In celebration of my 100th post on this wee blog I want to share 100 things I’ve learned in the last year about pregnancy, birth, postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, caring for a baby, and being a first-time mom. I make no apologies that this will be a long post, but I really hope it serves you… or at least makes you smile. Because motherhood, after all, really is the greatest joy and privilege.
About pregnancy – what you need to know as a first-time-mom.
1. Don’t worry about timing your baby “just right”. Most people take a few months to get pregnant anyway.
2. Forget #1 and do everything possible to not be in your third trimester in the middle of summer. Because seriously, nine months pregnant in the height of summer sucks.
3. Your pregnant elephant ankles will return to normal. Just hang in there.
4. Take more naps. Don’t wait for the baby to be born so you can “nap when the baby naps”… He might not be a good napper.
5. Ask your husband’s employer if he can take an extra week of paternity leave if you end up having an unplanned c-section.
6. You have no idea about your capacity to burp and fart until you’re into your second trimester. Just you wait.
7. Don’t feel guilty if the gender of the baby on the ultra sound isn’t what you were expecting (or hoping for). It’s normal and will pass. (And you will be so happy about your little boy or girl that you’ll forget about it anyway.) Many women struggle with gender disappointment during pregnancy, so don’t let it rob you of your pregnancy joy.
8. Wear fitted clothes – your bump is beautiful and you look cuter without extra frump.
9. Don’t buy maternity clothes if you can get around it. Just buy a belly band or button extender and wear your normal clothes. (Until/unless that’s not an option any more.)
10. If you do buy anything, buy long tank tops that you can layer under other “normal” shirts. Or better yet, buy nursing tank tops (You will live in them during those first few postpartum months, whether you are layering over them or not.)
11. Take heart, your shoes will fit again someday.
12. Enjoy that beautiful skin. Unfortunately it doesn’t last.
13. Enjoy that hair. You will soon be losing it in copious amounts.
14. Save receipts because you really don’t need that bottle sanitizer.
15. Use your birthday money on yourself, silly girl. I know you’re excited, but that little baby will get more presents than you know what to do with.
16. Get educated about giving birth. The more you know, the more you will be empowered and the less scared you will be.
17. Have some understanding about c-sections and recovery… just case. (Ever heard of a “gentle cesarean“?)
18. It really is reasonable (and loving!) to let the lady with small children move to the front of the line. Start now.
19. Read differing parenting philosophy books and then decide for yourself what’s best for you and your family. I know it’s hard to believe, but you really are the expert.
20. In light of #19, be prepared to change your mind later if you need to.
ABOUT LABOR AND GIVING BIRTH:
About labor and birth – what you need to know as a first time mom.
21. If you want to speed up labor once your contractions have begun, use a breast pump. Oh. My. Goodness.
22. Have a birth plan but know that it’s just a plan, not a prophecy. It will look different. (Need help? Here’s how to organize and write a birth plan.)
23. Having your waters break is not a one-off gush… it continues for hours into labor. Don’t be alarmed when you have to walk around with a towel between your legs for the rest of the day. (Birth is so glamorous.)
24. Watching So You Think You Can Dance between contractions provides good distraction, but don’t get mad when they forget to pause it during contractions.
25. Giving birth is messy. Really messy. What? You know that? Ok then, remember it.
26. Remember that sometimes your midwife needs encouragement too, especially when things go wrong.
27. Make sure your husband knows how to quickly and efficiently find the ice machine.
28. Labor is hard work, but you were totally made for it. Go for it, girl.
ABOUT POSTPARTUM RECOVERY:
About postpartum recovery and the 4th trimester.
29. If you wake up drenched in sweat a week or two after giving birth, get excited about it. You’re sweating off those extra baby fluid pounds.
30. Deal with your disappointment about things that went wrong with the birth and don’t let it steal the joy of birth from you.
31. You are going to feel so overwhelmed with love – don’t try to harness it, just soak in it.
32. Who cares about getting your tiny baby on a schedule from day one? Just snuggle, snuggle, snuggle and let him sleep on your chest as much as your little heart desires. I promise you, you will not regret this. Don’t let any book or auntie tell you otherwise.
