First-time mom tips and advice to help you prepare for motherhood and enjoy it in those beautiful but baffling early days.
First-Time Mom Tips I Wish I’d Known
I have two children now, no longer babies. There are lots and lots of parents who seem to believe this alone qualifies them to lecture parents-to-be about the right (and wrong) ways to parent.
That’s not quite what this is, because that’s not at all what I believe, anymore. Think of this more as some friendly advice, it’s what I wish somebody had told me when I was expecting myself.
1. You shouldn’t listen to other parents’ warnings
How many friends have ‘jokingly’ asked you if you’re sure you know what you’re doing in reference to your expanding stomach? It happened so frequently to me that I began to panic, because of course I didn’t.
Where I’d initially been excited, I started to feel anxious.
But the truth is that there are good and bad days. It’s like nothing you’ve ever known, and it will bring the highest highs and the lowest lows.
But one thing all parents will agree on is that it’s worth it.
2. Nobody knows your baby better than you
Pretty early into your parenting journey you’ll discover that all the well-intentioned advice is kind of irrelevant.
Nobody has parented your baby before.
All that advice applied to a specific baby and a specific parent, and does not apply to you and your situation.
By all means listen to the suggestions and bank them as ideas. But keep in mind that having a baby only makes the parent an expert on that baby. Even then you’ll often find in your own situation that what works today won’t work tomorrow.
And if you have a second, you’ll appreciate exactly how true this is when number two rejects every solution that ever worked with your first!
3. All the baby equipment in the world won’t prepare a first-time mom
And yet, nothing can prepare you – literally of figuratively.
You can have every gadget going, but when you’re dealing with a poonami, no technology in the world can save you from the undignified mess you’ll be faced with.
That’s a pretty good analogy for so many parenting woes actually. Having a newborn is often a messy affair and there are some (many) things that can’t be fixed with a product or a price tag.
Likewise, I can tell you how it felt for me when I gave birth to my daughters, or what it feels like to adult on five hours of broken sleep. But to truly get it, you have to experience those things for yourself.
And while we’re on the subject of baby equipment – with one or two exceptions, the vast majority is simply not necessary. Call me cynical, but I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that a lot of baby essentials have been produced in order to monetise the pain points of new parents.
4. Falling in love with your baby may take some time
This is a bitter pill to swallow, but the reality is that in no other situation would you be expected to spontaneously develop profound feelings of love, the depth of which you’ve never previously experienced. Especially not for a little bundle that doesn’t even acknowledge you, except for the sustenance you can provide – let alone show any appreciation for all of things you do for them.
Know this is normal for very many parents.
When you consider the hormones flying around, the depleted energy levels, the lack of sleep, the enormity of having produced a brand new human being – it’s really no wonder. And it’s definitely not anything to feel bad about.
In almost all cases, if it’s not an immediate rash of love, it will develop gradually, before engulfing you in a tidal wave of emotions.
5. The baby blues are very real for a first-time mom
Speaking of which, when that tidal wave arrives, it will crash over you.
If you’re anything like me, the nice nursing assistant offering you a cup of tea will be the only cue you need to descend into ferocious and unstoppable sobbing.
6. You won’t know who you are
It will happen so slowly you won’t even notice at first. And then one day you’ll wake up and realise you’ve become ‘Scarlett’s mum’. That is now your identity.
You have no concept of personal likes and dislikes; when it comes to clothes, there is only dirty and less dirty.
Autonomy will become a wish you didn’t know had previously been granted, because you only miss it once it’s no longer yours. You won’t be able to eat when you’re hungry, or sleep when you’re tired, or go to the bathroom without an audience.
It’s a whole new level of fatigue that has nothing to do with the bone-tiredness you’ll feel.
This is all normal, and it will pass.
7. Your relationship will suffer
One of my husband’s greatest fears when we embarked upon the messy road to parenthood.
I told him it could only make me love him more.
Nice sentiment; very naïve.
You relationship will never be quite the same. But if your foundations are strong and you can weather the shitstorm of becoming new parents, you’ll come back stronger than ever.
8. You’ll find out who your friends are
Everybody will visit to see a first-time mom and the newborn. As they start to get older, those visits will dwindle.
When the second baby comes, the novelty will have decreased further. And by the third? You’ll be lucky to receive a card.
Those who are left by the time your little one outgrows the infancy stage are the ones you can count on to still be by your side in old age.
9. …And it will be those who have kids
A reason, a season, or a lifetime – and the reality is that in very many cases, the reason is the kids.
It’s probably even something you’ve been guilty of yourself in the past – as circumstances change, friendships evolve. Or don’t.
The good news is that those who you may have drifted away from when they became parents may return to your life. Reach out to them, they’ll likely be thrilled to hear from you.
Just take their inevitable advice with good humour and a large pinch of salt.
10. You’ll have days when you worry you’ve made a mistake
Another source of unnecessary guilt. On the days you feel you’re failing at the most important job you’ve ever had – and I promise you those days will come, you might wonder if you’re cut out for this.
You may even fantasise about how your life might have looked had it taken a different path.
Every single time I do this, I always circle back to how empty my arms would feel.
Although I won’t pretend I also know that I’d be less tardy, more tidy, and quite a bit better off too I expect. And I’d get way more sleep.
Still…empty arms. Trumps everything, I promise.
11. Self-care is vital
When you find yourself feeling that way, it’s vital you carve out some time for self-care:
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
It’s a cliché but we all know they’re true.
12. Take reams of photographs in the early days
At some point, especially if you have a difficult delivery with your first baby, you’ll start to feel like you blinked and missed it. You’ll wish you could re-live it.
Everybody says you should make the most of the baby days. And I have a problem with that…
It’s sort of true, but with a huuuuge great flaw: we already do.
The time will always feel too long and too short. We know we should make the most of it without being told, and we make the most of it that we can, when we’re on our knees with sleep-deprivation and frustration.
Don’t feel bad for not making enough of it. You’ll do the best you can in very difficult circumstances, the same as the rest of us.
So take reams of photographs for nostalgia, because enjoying those hazy baby days is best done retrospectively, when you’ve slept and are feeling wistful.
(Oh, and be sure you’re in those photos too. Your children won’t notice the bags under your eyes or the baby weight, they’ll just want to see how loved they were. Don’t deny them this vital piece of their history over some perceived flaws that made you a mother.)
13. Comparison is the thief of joy
Don’t engage in that game with your peers. It won’t make you happy but it might become a genuine source of anxiety.
14. If there’s no problem, there’s no problem
As an extension to the above point, if you’re okay with your situation, don’t allow anybody else’s opinion to influence that. Second guessing yourself too often occurs as a direct result of somebody else interfering in an otherwise harmonious environment.
Whether it’s infant feeding, sleeping, or anything else – be confident in doing things your own way that works for your family, even – especially – as a first-time mom.