A concept was pitched to me that I write an article about being a new parent. At first I thought, “well, that’s already been done.” But then I realized I might be able to give some insight that might be a little harsh, might be a little shocking, but will actually be truthful. Because, let’s be honest, you can read all the articles you want, but you never really know until you’re in it. So here is my attempt at the real truth about becoming a mommy. Let’s call it, “New Mommy Tips from the Ambivalent Parent.”
I was ambivalent about becoming parent. Just like I was ambivalent about getting married. The difference in the outcome of that ambivalence, though, is that one can end, while the other, for lack of a better phrase, you are stuck with. My marriage ended when my child was 6.5 months old. So there I was, a girl who wasn’t sure she was ready for this new role in the first place, not only dealing with new mommyhood but now doing it alone. So here are some real life stories from a working momma who had little support while doing it.
Childbirth is different for everyone. I was so panicked, I threw up before delivery. Get the epidural. I pushed 4 times and out he came. Peeing afterwards is a horrific experience. Nobody told me that. Use all the things they give you to assist with this. It will hurt for many weeks. This is the worst part of childbirth, in my opinion. And there you have it. Lucky for my husband, he was deployed for the first 5 weeks of post-delivery joy.
Doesn’t happen for everyone. I know most people are reluctant to talk about this. Although I love and cherish every single moment with my son, that instant bond/chemistry was not immediately there. In fact, it took until he became an interactive infant to feel that inseparable bond that we now share. I cried a lot. I resented my husband a lot. I felt overwhelmed and like I was mourning a loss, and I was! I was mourning the loss of my non-mommy life. This will happen. Don’t feel bad about it. Everything will now require planning, lots and lots of money, and many backaches. But hey, carrying the car seat with baby in it will make your arms look great! Appeal to your own vanity and the days will become easier.
Oh man, will you hear and read a lot about this. Let me start here: I dealt with grad school, a long distance relationship, a deployment, wedding planning, a cross-country move, and childbirth and pregnancy alone. Breastfeeding was, by far, the most stressful phase of my life. First tip: Don’t give up. 2: Read a book. I suggest “The Seven Natural Laws of Breastfeeding.” Actually, my doula suggested it. In fact, get one of those too. Worth the few hundred, especially if you’re an earth momma like me. And, hey, don’t even finish the book if you don’t want to. I didn’t. I got halfway through and put it down. If not for that book, I would have immediately given up. Make up your mind to make it work. Follow your son or daughter’s cues. When you get a good latch, even if it’s only for a few minutes and doesn’t happen again for hours, cherish it. You have done this right.
Nope. No ma’am. There is nothing pleasant about this. I pumped in my car while I was at work, every few hours. I tried to be discreet but let’s be honest here: you stop giving any shits. No shits are given. Whip those boobs out and attack those flanges, because mommahood eventually puts you on the fast path to shameless indiscretion. I imagine it might be easier for stay-at-home moms (not, life is not easier, but pumping might be?), but if you intend to go right back to work while nursing then this will be a reality in your life. Stock up on batteries or get a car charger. Get the right size flanges (the part that oh-so-comfortably fits over your boob) for your nipples. This is a gross word, I know. But just…do it. Find a place to store the tubes of pumped milk that will remain refrigerated and try not to leave it in your work fridge instead of taking it home. I did this. I’m sure they loved it. There are also milk donor sites you can find on facebook. Human Milk 4 Human Babies goes state by state. Eats on Feets is another. I’d like to believe that mommas who are willing to pump all that milk, store it, label it, and deliver it to you free of charge probably aren’t binging on methamphetamine most of their day. I used blind faith and man, did it take the stress out of pumping enough milk for my son. It’s a freaky thought, using someone else’s milk. I know. I get it. But if you can somehow get over it, and your supply is low, do it. Fuck what your friends think. Let them figure it out when they get to parenthood.
Sleep, or lack thereof
OK, it’s true that you will always be exhausted. You really, really will. But you can also have a newborn and infant who sleeps through the night. I’ve been told I’m lucky. No, that’s not it. I put my baby on a schedule when he was 5 weeks old. And guess what? He sleeps 10-12 hours now and has been for many months. If he’s a nursing newborn, you will be up many times a night. But eventually, they go longer and longer stretches. Stick. With. A. Schedule. Do not waiver. Have sitters, spouses, partners, family members…anybody that is watching him/her stick to this schedule. It will stress you out and you might feel stuck inside a lot of times. I certainly did. Eventually I learned when he could skip a nap or two and I’d be willing to take the hit later that night. In the long run, this schedule mania pays off. Your child will nap on cue and express hunger on cue and wake up at generally the same time every day. Tailor them to the kiddo’s needs, but absolutely have a framework in place. It is not wise to always listen to other parents who preach that they let their child guide the day. That’s totally fine! But I’d rather keep my sanity by doing it this way. Find a schedule and stick to it. Best baby nurse advice ever.
I was always a person who rarely, if ever, asked for or accepted help with anything. And then, something changed. I became an overwhelmed parent. I’d also like to take a second to point out that every new parent is overwhelmed and might even cry themselves to sleep a lot of times. Or cry over morning coffee. Or lunch. Or while pumping. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on facebook; those first-time parents are going through their own personal universe of extreme joy and pure hell and confusion…simultaneously. Reach out to other new parents. Let that man help you carry the car seat or fold a stroller. If flying with baby, let the nice old man or woman sitting next to you hold your baby if he or she wants. But only if they’re not creepy. Take those small moments to pull your pants up, go pee, or wipe the vomit off your arm. Just accept the help, because you will need it. You are not superhuman.
A few other random tidbits.
- You will have time to shower, if you want it badly enough. I would drag the rock n’ play, pack n’ play, or other child-containing advice right into the bathroom with me, and occasionally talk to my son while showering to keep him entertained. You get that shower. You need it.
- Drink wine if you want to. Or whatever your wine-equivalent is, if that suits your fancy. And by the way, you can absolutely drink while nursing. Alcohol takes about 30 minutes to enter your bloodstream so have that drink right as they latch. Buy the expensive test strips if you want. I was paranoid, so I did. But honestly, use your own judgment about using milk you’ve pumped after drinking, or nursing after having drinks. If you feel drunk, don’t do it. But remember- about 1/10th of the alcohol you consume is even passed onto your breastmilk, and the bad stuff is mostly filtered out. Don’t let people scare you. Just use your head. In fact, that’s good advice for almost all of parenting. Trust your own judgment.
- Your boobs might totally go back to normal after nursing. Your body will change in certain ways. If either of these things does or does not happen, just remember, you made a human. You are beautiful. Your son or daughter thinks you are the most perfect thing on the planet. And you are.