*It’s a big day for the She’sWrite blog. Today is my first guest blogger. Her name is Jess and she’s a quick-witted, stay-at-home mother-writer-friend who is expecting her second child any moment now. (I mentioned her in my previous post as the cute brunette in my mommy group.) She’ll be popping up here periodically sharing her insights on the various lenses of her life. Without further ado, here’s Jess:
I am about to become a new mother for the second time. I have a 3-year old son, Henry, and the invaluable advantage of hindsight — I now know there is a solution for every problem and no problem is a catastrophe — but still I feel I am entering virgin territory (well, you know, new territory). How will I manage breastfeeding all night and a toddler all day? How will I deal with Henry’s jealousy? Will I ever be able to run an errand again?
I also can’t exactly remember my experience the first time around. So I reread with interest a few thoughts I wrote when Henry was 6 months old. I will no doubt learn new lessons in the next six months. For now, though, here are some things I think hold true for real first-time moms:
1. You might not love your baby right away. Many people threw the following clichés at me when my son was born: “Don’t you just want to eat him?” No, I didn’t. “Isn’t it scary how much you love him?” No, it wasn’t. “Can you even remember what life was like before him?” Yes, I could. For the first month, I felt like I was babysitting a child — I was very careful and attentive, even ferociously protective, but I was not in love with my baby. I felt exhausted, dumbfounded, and trapped. The love happened over time.
2. You are trapped. “Adjustment” is a euphemism or something you do to your seatbelt. But being trapped becomes okay. By the time your baby is old enough to leave with someone for hours or even days at a time, you won’t want to go as much as you did the first six weeks.
3. You might feel very alone for awhile, even if you are surrounded by people. No one is going through exactly what you are. The closest you can come to a sense of camaraderie is with other people who have new babies — not just children but new babies. If you don’t already know someone like this, the best thing you can do is join or create a new-moms group.
4. Those cute little shoes for newborns are more trouble than they’re worth. When your baby is a genuine newborn, for about the first 3-4 months, you are trying to figure out how to hold him without his head falling off. These tiny shoes are just another thing you have to deal with. Newborns need a onesie and a blanket. Forget accessories. Spend your money on easy.
5. While you’re at it, cut out other unnecessary crap. This goes for everything from answering non-urgent emails to hosting your in-laws from out of town. Do what is best for the new-mom you even if the well-mannered you is worried it’s impolite. Ignore emails; ask your in-laws to stay at a hotel; say no to travel for the first six months if lugging a baby to the airport feels like too much. It doesn’t matter if your friend could do it. It doesn’t matter who you disappoint. You are undergoing the biggest transformation of your life.
6. Your body will never be the same. I always thought this oft-recited warning just meant I’d be forever plumper. What I now realize is that it’s not (just) about weight. It’s about ligaments and bones that move while you are pregnant and don’t go back. Shirts are now shorter on me. Pants lip out in back when I sit. The act of delivering a child seems to have made my backside flatter.
7. Finally, the clichés are true:
- Once the love starts, every day you will love your baby more than the day before. You’ll think you can’t but as with the Grinch, your heart grows bigger and bigger to accommodate.
- You can love someone so much it’s scary. You have only so much control and you hope that the story is happy and continues long after you are gone.
- Love makes you vulnerable. Falling in love with your child is like having a huge, open wound: much of your happiness relies on the hope that people won’t mess with it.
- And yes, you can love someone so much you want to eat him.
*Update: On Sept. 24, Jess had a healthy baby girl, Clara June Edith.