33. Yes, the world really does want to see a bajillion photos of your baby on facebook – load ‘em up. (You’ll never feel so popular as when you’re the mom of an incredibly good-looking brand-new baby.) And even if they don’t, you will NEVER regret taking all those photos. (Just give clear, repeated instructions to your husband to make sure you’re included in some of them too. Don’t shy away because of bad hair or bags under your eyes. When you’ve survived the baby years, you’ll want photographic proof that you were there – mothering victoriously.)
34. Tell hubs to stock up on Draino because at around four months post-partum you will begin to shed ungodly amounts of hair.
35. Your c-section scar will still be numb six months after the surgery, and it will sometimes still feel itchy. Just deal with it and know it’s now a badge of honor.
About breastfeeding as a brand new mom.
36. Breastfeeding will come easily and natural to you, so you have nothing to be nervous about, and just ignore all those horror stories. Unless it doesn’t. Go ahead and read a few stories (without obsessing) and prepare for both the best and worst. And practice this mantra now: I will not be defined by breastfeeding ‘success’ or ‘failure’. (Psst – no mom that’s trying hard is a failure. Perhaps banish that word from your vocabulary?)
37. Breastfeeding will be one of the absolute sweetest things you will ever do. (Need courage to breastfeed in public?)
38. Breastfeeding will sometimes feel like one of the most annoying things you ever do.
39. Breastfeeding will sometimes feel like a competition with some inanimate object while you vie for your baby’s focus and attention.
40. Breastfeeding will sometimes feel like one of the most time-consuming things you ever do. (And it is.) Hang in there, it changes before you know it and you will miss the excuse to sit down for forty-five minutes at a time like you did during the newborn phase. Later, when you’re baby’s nursing for only ten minutes at a time you’ll be thinking, What baby? Already done? No… let’s just sit here for a while snuggling.
41. Breastfeeding will be one of the wisest things you do for your baby and for you. (Still pregnant? Here’s how you can prepare for breastfeeding.)
42. Breastfeeding is the one thing only you can do with (and for) your baby. That’s a special honor that only a mama can experience. Remember to appreciate it.
ABOUT CARING FOR YOUR BABY:
About caring for your baby as a new mom. (Yes, they will poop on you. Be prepared.)
43. If you keep your baby awake too long, he will never go to sleep easily. Don’t overestimate how much awake time a newborn can handle between naptimes.
44. Don’t worry about changing your baby every time he spits up. You already have too much laundry to do. Just rub it in – ha!
45. Never judge your baby’s clothes by the numbers on the tag. If you think that cutest-ever outfit for your baby is too big to pull out, do it anyway. It’s easier than you know to miss the “right size” window.
46. When traveling on an airplane, don’t only pack a spare set of clothes for your baby – pack a spare shirt for yourself too. Just go ahead and trust me on this one.
47. I’m totally against the use of “baby TV time” (you guys know how bad it is for your kids’ development to let them watch TV as babies and toddlers, right?! experts say to wait until two years old), but go ahead and use the TV to your advantage when cutting your baby’s fingernails. (Don’t worry, when they hit the stage where this is necessary, you will know.)
48. Don’t wake your sleeping baby unless you absolutely have too. Feeding schedules, shmeeding schedules. Let the baby sleep. (You’re welcome.)
49. When your baby is a newborn, take extra care to burp him after a feed. (I like the firm, upward rub up the back. I’m also a fan of the firm thump.) It’s worth the extra few minutes to avoid gassy baby melt-downs.
50. If your baby is having a melt-down, drop everything and walk outside. It really does work every time so don’t waste your time trying to find something else more “convenient.”
51. Four months is not too early to begin teething. If in doubt, just keep sticking your finger in there to check.
52. Decide on a lullaby song for your baby so that every time you sing it they know to expect that it’s naptime/bedtime. (Just make sure that you like it, or make your own up.)
