I had my first child 12 years ago. It was a time when reading material for new moms was limited. Sure, there was the standard What to Expect but nothing I could wrap my arms around. 

 I felt different from other new moms. I did not instantly fall in love with my child. When I first looked at my new baby, I felt lost, confused, sometimes completely unhinged. It took me a while to realize she was the most amazing creature on the planet. I was too ashamed to admit my feelings to anyone and couldn’t find a book around that didn’t presume a mother’s immediate, endless love for her offspring.  Parenting is a shit show with moments of pure brilliance thrown in. I’m no parenting expert, but here are a few nuggets I’ve learned along the way for those who are also struggling.

1 – You do not have to be running through sunflower fields simultaneously sketching pictures of newborns sliding down rainbows to want to have a child. For some women, motherhood is all they have ever dreamed of, something they feel born to do. That is amazing for them. That does not mean it needs to feel the same for you in order to start a family.

2 – You can want to be a mother and want to be a hundred other things simultaneously.

3 – There are certain things you should give up during pregnancy, namely smoking, binge drinking and swimming with Great White sharks. Despite all the experts’ advice, lunch meat, sushi, caffeine, hot dogs and fish, in moderation, are not going to harm your baby. Yes, listeria and mercury poisoning can happen whether you are pregnant or not. These are very serious, very rare occurrences. My point is don’t stress if you inhale an uncooked hot dog every once in a while. This said, I know with absolute certainty that hot dogs are made of lips and assholes, so you may be better off avoiding those puppies altogether.

4 – Continue to exercise. If you regularly run marathons, keep running them for as long as you feel good. I swore at 4 weeks gestation with my first child I could feel my baby bouncing up and down in utero. I promptly stopped all exercise, then gained 60 lbs and resembled a cranky, beached beluga whale. Trust me when I say that shit is hard to lose, so keep moving.

5 – If you love your career, continue to work, even if you don’t have to. Working mothers love their children as much as stay at home mothers. Just because you want the best for your child doesn’t mean you stop wanting the best for yourself.

6 – There will be days you want to throw your child down a flight of stairs. As long as you don’t actually throw them down a flight of stairs, you are doing just fine. If you feel you want to throw them down the stairs all day, every day, please go see your doctor.

7 – You can leave your baby. Not ALONE, but in the care of your spouse or another loving adult. I traveled out of state 3 weeks after I had my first child to attend my best friend’s wedding. The amount of time I spent worrying and analyzing this decision was borderline psychotic. After all was said and done, I had an amazing time and returned to a perfectly content baby who never even knew I was gone. Plus I successfully hid one of those hospital issued pads under my bridesmaid dress, so I felt pretty accomplished.

8 – You do not have to breastfeed to have a healthy, well-adjusted baby. Whether you decide it’s not for you, or if you are unable to do it, it’s your choice to make. You do not need to explain your decision to anyone.

9 – You do not need 85% of the things you think you need for your child. You do not need a $500 stroller unless it pours you wine and tells you you’re pretty. You don’t need wipe warmers or changing tables or Diaper Genies. You will change your baby in the trunk of your car or on your carpet or in your bed. Your dog will try and eat the cold, feces-covered wipes. Eventually you will let him because it’s easier.

10 – You are not alone. Motherhood is magnificent and also scary, exhausting, thankless and humbling. Whatever you are feeling in a moment, know there are millions of other mothers who have felt the same way. This too shall pass. You are doing better than you think, mama.

Author

Julie has a Masters degree in Psychology, which has proved useless in trying to understand her teenaged daughter. She has the attention span of a gnat, zero sense of direction and loses at least 3 things every day. Except for a minor situation at a county fair, her children are not on the short list of items she’s lost. She is extremely proud of this. You can find her writing on Facebook or Twitter. She has been published on the Washington Post, Babble, McSweeney’s, Scary Mommy, and Huffington Post, among others.

1 Comment

  1. Become a mom is not a choice for a woman. When you get married, you are a mom even though in your marriage God does not give child. You can love other children and care of them. That’s what a mom do.
    If you have a child than you should thank to God since you are trusted to love and care your own child.
    With or without a child, be a good mom. Just show your true love and care.

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