As I sit here and write this, I kind of feel like I'm just waking up from a newborn fog myself—like I had been living in a dream and a nightmare all at once. With all the highs and lows of newborn parenthood—I'm realizing that literally nothing could have prepared me mentally or emotionally for it. How could it have?
It's like—how do you prepare the sweet baby you're growing inside you for the warmth of the sunlight they'll feel on their cheeks or the sound of the birds chirping in the spring? Nothing you could ever say could prepare them for that kind of simple wonder.
And nothing I can tell you will prepare you for the simple wonder of being present in the first moments of your baby's precious and irreplaceable life.
Take a mental snapshot of your home as you leave for the hospital. It will never be the same again. Try to remember the way the light poured in through the windows, the way the air felt on your face. I'm thankful I was able to remember to do this myself. Months from that day when the light pours in and the air brushes against your face in a similar way you'll be filled to the brim with heartwarming nostalgia of the day your sweet baby was born.
There is nothing I can say to you that can prepare your body for the excitement, the nerves, the exhaustion, or the hard work that is giving birth. The inexplicable awestruck wonder of your baby's first breath, their first blink, their first cry. The first time you meet them—the only person in the world that knows your heart from the inside. You will be the most beautiful sight they have ever seen, as they will be yours.
There are no words for those moments. But there are actions.
Take a picture in the hospital holding that sweet soul—a picture that includes you. The postpartum you with no makeup on, your hair disheveled, your hospital gown draped over your tired body. Don't wait to be "ready."
Take the picture. I wish I had.
There aren't any words to describe your first night home and the first weeks to follow. They'll be some of the most emotional days of your entire life—highs and lows of epic proportions—waves of pride, frustration, invincibility and defeat. Take them all in and let them shape your experience.
Trust the process. I wish I had been more trusting.
Breastfeed if you want to. Formula feed if you want to. That is your choice. Make it for the right reasons. Don't do either because someone else wants you to.
Make the choice that makes you and your sweet baby happy, healthy and able to be present. I wish I had.
Don't let anyone pressure you into decisions. Don't let anyone make you feel less than for the first choices you'll make as a mother. There is no one on the earth that knows your son better than you. Yes, the diaper is on right. No, the swaddle isn't too tight.
Be confident in your abilities and instincts. I wish I had been more confident.
With that said, be open to support from those around you—particularly from the women in your life. Accept and embrace your vulnerability and surrender, at least for a little while, to the hands of your village.
My mother-in-law told me on the way home from the hospital that she was never more grateful for the presence of her mother than in the days and weeks after my husband was born. She said I would feel the same. And she was right.
Let your mom or mother-in-law or a mother figure of sorts come to your rescue. Let her put cream on your back after the shower and stroke your hair as you take a nap. Be her baby. Now you'll understand the depth of her love for you.
Try to enjoy the moments right from the start. Rock your baby to sleep. Smell their precious newborn scent. Snuggle them endlessly. Let them fall asleep on your chest and keep your skin touching theirs as much as you can. All of this will be pretty difficult as you run on likely very little sleep, so don't be hard on yourself when you feel overwhelmed (we all feel that way at times!).
But as you can— try to be there in those moments. I wish I had been more present.
Know that the first weeks and first months come with a lot more exhaustion than you could ever really imagine—but then they will end. They. Will. End. The sleepless nights eventually become more restful and your days a little more routine.
For many weeks, your nights and days will be mixed up and your schedule shot. Try your best to roll with it. Don't try to force a routine or a schedule—it will re-establish itself in time.
Have faith in those chaotic moments that things will settle. I wish I had had more faith.
Things started to get really fun for me and my son at three months and things seemed to feel like my "new normal," my body included, around five months.
In time, your sweet baby will let you put them down. They will eventually get the hang of eating. There will come a moment where your baby takes a nap in the crib. Life on this side of the womb takes a little practice. Your baby will get the hang of it, mama.
Don't worry about it. I wish I had worried a little less.
Cry with your partner when you have to. Laugh together when you can. Take too many pictures. Have patience with each other. Try to hug every single day—sneak quiet moments together when you can. Try to step back from it all and observe it quietly.
You'll be amazed at yourself, at your partner, at your new family. I wish I had stepped back more often.
…And then one morning you'll wake up from a good night's sleep. You'll wake up from that sleep and you'll sit down to HOT coffee again and you'll realize the fog has cleared a bit.
You'll see that your life is forever changed. You'll realize now that when you gave birth to your baby, you also gave birth to a mother and a father, too. You'll realize now the magnitude of what you've done.
When the fog clears and you realize the enormity of this accomplishment, I hope you reflect back on your experience and marvel at the gift you have been given and also at the gift you have given to the ones you love.