53. Just because your baby sleeps through the night consistently at a few weeks old doesn’t mean they will continue as he gets older and hungrier. Just know that in advance. Sometimes this really feels like two steps forward, one step back. (Or one step forward, two steps back.)
54. Traveling with babies is fun and adventurous and you often get to jump to the front of the line. Take advantage of kind security guards and airline officials. No shame here, ladies, no shame. Take favors when you get them – DUH.
55. Leave the diaper bag in the car unless you really, really need it. You have enough to carry around.
56. Don’t wait months and months to introduce the bottle – you underestimate just how much you baby really does love your boobs.
57. There will be some diaper blowouts that are not worth trying to clean up outside of the bathtub. We’re talking a right, hot mess. That goes for both you and baby.
58. Don’t be legalistic about starting solids at exactly six months old. Get educated about a baby’s gut development, but then learn to listen to your baby’s cues and trust your instincts. Don’t start them too soon (again, read up on that gut development!), but remember that something magic doesn’t just click on their half birthday.
59. It’s okay to pull your baby into bed with you sometimes when you’re just too tired to get up yet. Do what you want. (Just do it safely: bed rails are your friend, move away your blankets, safety first, ladies! . . . with comfort and convenience being a close tie for second.) And seriously, don’t worry — you’re not going to ruin them by co-sleeping. I promise you co-sleeping is not the evil that will turn them into disobedient, overly dependent narcissists. (Don’t allow any rigid parenting book to convince you otherwise.) Remember, these are BABIES. Let them act like babies. They have plenty of time to grow up. And remember, you are TIRED. Do what you need to do to get a little sleep, too. DUH.
60. There will be lots of times when the baby is crying and you don’t know why. That’s ok, babies cry. Sometimes they are trying to communicate something, but often they are releasing their big emotions and pent up baby angst. Just do your best and remember that sometimes even you specifically choose movies based on the fact that you need a good cry, too.
61. When introducing solids to your baby, strip him down to a diaper and bib, roll up your sleeves, put on goggles, and make sure an assistant is standing by (with a camera, of course).
62. Be prepared when you’re encouraging your child to learn to crawl. I know it’s fun and super cute, but there really is no turning back. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you, you overly keen first-time mom, you.)
ABOUT BEING A FIRST-TIME MOM:
About being a first-time-mom. Everything you didn’t know you needed to know.
63. Never judge a parent that is bribing their baby with food… there will be times when you end up doing it too.
64. Be prepared for spontaneous mama-tears when you have love-saturated-heart moments. (And don’t rush them – they are precious.)
65. Although you already thought you were a responsible driver, you will start to drive even slower and even more cautiously. Just sayin. Your wild days are over. . . at least temporarily. (But seriously Grandma, please at least try to drive the speed limit. You don’t want to get pulled over because a cop thinks you might be driving stoned. BE NORMAL.)
66. Congratulations, you will now forever be known as “so-and-so’s” mom.
67. You will be tempted to spend more time making sure your baby looks cute than making sure you do. Keep it real, girlfriend. Brush your hair for goodness sakes.
68. Diaper bags are for carrying important things, like snacks for mommy.
69. Your baby will sleep through the night sometimes… and when he does you will have insomnia.
70. Even though you think you won’t be one of “those” parents who wants to buy their kid everything, you will come home with a big ridiculous Baby Einstein exersaucer. (And he will absolutely love it.)
71. During those first few months, be prepared to go through baby’s clothes every 3-4 weeks and pack up the too-small ones and pull out the bigger ones. (And be aware that you might get a little teary on occasion about how fast it’s all going.)
72. Even though it feels like a lot of work to think ahead and make double portions, it’s worth the effort to have homemade meals to pull out of the freezer instead of frozen pizzas on those nights. (Although frozen pizzas work too. See a theme here, ladies? Again, no shame. No shame.)
73. Write milestones down on a calendar if you’re not into doing a baby book – it’s a lot easier than scrolling back through all your facebook status updates to remember when baby learned new tricks.
74. Make sure to regularly go through your photo files and delete 30% of the millions of photos you’re taking of sweet baby. (They really are more similar than you think.) But don’t stop taking the millions.
