OK, I could not even keep from laughing as I typed that title! I am far from an “expert” mom. In fact, I view myself as the exact opposite. I am always learning and looking for what I can learn from my more “seasoned” mom friends.
But as someone who looks to others for guidance, I see the value in being able to offer some as well.
I was recently at a networking lunch, and one of the women at my table was six months pregnant with their first child. While there was an agenda to discuss, all the other women at the table were much more interested in letting this woman know about all the ways — good and bad — that her life was about to change.
The topic of this post is not about all of the unsolicited advice that moms get, but my shock at how much it seems like things change in the early stages of motherhood. Even though it was only a short time ago that I was in the shoes of that mom-to be, it is amazing how different things seem are looking back on those moments.
As with all new moms, her life is about to change more than she can possibly prepare for. Everyone tells you what to expect and how to get yourself ready, but until you reach that milestone yourself, it is impossible to understand.
So I thought it would be fun to put together some of the advice I was given prior to becoming a mom, and discuss how it played out in real life.
Come up with a birth plan, but be flexible.
If you should be prepared for one thing as a parent, it is knowing that things will not always go as planned. This is true from the moment your baby decides to enter this world. Even though your child will be in control for at least the next 18 years (welcome to parenthood!), that does not mean you should just throw all caution to the wind and not plan anything.
Research birth plans, talk with friends and discuss your thoughts with your doctor. On the day of delivery, let your team know how you hope things will play out but try not to get your heart set on any one aspect of the plan. The goal in the end is a healthy baby and healthy mom, and there are countless ways to get that outcome.
Take all the help the hospital will offer.
As first-time parents with my son Jack, we wanted to prove that we could do it all. We had Jack in our room as much as possible and tried to do everything on our own. After all, we were about to go home and not have any of this help, so why not practice now?
My advice is use the help while you have it! Unless you are one of the lucky ones who will have full 24-hour help when you get home, take advantage of it while you can. After my daughter Leigh was born, we welcomed help from the nursery and allowed her to sleep there each night, only coming back to my hospital room to nurse. This allowed me to get some much-needed sleep after her birth and jump-start the recovery process. So by the time we were discharged home, I was as recharged as I could be.
It is totally OK if you don’t fall in love your baby right away.
This is a big one. As fearful as we are for the labor and delivery process, we do it because of the love we know we will have for our child. We are told the instant they put that little gooey baby on our chest, we will be so in love that we will forget everything that just happened to our body.
This was not the case for me. I had a pretty traumatic delivery with Jack, and as excited as I was to meet him, it was not love at first sight. I don’t think I was capable of that in that moment. And I felt bad about it. But as I opened up to my mom friends about this, I found that not only were my feelings not unique, they were actually pretty common.
So go easy on yourself.
You will love your baby more than you ever realized you could love anything.
Even if it does not happen in the first 10 seconds that you meet your child, it will happen. You will love them. Intensely! It is a profound love unlike any other that you have felt before. It is so deep it actually hurts. People shared this with me, and while I believed it to be true, I could not fully comprehend what this meant until I experienced it myself.
Stock up on the Kleenex. You will need it!
Maybe it is the hormones, or maybe it just comes with this new territory, but I have become such a crybaby (no pun intended) since becoming a mom. Happy tears, sad tears, tired tears (yes those are a thing … just you wait!!), frustrated tears, I have cried them all. I have become that person that cries at Tampon commercials. OK, maybe not literally Tampon commercials, but lots of things that would not otherwise illicit tears.
My husband did not know what to do with me when I just burst into tears for no reason. Know that this will happen, and it is OK. Let your support people know what you need from them. I learned that I just needed my husband to let me have this moment, not try to “fix it,” and it will pass almost as quickly as it came on.
You know your child better than anyone else.
I felt so overwhelmed the first few days caring for Jack. How was I supposed to know what to do with him? I wanted advice from everyone who had been here before me to tell me what I was supposed to do.
I asked for advice, and I got it. A lot of it! And it was conflicting. Everyone has their own idea of what is “best” for a new baby. So I started to figure out what was best for my baby. While there are some general overall best practices when caring for a newborn, you also have to trust your new mommy instincts that you are able to do this. So if someone is telling you to do something that does not feel right, that is OK. Listen to what they have to say, but do what feels best for you.
So to all the first-time moms reading this, congratulations and good luck!! You are in for one hell of a ride. Welcome to the mom club!
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/ She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.