"So, what do you do all day?"
You know those words. Not just because you've probably been asked this, but because you've SAID it (or at least thought it) before you were a mom. Can you remember that far back - before you were a mom? It's actually very hard for me to do, and I've only been a mom for five years. But when I reach back into that distant other life I can see my haggard friend, hair in a messy ponytail, baby over her shoulder. As she absently wipes at some spit-up on her sleeve she says, "I've NEVER been this tired." It confused me...and scared me. The secret life of motherhood was shrouded in mystery. I knew it turned sober women into raging caffiene addicts and sane women into puddles of irratational emotions. But I didn't know why - until I finally went behind the veil and saw what it was all about for myself. Wow. Suddenly it all made sense. Right now I'm going to go back in time to when I had my first baby and give myself a pep talk. Ah, the first baby. That's when mommies are in desperate need of a pep talk. If you've just had a baby or are about to have a baby, feel free to listen in.
1. The ups and downs are NORMAL. Some days will look like this:
Other days will look like this:
Of course you are thrilled to have this glorious new miracle in your life, but don't feel bad if your initiation into motherhood feels similar to being hit by a truck. If you are so tired you can't think straight, haven't showered in a week, and can't remember the last hot meal you had, you are probably doing an excellent job. It means you are sacrificing yourself - mind, heart, and body - for another. This is what love looks like. It's messy. It's uncomfortable. It's...pretty stinky.
2. You're not alone. The infant stage is a very lonely time for Mommy. You are up at hours of the night which no living soul should be exposed to. You forget what it's like to converse with adults. And well-meaning comments from others make you feel even lonelier:
"Enjoy every minute of it! It goes by so fast."
"I bet you never knew you could be this happy."
The truth is, these people have been through it, too. But infancy is such a short phase that they forget how intense it is - and you will, too! You will look back on these days and remember the good more than the bad. But these comments can make you feel like no one really understands what you're going through. Just nod and smile and tuck it away into the "What not to say to new moms" folder in your brain.
3. One day your baby will be independent. This is a bittersweet thought. My firstborn is now five. He can dress himself, feed himself, use the bathroom on his own, and entertain himself for hours. But this is what I remember from when he was an infant:
Repeat. 24 hours, around the clock. Babies are born 100% dependent. But that percentage drops a little as time goes by - 99%, then 98%, then 97%.....until the day they are completely independent of you. Every single task you do for your baby now will drop off one at a time until they are adults and there is nothing left to do for them. Nothing but an enjoyable phone call, having them over for dinner, praying for them. The dependence is short lived. Remeber this during the most stressful times.
4. Having the next baby will not be as hard. This is a generalization that many people will jump to argue with, so let me show you what I mean:
First Baby. "Don't eat that!!! It was on the floor! Mommy will get you a new snack."
Second baby. "Well, I guess a few floor cheerios won't hurt."
Third baby. "Good boy!! Eat up all the rest so Mommy doesn't have to vacuum."
If you're in the "baby fog" right now with your first little one, it's easy to think, "I could never do this again. I guess I'm just not cut out to have more than one kid." But you gain perspective. You realize your next baby doesn't need a bath every single day. The next baby doesn't need the constant jingling of baby toys in his face - he wants to be left alone! You realize skipping a nap doesn't mean starting his sleep training from scratch. Right now you are imbalanced, analyzing every detail of your newborn. And rightly so! This is your training course. But the training will produce a more balanced mommy the second time around. And third, and fourth, and so on.....
5. You WILL:
You will sleep again.
You will go on dates with your husband again.
You will go to the bathroom alone.
You will shop for clothes that don't have to accommodate a nursing bra.
You will have hobbies again.
You will carry on a conversation that doesn't include sound effects.
You will have a home that doesn't smell like spit-up.
YOU will no longer smell like spit-up.
You will live a life not built around naps, feedings, and poop.
You will survive.
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