When I became a mother on September 6, 2016 at 8:49 p.m., I was overcome by all the feelings. Joy, immense pride, shock. We were crying happy tears and I turned to my all-star nurse and said, “I am so thankful the hard part is over!” She patted my arm and just smiled. What I didn’t realize then was that yes, contractions + labor + epidural + pushing for two hours was hard work, but the hard part was yet to come. We left the hospital with our 7-pound bundle of rosy perfection and I prayed all the way home that we were actually prepared for this.
Somehow after studying all the books, blogs and articles during the 9 months and 6 days baby cooked I was left feeling like an entry-level expert. I had meals ready in the freezer and knew how to work the highly complicated car seat and boy was I ready to try out our jogging stroller. Imagine my surprise when baby Annie arrived, beautiful and smiling up at me, that doubt crept into my mind and I realized I didn’t have a clue how to be a mother.
It’s been a year and a couple months since I became a mama and oh my I learned so much in my first year of motherhood. Those first months of motherhood are equal parts exciting and terrifying — so many unknowns, so many sleep-deprived cry sessions and even more moments I felt like my heart would explode from another toothless grin.
In short: some days I felt like Wonder Woman and others I forgot to brush my teeth.
As I reflect on the past year and celebrate this wonderful little person I brought into the world, I realize there is one main thing I want to tell new mamas and get this, it’s only three words.
Are you ready?
Do whatever works.
Base your decisions in parenting on what your own research and gut tell you to be the best in that moment, and don't put all your stock in what everyone else is telling you.
The bedtime routine that worked perfectly for your MIL might not work so much for you and your baby. Your friend’s baby might have been ready to wean at 8 months but your little darling didn’t feel ready until after 12 months. The book that you highlighted every other page during your second trimester might be mocking you now that your baby will only nap if you’re holding her a certain way and have the vacuum running in the next room. That’s OKAY. Every baby is different and every mama is different. Listening to your gut and paying attention to your baby’s unique needs is far more important than trying to do whatever works for everybody else.
Trying to do exactly what another mother has done is bound to leave you feeling inadequate and uptight and ladies, being uptight steals your joy. NOT COOL. This time with your baby is short and it’s best to remember there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting. Your baby might wake up at 4:30 a.m. for two weeks for no reason and despite your friend’s best advice and all the latest research on "how to get your baby back to sleep now," she won’t. Just take a deep breath, put on an extra pot of coffee and try something else. One day you’ll find something that works for you and your baby and you’ll be just fine.