75. Plan for “quick errands” to take twice as long as they used to. Actually, make that three times as long.
76. There will days when you want to return to work just so you can have a break.
77. Being a stay-at-home-mom is the only job in the world that doesn’t come with coffee breaks, lunch breaks, weekends, holidays, or sick days. And there’s nothing you can do about it except to learn to roll with it. You really can learn to be a SAHM without losing your marbles.
78. There will be days where you cry as much as your baby. This is normal. There will also be days when you cry more than your baby. This is also normal.
79. When your baby is going through a growth spurt, cut your to-list down to 25% and give yourself lots of grace when it comes to house work and errands.
80. You think hearing your baby say “mama” for the first time will melt your heart… It will, but know that it’s even more than that. It will also blow your mind and make you weak at the knees. (So basically it affects your whole body, it’s that good.)
81. Different babies have different milestones at different times. Do your best not to compare.
82. Weekly menu-planning has never been so important. I know it’s boring and not spontaneous, but it really does help. And I’m NOT one of those women who have binders of home organization stuff (bless their hearts), and yet I’m telling you – just plan the freaking meals. You’ll thank me later.
83. If you’re having one of those days where you feel discouraged because you’re getting nothing done, take 20 minutes to play with your baby without multi-tasking. It will instantly give you perspective.
84. Take long moments to stare at your little wonder and drink in that baby goodness. They really do grow way too fast.
85. Keep in mind that immunizations are harder for mama than for baby.
86. Find an on-line forum to join for encouragement and support.
87. Your bookmarks bar will become overrun with parenting websites and forums… but save your other links too. After the first couple of months you’ll want them again.
88. Always try to leave five minutes earlier than you need to. Then you will only be five minutes late to wherever you’re going (instead of ten) after you’ve changed the pooey diaper that inevitably happens when you’re walking out the door.
89. Be prepared to wonder if you ever knew what love was before you had a child.
90. Doing a load of laundry, folding it, and putting it away all within the same day will make you feel like wondermom. (Go ahead and congratulate yourself and tweet about it when you accomplish this.)
91. Make feeding yourself as big a priority as feeding your baby. (That way everyone wins.) You really do need to be intentional about taking care of yourself.
92. Don’t stress about baby-proofing. Your baby will help you when it’s time.
93. Watching your husband be a daddy will make you fall in love with him even more. Relish it. Appreciate it. And make sure he knows how much it turns you on.
94. Don’t wait too long before finding a mom’s group. It really is more fun than you’d expect. You’re entering into one of the biggest changes of your life (maybe the biggest) and it helps to have others going through it along with you. They don’t even have to be your best friends. They just need to be willing to share the mom life and the little years with you. Solidarity, girls. #WeNeedEachOther
95. You might find yourself accidentally speaking in a higher pitch or saying things like “bye bye” or “night night” or “poo poo” when talking to other adults. You’ll grow out of it as you get used to this gig, so just have fun making fun of yourself in the meantime. You might also find yourself swaying the childless shopping cart back and forth as you read labels or scan the shelves looking for an item during the rare kid-free grocery run. Again, just laugh at yourself and then tweet about it later. These days are over fast.
96. You will re-define “sleeping-in” to any time past 7:00am, and thankfully it will happen every once-and-a-while.
97. Don’t put off buying a video baby monitor if you can afford to swing it. Not only will it provide endless entertainment for your first few days of having it, but it will save you from playing the guessing game about naptimes.
98. Be careful not to underestimate the small things. Starting your day with simple things like making the bed, having a shower, and eating breakfast will make the entire rest of your day better. Seriously, DO THIS STUFF.
99. Don’t get defensive when friends without children (especially single friends) ask you what you do all day at home. They honestly have no clue what it’s like to maintain sanity as a stay-at-home-mom.
100. Remember that you’re doing a great job. Being a mom brings out the best and the worst in you. Know that you’re normal and try to learn from all of it. And more than that, enjoy the ride — you’re a far better mom than you probably think.