If you are pregnant now with your first baby and you are anything like me, you are full on freaking out but not doing anything about it except maybe scrolling an article or two. I get you. Take a seat and read this one. I promise to be honest and (hopefully) not scare you.
With my first, I had literally no idea what I was doing. I now have two and still have no idea what I am doing. I do know what I wish I had known before though.
1. There is no perfect.
I had all these ideas of things I would do and how I would do them before having kids. I hate to admit this but I was definitely that person who said, “I am not going to let my kids eat sugar or watch tv too early. That’s just bad parenting.”
Cut to a couple years and I have done everything I said I wouldn’t do. My kids favorite show is Octonauts and it is actually the coolest. Oh and my eldest's favorite snack is ice cream so y’know *shrugs.*
I am a fantastic parent though and a little sugar and screen time doesn’t change that.
Your idea of perfect will shift and change with time and that is okay. You can be a wonderful parent even if you do all the things you said you weren’t going to.
2. Do not compare yourself to others.
We almost never know what others are going through.
That parent that looks like they have it all together, may be struggling with something that comes easily to you.
Even if they aren’t struggling at all, it doesn’t make your experiences any less valid.
Parenting is a tough job and we are all just trying our best. Everyone’s kid is different and everyone parents differently.
Comparing is just going to cause unnecessary stress to you as you try to measure up to an image of what you think you “should” be. In reality, there is no should. There is only what you can and what you want to do.
Parenting pushes us to our limits and everyone has different limits and boundaries. Respect yourself by allowing yourself to be the best parent YOU and only you can be. Nobody is going to parent your babies better.
3. The exhaustion.
Holy guacamole. Everyone told me, “sleep while you can because you won’t be able to later.”
I understood this but I didn’t really grasp it until my baby was a month old and waking up every 30 minutes to eat because their tiny bellies can contain an absurd amount of food. Like, HOW?
Never ever ever had I experienced that level of physical exhaustion. I could barely keep my eyes open.
It is not just physical though, it is emotional and mental exhaustion unlike anything anyone can explain to you.
Unfortunately, you just have to live it.
The only thing that helped me was reminding myself that it was temporary and that this stage in development would soon end and a new exciting but equally exhausting one would follow.
Those first few months are brutal and the best advice I can give you is accept the help.
A friend offers to play with your baby while you nap, do it. Even if you nap on the couch while they play next to you. Take a hot shower, eat a meal with both hands, drink something piping hot and finish it while it’s still hot, or maybe just have a chat with that friend and allow yourself to talk about things that aren’t your beautiful baby.
You are allowed to be tired and you are allowed to accept help.
4. Sleep deprivation.
I know I already talked about exhaustion but I seriously cannot stress enough how hard sleep deprivation can be on a person.
My biggest fear was hurting my baby in some way because of my exhaustion. I think this is the most common fears amongst new and seasoned parents for obvious reasons.
So when my baby was at her roughest, my husband and I took turns sleeping. I would go to bed early and my husband would stay up with our baby until about midnight. Then we would switch and I would stay up with her for a while. When my husband got home I would take a nap, then he would take a nap and that is what worked for us.
It was a tough time but it was just the two of us and we didn’t really have friends or family around so we had to make it work somehow.
Having a few solid hours of sleep changed our lives. If you don’t have any support, join a mom group in your area and make friends with someone while you’re pregnant and then take turns watching the babies while the other one rests.
It is also important to note that everyone has different thresholds for sleep. One of my dear friends needs 8 hours of sleep no matter what. She simply cannot function with less. I really only need 5 solid hours. Some need less, some need more. Know your limits.
Get the sleep that you can when you can. Dishes, laundry, everything else can wait.
5. There will be good days and bad days.
I was the first in my immediate family to have a baby. I had cousins who had children but I lived away for most of it so I didn’t experience anything with them. I had one friend who had a baby a few months before me and I couldn’t really reach out to her since she was dealing with a much larger medical issue within her family.
I had worked with young children pretty much my entire adult life and I really believed that had prepared me in some way for motherhood.
I’ll pause so you can laugh.
Needless to say, it did not. At least not yet.
I struggled a lot at the beginning. I was lonely, anxious, and overwhelmed while caring for a fragile tiny human.
It rocked my world.
I had a lot of really hard days at the beginning of my little one’s life. It made me feel like such a failure. I didn’t share my struggles with anyone because I didn’t realize it would help. Despite my husband’s encouragement and praise, it wasn’t until I joined mom groups on Facebook and started making more mom friends that I learned that was completely normal and completely okay.
Hearing the stories from other parents about their own children and all the truly unexpected things they bring, I actually found myself again. I found my community. I no longer felt like a failure. I am just a normal mom with very normal kids having normal overwhelming days.
I wish I knew that before I had my baby. It would have saved me from so much heartache. So, share your stories. You might save another parent from feeling like they are all alone.
That being said, the good days are incredible. Nobody can prepare you for that.
The joy you will feel hearing your baby’s laughter or smelling that sweet smell is unparalleled to any other. Even certain poops will bring you intense happiness. Who knew you could be happy about a tiny baby pooping? You might even take pictures and you know what? That is totally alright because we all do it.
Parenthood brings you the highest highs and the lowest lows. Buckle up because you are in for the ride of your life.
About the Author
Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.