Before I became a mother, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. When people saw my bulging belly, they’d feel free to comment and give advice. After the standard “When are you due?” and “do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” questions, I heard a lot of:
“Get all the sleep you can now!” and “Enjoy your freedom while you have it, you’ll be so busy once he’s born!”
I also read a lot of blogs and books about new motherhood that shared experience and advice. I read things like, “I knew taking care of a baby would be hard, but NOTHING prepared me for what it is actually like.”
I know that people say these things lightheartedly(for the most part). But when you hear them and read them again and again, you start to think, “Gosh, what am I getting myself into?”
Here is what I have learned so far as a new mom: every baby and every experience is different! Some babies will be screamers and some babies will sleep 10 hours straight by two months. Some babies will love their pacifier and some babies will not take a bottle. Who knows why babies are the way they are? The best piece of advice I received before becoming a mom was this: do what works for you. I believe that whether your baby is breast fed or bottle fed, it doesn’t matter as long as your baby is eating and growing. Whether he sleeps in your bed with you or in a crib in his own room, it doesn’t matter as long as you are both sleeping! These are just two of many controversial baby topics, and everyone has an opinion, but I know mothers who have done everything mentioned above and their kids are just fine.
In the weeks before Shasta’s birth, I read a book that suggested putting your baby on a strict feeding and sleeping schedule, right from day 1. They made it seem like it was the only correct way to take care of your baby. I liked what they wrote because it was very structured. I thought, “All I have to do is follow these rules and I will have a happy baby and I will be happy too.” Well, from the moment Shasta was born, I forgot all about the book and just decided to go with the flow. I’ve learned so much just from observing him and trying different things. Every day I get to know Shasta more, and it’s so fun and so rewarding knowing what he wants and how to calm him(there are always moments when nothing seems to work, though!). I’m sure that strict schedules work for some people, and that’s great – but it’s not the only way and certainly not the only right way. (Side note: recently, Shasta is putting himself on his own schedule… at first he didn’t nap at all, just little dozes, but now he’s having hour long naps in the AM and PM, and sleeps very well at night. I don’t think it’s anything I’m doing… we’re just figuring out his “rhythm.”)
There is a lot to learn about taking care of a baby, especially if, like me, you had little to no previous experience with newborns. It can seem overwhelming, especially before the baby is born and you’re thinking about everything you’re going to be learning. But for me, once Shasta was born, things just fell into place. You just learn as you go and ask questions as they arise. You don’t have to figure everything out on your own – you have friends, family, public health nurses, and Dr. Google who are more than happy to help you out.
Something else I learned was that it’s okay not to be head over heels in love with your baby right away. Media tends to portray that love at first sight thing. I’m sure that many mothers do experience that, but I didn’t. Yes, I loved Shasta from the moment we knew he was in my belly, but I didn’t really start to “fall in love” with him until he became a little bit interactive – 5-6 weeks. As soon as he started smiling his gorgeous little smile, I was smitten. This is what it’s supposed to feel like, I thought. I mentioned this to a few other moms and they said they had similar experiences, which made me feel better. I remember talking to my friend on the phone when Shasta was about a week old and saying, “I just feel like I should be loving him more…” I didn’t know it was normal to feel that way.
That brings me to my final point: I’ve learned that it is very important to have support! For the last few weeks I’ve been hanging out with other baby mamas every week day morning. Usually we go for a long walk or hang out at the Rec Centre. It’s so good to get outdoors, build friendships, and get some exercise! I’ve learned a lot from these ladies already and I’m so glad I have that social outlet.
To all moms-to-be, I wish I could say, “don’t worry about what people say, it’ll be easy/wonderful,” but every baby and every mommy is different. What I can say, though, is that you will learn as you go, do what works for you, and get together with other baby-mommas often. My experience so far has been a very positive one, and I hope the same for you!