. I know it’s shallow, I just wasn’t used to strategically picking clothes that would camouflage as much as possible. I hardly recognized myself.
It took time, but I needed to accept that things were going to be different (and painful) for a while. After all, I am different now, I just gave birth for crying out loud. I couldn’t “jump right back in” because aside from how time consuming infants are, I literally couldn’t jump. Jumping leads to leaking, boob pain, and let’s face it, peeing a little. Instead of grasping onto who I used to be and what I used to look like, I decided to focus on the amazing things my body did to bring and sustain life. When I stopped hanging onto what I was used to seeing in the mirror and reflected on the new talents my body provided, the self-consciousness slowly faded away. I needed to shift the perspective from pity to proud.
Your love for your child will be immeasurable.
Of all the ways I’ve been humbled by motherhood, the love I feel for my son is the least surprising. It is the truest and strongest parenting cliché. I’m in awe of his every smile, accomplishment, even every booming fart after a bout of gas. He’s taught me many things already, but perhaps the greatest is that humility is learned the hard way.
I’ve cried, struggled, questioned; I’ve been proven a hypocrite many times. We all have our own journey to make and paths to take when it comes to motherhood. Rather than fixate on the “I’ll always,” or I’ll never,” statements we secretly make, let’s focus on having an open mind and contributing to our tribe.
*Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Brianna Baranowski! About Brianna: Brianna is an elementary school administrator and transplant to Marion from California. Along with her husband Ryan, son Cal, and dog Marshall, she enjoys spending time outside and living a balanced life.