Oh, the newborn period. Seasoned moms speak of it wistfully. This makes new moms want to punch them, because, let’s face it: your first baby is hard. Yes, in retrospect, one newborn looks like summer vacation. But when you’re unshowered, unshaved, bleeding, leaking milk, and suffering postpartum blues, the thought of doing this for at least eighteen more years makes you want to change your name, dye your hair, and run to Vegas. I get it. I lived it. But just in case you’re willing to listen (without punching me), here’s what I wish I had known as a newborn mom:
This is the hardest part.
For the first time, you have to put someone else’s needs before your own, all the time and always. You’re responsible for another human being. That’s terrifying. It also means you have to exorcise the deep reservoir of selfishness you never knew existed. This is the hardest part, especially when it means getting up again, and feeding the baby again, and you smell like pee and baby barf and you don’t even care because you just want to sleep. No, you don’t hate your baby. You’re learning to be a mama and that learning’s hard work. High-five for not running to Vegas, mama.
No one cares about your boobs (or your bottle).
The Internet makes you think they do. But seriously: no one will freak out if you bare your boob in public. On the off chance someone, somewhere says something (and they won’t), unleash some of that postpartum rage. Tell them you’re within your legal rights to nurse, and ask them if they’d like to tell this to the local TV station.
Similarly, no one will judge you for your bottle-feeding. If they do, they’re an asshole. This is a good way to weed out mommy friend candidates.
Cluster feeding will end.
If you feed on demand, there will be times when your baby wants to stay attached to your chosen food delivery device for approximately 12 hours at a time. You won’t shower for three days. It will suck. But it will end.
Always bring a change of clothes (or three).
Because you never know.
You will touch bodily fluids and you will not care.
Every mom, at some point, catches her child’s vomit in her hands. You’ll get smeared in poop, drenched in pee, and slathered in someone else’s blood. This will repulse anyone else but another mother. That includes your husband.
Your mother/father/aunt/sister/third cousin/some random stranger will say you’re doing it wrong.
Did they push the baby out of their vagina, have it cut out of their tummy, or legally adopt it after someone else did? No? Then they don’t get a say. Unless they’re daddy/other mommy, in which case s/he better be super fucking tactful.
Your baby is portable.
No seriously: tie the baby to yourself in some fashion. Wait til baby is probably going to sleep. Now go out and resume your regular life. My husband and I hit an oyster bar with a one-month-old in a Moby wrap and no one cared. When baby started to fuss, I pulled the boob out (see above).
You don’t need all that stuff.
A few diapers, a few changes of clothes, a paci, and you’re done. Obs you need more if you’re formula feeding, but not that much. Leave the peepee teepee and the nursing cover at home, along with the extra socks, the three hats, the baby sunglasses, and the six blankets.
If something feels wrong, it’s probably wrong.
There’s no such thing as colic. If your baby’s screaming all the time, he doesn’t hate you. Something is wrong. Keep going until you figure out what. I thought my baby loathed me—turns out he had horrible acid reflux. Listen to your gut.
Accept all help.
You’re not used to being the one who people help. I know. It’s hard to accept help. But say yes to all offers of food and cleaning. Say thank you, shut the door, and eat that casserole. You owe them nothing.
It’s your baby. You can say no.
No one but you and your partner has the right to hold the baby. Relatives, friends, and helpers may get the privilege of holding the baby. But you get the baby back as soon as you want. You can do that because it’s your baby. Assert yourself. It might get awkward, but you win, because: your baby, your rules.
Just enjoy it.
Stay in bed, watch TV, and snuggle your baby. This only happens once. By the time I hit baby number three, I barely moved for a month—because I could. Sniff baby head, get baby snuggles, and let the rest of the world go to hell (including your house cleaning).