It gets easier. (But it gets a whole lot harder too).
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of massaging a brand new first-time mom. The internal struggle between “Oh my god, it’s so good to relax,” and “Oh my god, what’s going on with the baby?” was palpable. It threw me right back to that time when I was in the throes of feed-the-baby-change-the-baby-feed-the-baby-change-the-baby ad infinitum.
A few things I wish I had known then:
1. You are not the same person anymore. You will never watch the news the same way again. Don’t watch movies where children get kidnapped (trust me on this) if you like to enjoy the limited amounts of sleep you are getting. You will not drive the same. In a way that is phenomenally different from any other relationship, you will never be just you again. You are mom now.
2. But on the flip-side, you are still you. You are in there. The you that laughs at inappropriate jokes, has that third glass of wine and is incredibly sexy—she’s not gone. She might be a little buried under all the laundry, and diapers and stuffed animals. Don’t forget about her. Right now you are leaving the house with spit-up on your shoulder and 30 bags of stuff you might need just-in-case and you can’t even remember your own phone number because you are so effing tired. It won’t be this way forever.
3. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone tells you to do this. Do it. Cleaning the whole house while the baby sleeps doesn’t make you Super Mom. It makes you Zombie Mom. For awhile, I started to worry that I was narcoleptic. Turns out, that’s just what it’s like being a new parent. You can sleep anywhere, any position, at any time. Go for it.
4. Master a wide-eyed, polite nod and the phrase, “Gee, thanks, I’ll have to try that!” It will come in handy for the unsolicited advice from people in the grocery store, your mother-in-law, your neighbors, your childless friends, your friends with the perfect baby that craps rainbows and can sit up and read at three months old and everyone else who has an opinion on how you should parent. And then do what feels right for you.
5. Get dressed in the morning. Right away. You’ll feel a million times better then if you are slogging around the house in what you slept in. It doesn’t matter if you are going anywhere. Just put on a clean shirt and brush your hair.
6. Make time for sex. Seriously. Got five minutes? Make like Nike and “just do it.” A quickie on the bathroom countertop is better than waiting for when you have all afternoon. You will not have all afternoon again for a long time.
7. There is no getting your body back. Why would you want to? You have something new. Becoming a parent affects you. It’s great to take care of your body—I’m not saying let yourself go and stop caring how you look. But Heidi Klum and Gwyneth Paltrow are paid to look how they look and even their bodies have been changed by having children. (And even they don’t look the way they look in glossy photoshopped pictures anyway). You aren’t the same. You are a new beautiful. And the biggest thing that will never go back to how it was before is your heart.
8. The baby will stop crying eventually. When you are holding her, rocking her, walking her around the block, singing ridiculous songs from when you were in high school and doing everything but stand on your head—it feels endless. But she will stop crying. Hang in there. Take ten deep breaths and call a friend who doesn’t mind talking with you while you are bouncing a crying baby in your arms.
9. Sleeping “through the night” is bullsh*t. When people ask if your three-day-old baby is “sleeping through the night,” just say yes. They don’t really care. It’s just what people think they should ask.
10. How you feed your baby is not a measure of your value as a woman. I loved breastfeeding. It worked for me. It was a little rocky getting started, but once I got the hang of it, it was great. But you will never ever hear me tell another woman that she’s making the wrong choice by doing something different. When you are in the midst of it, it seems enormous. But it’s such a short time. It’s only one thing. Nourishing our children is what we do. Internally and externally, motherhood is about giving nourishment. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about how you choose to do it.
11. Throw out those ridiculous What to Expect books. They are awful and designed to make you anxious throughout pregnancy and childhood. Women have been having babies and raising them forever. The two books that helped me most as a parent? Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and Goodnight Moon. I can still recite Goodnight Moon and do at least once or twice a week even though my babies are now five and seven. It is one of the most soothing things on the planet. I think I want someone to read it to me at bedtime. Still worried you don’t know what to do? You do. And cultivate some mama friends whose values match your own—you need each other.
12. Babywearing will save your back. And your mind. And help keep your hips in some sort of alignment. 90% of the baby gadgets out there are unnecessary. This is the one thing I recommend to every new mom I know. You will also get so much more done. But even with your Maya Wrap or Ergo helping you play supermom and get stuff done, don’t forget to take care of you. Breastfeeding is a great time to meditate. Babies love watching you do yoga—it makes them giggle. Recharge your batteries before they’re used up.
13. No one wants to hear about your baby’s pooping schedule on Facebook. Truly. We love you. Those of us who’ve been there get it. But don’t make us hide you. Enough already.
14. Get a massage. Your body deserves it. Your heart deserves it. It’s an hour. You can take the hour for yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t self indulgence, it’s self preservation. Taking care of you helps you be a better parent.
15. It goes by so fast. It’s a cliché. It’s a cliché for a reason. Somewhere between taking doll shoes out of their noses, and wiping butts and reciting Goodnight Moon, they grow up.