So many friends and acquaintances have been having babies recently. My husband and I have always been in a strange season compared to friends of similar age; because we had our first baby much earlier than our friends, I’ve had a few extra years to realize what was important at the time and what wasn’t. That said, I’m not any kind of expert. My only authority (which isn’t authority at all) is that I’ve had three babies. This is what I would want to say to my friends, if they asked–because I’m so against unsolicited advice! This is what I wish I had known almost eight years ago (and why I am presuming the baby is a boy, because my first one was!).
I am so happy for you. Regardless of your emotions surrounding your pregnancy and labor, now that your baby is here, my guess is that you feel overwhelmed by love for him. That is a gift from the Lord, because it doesn’t make sense to love something that just caused you a lot of pain. Enjoy those deep feelings of love. Take a thousand pictures in the hospital. Drink a couple of milkshakes. If you sleep, great. If you can’t sleep, enjoy texting all your friends about the details of your birth, because in future years, that will be what conversations with other pregnant moms always come back to. Dads don’t understand, usually, but most mamas will listen intently to a birth story.
When you get home, I only have one piece of advice, and it may make you feel like a bad mom, so feel free to ignore it. Let the baby sleep in another room. I found after one night that I couldn’t sleep listening to all the grunting and squeaking. The baby slept better in another room where I wasn’t tempted to pick him up when he wasn’t even awake, and I slept better, too. Good sleep is important for mamas and babies.
Read whatever you want to about breastfeeding and schedules and attachment and baby-wearing and all the information the Internet has to offer. Then think of a mom you know who has had at least one kid—a mom who parents in a way that you admire, or maybe just a mom with a kid who has slept well, or a mom who has breastfed, or whatever—and ask her what she thinks you should do about whatever you’re struggling with. You don’t have to take her advice completely, but just remember that the Internet is full of people speaking absolutes: “This always worked!” or “This never worked!” A real person you know will know you and love your baby and be willing to say, “That might work, or it might not. Either way, let me offer you some encouragement.” And if nothing else, you’ll have somebody to talk to when you’re frustrated and overwhelmed.
Don’t eat Pop-tarts all the time. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re probably starving, and that’s normal, but Pop-tarts are not your friend. Make some of these, or ask a friend to make them for you, and eat a few of those when you’re getting hangry. They are sweet and delicious but won’t make you feel like crap. Bonus: the ingredients help stimulate lactation!
Babies are very resilient. They are so tiny and fragile that it seems like anything could hurt them. I’m not going to tell the stories here, but let’s just say I cried more than once about something that happened to one of my babies that was my fault, and guess what? They’re in elementary school now and perfectly fine. When in doubt, call your doctor, and then let it go, because you only have so much brainpower.
Regardless of which method of feeding or scheduling you choose (or don’t choose), make it a priority to work toward getting 5-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. This may take months. Some babies take even longer. But if whatever you’re doing isn’t, even in a small way, progressing toward that goal, then it might be wise to re-evalute. You will be a better mom when you get good sleep. And there is a huge amount of sleep you will sacrifice in the early days. But if your baby is several months old and healthy and the thought of getting that much sleep still seems like a pipe dream, go find that mom I mentioned earlier and ask her what she thinks.
Remember that you are a mom, but you also have other names: daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, employee, etc. Your baby needs you, and so do other people. If someone offers to watch your baby while you go sit at Starbucks and read/write/stare at the wall, let them. You are a mom, yes, and it’s so important–but you are not just a mom.
Above all, revel in those beautiful yet mundane moments with your baby and then look at him and realize the depth of the Father’s love for you. Would you die for your baby?In a heartbeat. And your love, warm and strong as it is, is imperfect and will fail. God’s love never does. He sees you in the dark nursery at 2 a.m. and knows you were there just an hour before and thought the baby would stay asleep for at least a couple hours. He knows that you’re tired. He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindess, and you need all of those things in great abundance when you have a baby. Lean into him and know his comfort.
Grace and peace to you and to that new bundle of love,
I love talking about babies. I love being a listening ear for other moms, especially ones who are prone to anxiety and depression. Feel free to e-mail me at chelseykcrouch [at] gmail [dot] com.