Seventeen years ago, I was hugely pregnant and watching the calendar roll further and further beyond my due date. When I did finally have my baby -- 10 days past that elusive date -- I was thrilled. But I was also completely shocked at just how much real life differed from my fantasies about childbirth and new motherhood.
I read the books and took all the courses. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
My first baby is now taller than I am, and is learning to drive. I'm feeling nostalgic about those first few days, months and years, so I am sharing 10 (for how many days past my due date I was) things that I wish I had known back then.
1. Expect the unexpected when it comes to actually having your baby. I had heard enough of my friends' birth stories, from perfect dream deliveries to deliveries from hell, that I thought I was pretty prepared. I was not. Twenty hours into labor, I said to my husband, "You know, I think this just isn't going to happen today. Let's go home and try tomorrow." For a minute, I really believed this.
2. The more expensive a newborn or child's outfit is, the more tiny snaps or buttons it has. Those snaps can be really hard to manage in the beginning, or after a full week of no sleep. Go ahead and buy all the cute things that are sold in the specialty baby stores, but don't say I didn't warn you.
3. Just when you feel you have mastered a stage of development with your newborn, infant, toddler or even teenager, they will move into a new stage. If you are feeling on top of your parenting game, enjoy it. Your kid will move into a new stage any day now.
4. Since we are talking about stages of development, want to toilet train your kid? Buy diapers or pull-ups in bulk when they are on sale. Once the three-month supply of diapers or pull-ups is in your closet, your child will decide it's time to use the potty. It's not a completely foolproof method, but it has proved effective with my three.
5. If you really feel like you are done with raising babies, make sure you are using a very effective form of birth control before getting rid of your baby furniture and baby clothes. This is from someone who needed the help of a fertility doctor with babies one and two. Baby three was a complete surprise that came right after I gave away all crib bedding and baby clothes.
6. No matter what you choose for your baby -- bottle- or breastfeeding, cloth or disposable diapers, staying home or going back to work -- someone, somewhere will say you are wrong. Don't be surprised if close relatives are some of your loudest critics. The sooner you realize that the only people who matter now are in the family you have just created, the sooner you will enjoy your life as a mom.
7. The faster you can meet other moms you really connect with, the faster you will start to really have fun in your new role. Meeting these friends might be harder than you expect. Especially if, like me, you have recently moved to the suburbs and left your job. I was astounded at how lonely I felt those first few months being home with my baby, and I was equally shocked at just how much time and effort I had to put into finding my mom "tribe." But it was so worth it.
8. Your little one will not care if you have the flu, pulled your back out, or are in active labor with their sibling. They want you when they want you. It has always felt more than a little daunting to me just how important I am to my three kids. Even now that they are teens and tweens, I hold a place that nobody else does. We moms have magical powers. But our kids are glad to have grandma or another trusted caregiver watch them them so that we can get better. Take care of yourself. This has always been easier said than done for me, but it's vital to my family and me.
9. If you don't want your husband or partner to think of themselves as a "babysitter" or "part-time" caretaker, don't treat them that way. I was so convinced that only I could give a bottle or diaper to our babies the "right" way that I had a hard time letting go and letting Joe find his own way with the baby. Once I did, it made a really big difference in our marriage and in his relationship to all three of our kids.
10. People are going to constantly tell you to enjoy every moment, and that it all goes by ridiculously fast. Women whose kids are days away from their 17th birthdays may be the biggest offender in this department. It's totally normal to want to scream at me, I mean them, and tell us to shut the heck up. After all, you are knee-deep in diapers, bottles and toddler tantrums, and the last thing you want is some weepy, sappy, middle-aged mom smiling at you and getting all sentimental. But file it in the back of your mind, because trust me, it's totally true.
This piece was previously published on Kathy's site, My dishwasher's possessed!