I feel so blessed to be able to teach and learn from expecting families as my fun side "job". I realized though, after a somewhat worried e-mail from a former student that I sometimes forget about them after they have left the class.
I have so many students now plus my own family that I can't really feasibly help everybody through the early days of motherhood, but I wish I could. I feel strongly that women at this most vulnerable time in their lives are so often left alone in our culture. They often feel isolated and overwhelmed as they switch from competent career woman to "why is this baby crying?!" mom.
I remember those first weeks and months with my first baby, and for me, they were difficult. Mothering didn't come easy to me. I had never cared for young children. I had never been physically depleted and never been so socially isolated as I was in those early months.
Here are the things I wish I had known then.
~You will love your baby~
Of course I loved my baby, but unlike some women, I didn't feel an immediate understanding or overwhelming bond with my baby. Maybe this had something to do with some postpartum things that happened, but no matter why, it was difficult and overwhelming at a sensitive time.
Sometimes that immediate bond doesn't come right away- but it does come. Serving the baby twenty-four hours a day, as you will as a new mother, teaches love. Service is truly a vehicle for love. I think that is one of the reasons why babies NEED their mothers so much, so that we can learn to love them so much that we will remember it forever and through all of life's hard times.
I wish I had felt less guilt, and just trusted that love grows, day in and day out.
~You will learn to mother~
I never had that important of a job or career, but I was hard worker and my bosses liked me. I felt like I mattered and helped. School was also enjoyable and made me feel competent.
Going from somebody who knew what she was doing and could instruct others to somebody who had no idea if the baby was hungry, tired, or in pain was difficult for me. I would watch in awe as experienced mothers would visit, pick up my baby, and suddenly he would stop crying. What?! I am his mama, why can't I do that?!
For me, learning how to read and understand a baby took time and effort and more time. It is a learning experience. Because it is an all day, every day job, that can be exhausting and overwhelming. But somehow it happened. When I had my second, suddenly I knew what she needed, as if by magic.
Mothering is amazing, but it is also sometimes learned. Don't beat yourself up if it takes you some time to learn it.
~Advice is nice, unless it is wrong. Instincts however...tend to be right~
There is so much information out there and it comes from everywhere. There are books and relatives and friends and blogs and online forums. All are full of self proclaimed experts who will tell you what to do. (Yes, even me.)
I remember trying to do everything right according to a popular attachment parenting book. Guess what, my baby still screamed sometimes! I remember just closing that book and deciding to just do this myself and stop trying to check every box on the attached parent manual.
Sometimes books and experts are extremely helpful. But sometimes they just cloud your judgment and your natural instincts when you need to hear them the most. Everybody has an opinion, that is a given, what we forget is that everybody also has DIFFERENT kids and different life experiences.
Some babies nurse every hour. Some nurse every three hours for only five or ten minutes at a time. Both may grow happy and healthy and chubby. The trick I found, was to worry less and listen to my baby and my instincts more. By the way, I have had both types of baby. One I filled out charts for to show to lactation consultants, counted diapers and timed feedings to make sure they were long enough. The other one I just (horror of horrors) FED when hungry. Both are alive and well, but one had a much more stressed mother.
~Breastfeeding gets easier~
Somebody told me that it takes two weeks to get good at nursing and two months to become expert at it. It is great when nursing just happens beautifully right away, I have been blessed with that too. But sometimes, it is a rocky start.
Doing everything you can to prepare, learn, and make sure latch is right and all is well is important. It is also however, important just to recognize that easy breastfeeding sometimes just requires some time and patience.
~You will mess up, and it will still be OK~
I try to remind myself that my children are not made of tissue paper. Sometimes I see people so stressed about a stage or a parenting choice, they seem to think that one wrong move on their part will scar the child FOREVER.
It is important to always try our best.
It is also important to take a breath and realize that no matter how hard we try, we will make mistakes, and we will fail, and life will still go on. Being imperfect is actually not a horrible thing in a parent. It makes us human and it teaches our children some important lessons too.
I hope I can remember that mistakes are mandatory BUT they do not ruin children unless they are done with hatred or neglect. Accepting my imperfections while continuing to be better makes life a little less stressful.
~Wishing all mothers wisdom and patience, not just with their children, but also with themselves. You can do this.~