I myself am a new mom. I am still learning and growing and hopefully always will continue to do so. There were a lot of things that I was told that scared me and set me up for future mom shame, however, there were also a lot of things that I wasn't told that I wish people would talk more about. These are my tips and tricks to navigate through it all.
Wash, Sanitize, And Repeat
The cleaning process in my house became much more intense after I had my baby. Every toy, surface, piece of clothing, and even human was seen as a germ infested specimen just waiting to get my perfect baby sick. When I say "Wash, Sanitize, and Repeat" I mean it! I am constantly wiping everything down and putting anything and everything in the washer or dishwasher. By the time I finally finish cleaning, everything seems to be dirty again and I needed to restart the whole process. I was washing things that I didn't even think to clean before having a baby. Lillian has an obsession with our phones and remotes. Try and think of the last time those were cleaned. Not to mention many of us take our phones into the bathroom with us. Our phones and remotes are now apart of that sanitizing process too. My number one thing that I keep washed are hands. My hands, her hands, my husband's hands, or anyone else's hands that want to touch or hold her. Wash them! I even carry around a little bottle of hand sanitizer for on the go hand cleaning. I care so much about my baby and even though I know that her getting sick at some point in her life is inevitable, I want to do my part as her mom to keep her safe.
Ask For Help
Ask For Help. Ask For Help. Ask For Help! I cannot say this enough. Ask for help when you need it, but also ask for help even when you don't need it. I absolutely hated asking for someone to help me because I compared myself to others who seemed like they had everything 100% together, but the reality is that no one has everything perfectly together. There are going to be hard times, because being a mom can be hard, but it is doable and even enjoyable, believe it or not. Everyone will need help at some point and I am a firm believer in getting help before you snap. I used to frequently sit on my bed sobbing at 1 am breaking down because I was so tired and didn't know what to do, but I still refused to ask for help. It took me longer than I would like to admit to finally realize that I needed someone to shake me out of it. My husband has been so amazing and I am happy that he really holds up his side. Us moms need that. However, it is also okay to ask for more help too. My baby is breastfed and it has not been easy on me. For the first few months I was constantly in pain and so exhausted. I thought I just needed to power through, but the reality is that I needed a little extra support. You are so strong and I know that you might want to prove that you can do it all, but you shouldn't have to. Don't be afraid to get a little extra assistance. You Deserve it!
Relief From The Grief
As I have mentioned before and I will continue to talk about, motherhood is hard. It means spit up on the clean clothes you just out on, your hair constantly getting pulled no matter how high you make your bun, it means crying in the shower as you listen to your baby sob just so you can get clean after having not showered for 2 weeks. That's not easy and we have hardly even scratched the surface. All of this takes a toll on you and it is okay to not be okay sometimes. It's okay to let out your frustrations by talking to other people about the difficulties. It's okay to cry it out or scream into your pillow. I am not saying that you should take it out on anyone else and sometimes I can be guilty of that. There are times that I am so burnt out that I look for ways to be upset. I wait until my husband walks by the dirty dishes so I can make a snarky comment on him not cleaning them even though he frequently does the dishes. I know that this is bad and I have worked on it and am still trying to do better. We all get into bad moods and sometimes we just need a second to calm down. It is important to remember that because you sometimes feel tired or beaten down that does not mean that you are a bad mom. In fact you are an amazing mom because you care about it so much. We all just need to find a way to let all of that grief out so that we can reset and keep on going.
Boundaries are there to keep your family safe and protected. Set your boundaries with your partner, family member, friend, or whoever is there to support you and work together to stick to them. You are a momma and you know what is best for your child. People are going to do things differently and they might not like what you choose to do or how you choose to do it. Boundaries can vary from wanting people to wash their hands before holding your baby, to not wanting other people to post pictures of your child without your permission, and even that you are breastfeeding your baby and do not want your child to be given formula. Set those boundaries! People were constantly trying to push my boundaries back, and at one point someone I knew crossed a huge boundary that made me realize that I couldn't compromise when it came to my child. Trust yourself! If you set a boundary then stick to it. Even if they try to mom shame you by saying something like "well I did _______ and my kids turned out fine." That was them and you are you. They shouldn't try to gaslight you for doing what you believe is best for your baby. I would always start off with responding "Well I am happy that your children turned out fine, however, I have chosen to do _______ instead." Then if they continue to push I would go full momma bear and say "Did I stutter?" because I am not going to compromise when it came to protecting my child. Figure out what works for you and stick to it. I believe in you momma and I support your decision to set boundaries for your family!
Knowing Your Baby's Cry
Everyone talks about the different cries that babies have and I panicked when I couldn't differentiate between all of them. Don't assume you will just automatically know what your baby needs when they wake up in the middle of the night screaming after just one day. I blamed myself when it took me a few months to get to know what all of her different cries sounded like and I still don't always get it right. There is a lot of trial and error that goes into understanding what your baby needs. Is your baby too cold? Is your baby too hot? Does your baby have gas? Does your baby need a diaper change? Does your baby need to be burped? Is your baby hungry? Is your baby bored? And sometimes you have to rotate through all of those a few times to find the right answer. Just take your time to figure it out and know that when other mom's talk about knowing their baby's cries, they had to figure it all out just like you.
Preparation For The Unknown
I know you can never be fully prepared for having kids, but do what you can. You can read some parenting books, go to a birthing class, go to an infant CPR class, read blogs made by other parents, consult your doctor, speak with other parents in person so that when time comes you at least have an idea on where to start. If I can convince you to do one thing from this entire post it will hopefully be to go to a first-aid class to learn how to do CPR on an infant. That has been one of my biggest fears as a parent and I am lucky that I have never had to use it, but I am happy that I know how to just in case. I was no where near ready for a baby when I found out I was pregnant. I had babysat a lot in the past and knew how to change a diaper, but had no idea how much to feed a baby, how long they need to sleep, what they could/could not have in their crib, and so much more. That is okay! I still don't know all of the answers, but a lot of what I do know either came from research or trial and error. It will take time to feel comfortable with what you are doing and that will come and go in waves. Lillian just started eating some finger foods and I am scared to death that I will do something wrong, but when I do feel that way I research it or talk to her pediatrician calm my fears. Do your best to learn all that you can ahead of time, but also know that you will figure it out along the way.
Happiness In The Midst Of Chaos
Find ways to enjoy yourself. Everyone needs time to unwind and relax. Make your house a more comfortable setting, go to a park, listen to an audio book, something. I always felt guilty having someone watch my baby so my husband and I could go out on a date, but you shouldn't. You absolutely deserve time to enjoy yourself or be with your partner. Yes babies are amazing and they can bring you so much joy, but again they are also a lot of hard work. There is so much to remember and things keep on changing so it is sometimes hard to keep up with. Take time for yourself so that you can unwind and feel better. It will also help your baby too. When I first went back to work and had to start pumping I was so stressed out because I didn't think I was pumping enough. Recent studies have shown that stress can deplete you milk supply so I stressed about stressing because I didn't want my supply to go down, but worrying about that made it even worse. Finding ways to relax is crucial! I got back into reading books and started this blog. Neither of those things are crazy or extravagant, but they allow me to relax and enjoy what I am doing. Never feel guilty when taking a moment for yourself. If your baby is happy and taken care of then you should take care of yourself too. Whatever you find makes you happy then make it a priority and make time to do it.
The overall theme for this is that we are all different and we all just want our best for our children. So stick to your gut and don't let those mom shamers cloud your thoughts or put you down. I believe in you all! *I will link some of my favorite baby products and books down below*