With the birth of the royal baby all over the news and news of new babies in my own life every time I answer the phone, I have become nostalgic thinking back to those first early days as a new mama. In honor of all the new mamas out there, I figured I would share a list of the top five things I wish I would have known back then.
1. The baby will come in his or her time or and his or her own way. It seems there are two camps surrounding birth in our culture: the type that just figures everything will happen as it should, and the type that over-plans every single detail in an attempt to control the inevitable. Yes, it is vitally important to be aware of your options and your rights and their ramifications, and yes, there is quite a bit of the outcome that you can positively influence. But no amount of planning or worrying will ensure that everything will go exactly your way. Be bold in your plans and in your self-advocacy, but trust the baby and nature to do as they wish. They will in the end regardless of whether you willfully succumb to it or not.
2. You will become a mother and more than likely already have. There’s a change that happens to a woman during the nine months of gestation for her first child. Innocent dreams and giddy anticipation turn into thoughtful plans and concrete action. At the beginning of a pregnancy a woman is still so much in herself. And it makes sense because for the first decades of her life all of her decisions were for herself. But as the months roll on and a woman starts to make more and more decisions for her child, she turns out of herself and into a mother. And she may not notice it, and she very well may worry that it is not happening. But she should trust the process and that she is unfolding as she must and that by the time she holds that newborn babe in her arms for the first time, she will be fully a mother.
3. To mother is a verb as much as a noun. I do remember at times when my first was a newborn feeling like I wasn’t mom enough. It was a new role, and I worried I didn’t properly fit into it. It’s then that I would remind myself that a mother is someone who loves and nurtures and comforts and instructs. To mother is an action, and when you feel slightly less than a mother, just work to actively mother ever so slightly more.
4. Trust your gut and be yourself in this journey. I think everyone is aware of how many different ways of parenting there are out there. There are some that make sense to us, and some that just make us scratch our heads in confusion. And as we all know, there is helpful advice (and sometimes less than helpful advice) everywhere that we turn. But the act of mothering is so personal and requires so much of every part of our spirit that we have absolutely no choice but to do it completely our own way. This might differ in both small and large ways from those close to us and those in society in general, but it’s crucial. You can drive yourself crazy in a very short amount of time by trying to mother as everyone else does it, and in the end, you’ll never be as effective as when you are being wholly yourself.
- So, if you want to breastfeed, breastfeed. And if you have difficulties, ask for help.
- If you want to cloth diaper or use disposables, embrace your decision.
- If you choose to wear your baby rather than use a stroller, go for it. You’ll get whimsical glances from elderly people everywhere you go. (Actually, sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes you just want to blend in!)
- If your idea of discipline is different from others, make sure it is well thought out and then trust your gut.
- If your idea of schooling is different from the norm, know that no one knows your child as much as you do.
- And if you want to go back to or disappear from or put on hold or tailor back your career, that is your choice, and your child will benefit from it for different reasons regardless of what you choose.
5. Things will work out. I’m more prone to anxiety than most people in this world, so perhaps my experience is a bit more extreme than others, but it seems to me that daily something in this parenting journey will cause me to worry or question my decisions or fret about outcomes. But so far, everything has worked out in the end. I may not necessarily have liked how things turned out, but things are as they are and we moved on. The world unfurls as it must, and if we allow ourselves to embrace the journey, we will find that both ourselves and our children will grow in ways we never could have imagined.
Amanda Knapp writes about life and mothering her three young children on her blog, Indisposable Mama.