Advice I Would’ve Given Myself Before the Baby was Born

I’m nearly ten months into this motherhood journey. I know I still have lots to learn and I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in parenting an infant by any means (though how can you really be a parenting expert? All kids are different!). However, I have several friends who are expecting their first baby this year and as I think back to where I was a year ago (7 months pregnant), I keep thinking of advice or things I would’ve told myself back then as I was just enjoying the excitement and anticipation of being pregnant and preparing for birth. People always give unsolicited advice to new parents (and particularly new moms), so whoever may read this can take what they want from it, but more than just advice, I think it’s just an honest reminder of the reality of motherhood (and parenting in general).

So what would I have told my pregnant self?

1. Babies have their own schedules, so go with the flow.
I felt this reality more as I waited anxiously for my due date to approach. Starting from 3 weeks before, I was constantly wondering when I would go into labor. I was born three weeks early so I didn’t know if Baby J would follow my lead or if he’d be “late.” Babies will come when they’re ready and there’s no sense in trying to rush it or in putting your life on hold in expectation. It’s better for baby to stay inside longer (at least 39 weeks) since baby grows best inside his mother. I learned the most predictable thing about labor is it’s unpredictable.

Once the baby’s born, the baby’s schedule seems to dictate your day (particularly if you’re a new mom and only have one child to worry about). He eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps…all day long. It’s best to just accept it for what it is and do what your baby needs. As Jaylen has gotten older, he does have a more predictable schedule, but even then there’s variation. Sometimes he’ll take long naps, sometimes he won’t. Sometimes his nap schedule will get messed up or he’ll end up having a later bedtime, but it’s okay. {To further prove this point, I should mention that I started this blog post just before Jaylen turned 6 months old. I’m now publishing it when he’s almost 10 months. PRIORITIES.}

2. Babies don’t go by the book.
I was so excited for Jaylen to turn 6 months old so I could start giving him solid food. Part of me hoped this would help him sleep longer at night (which it does not necessarily help with that) and part of me just couldn’t wait to see him try new things and be a little less dependent on me for food. I was looking into the baby-led weaning process for introducing solids and was anxious to offer Jaylen regular food so he could feed himself and eat with us at meal times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try baby-led weaning much because Jaylen wasn’t that interested in solid food at 6 months! I would put food in front of him and he wouldn’t even try to pick it up. Then I put a toy in front of him and it instantly goes into his mouth (go figure). So I ended up giving him baby cereal and purees (but not chunky ones because those would make him gag and throw up). Now he’s great about feeding himself and loves food, but he still doesn’t have any teeth yet so we’re still waiting on those.

I’ve also learned that just because a website or a book says your baby should do something by a certain age (like sleep 4-5 hour stretches by the time he’s 5 months…Jaylen would do 1.5-2 hours instead), doesn’t mean your child will do it. Once you accept that each child is unique and will reach those milestones in his own time, your life will be so much easier. This leads into point #3.

3. Babies aren’t meant to sleep through the night.
I know parents can have very strong opinions on this one, but after reading various articles about this topic (mostly because I still haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in nearly 10 months), I believe that babies are not meant to sleep through the night. They’re supposed to wake up every couple hours to eat (especially when they’re newborns). They may still even wake up once or twice even after 6 months. Yes, there are some lucky parents whose babies start to sleep through the night (however you want to define it–some say 5-6 hrs straight, others say 11-12 hrs straight) at an early age. My baby is not one of those. On average he still wakes up about 2-3 times a night (although last night he woke up once…yay!). I’m still waiting for that day when he’ll sleep 11-12 hours straight at night. People have told us to let him cry it out, but we are not completely comfortable with that. This doesn’t mean that we don’t let him cry at all, but we just don’t let him cry hysterically for long periods of time. I am also not completely willing to night wean him because he doesn’t drink much milk during the day even when I nurse him so I think he may be reverse cycling. I’m concerned too about my milk supply, which seems to be dwindling (since I don’t pump as much when I’m at work anymore) and the stash I once had in the freezer is now gone as of today. As tired as I am, I do cherish those night feedings (sometimes) when I look at my son in my arms. I love that bond I have with him. And when I think I can’t take this phase anymore, I reread this KellyMom article and it reminds me that I’m still doing okay by doing what I think is best for my baby and me.

4. Don’t forget to pursue your husband and your marriage.
This is probably the most important thing I would’ve told myself before having a baby. I admit I still need to do a better job of this. It’s so easy as a mom, especially a new mom, to spend all your time and energy on the baby. When Jaylen was a newborn, it seemed like all I had time for was caring for him round the clock. Even now when Jaylen goes to sleep around 7 or 7:30, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m too tired to do anything–including invest in some quality time with my husband. It’s not a good excuse and a healthy marriage is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. So all you moms out there, no matter how tired or overwhelmed you are, make a commitment to try and love your husband well in spite of how you feel.

There are plenty of other things I’m still learning as a new mom. With Jaylen’s one year birthday around the corner, I can tell those brand new moms that it does get easier (even if I’m still not sleeping well). So I know the stage I’m at with the sleepless nights will also get easier eventually. Then I know I’ll probably be dealing with something else, but there’s no greater joy than having Jaylen in my life. Sure, we may not stay out late anymore and right now our days may revolve around Jaylen’s nap schedule, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Life wouldn’t be the same without seeing this smiling face. 🙂

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  1. #1 by Maggie Wallem Rowe on October 3, 2014 - 10:19 am

    Great post, Christy. I forwarded it to another new mom I know! 🙂

    • #2 by Christy on October 3, 2014 - 12:08 pm

      Thanks, Maggie! I’m sure she can relate.

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