have OCD am a planner. When I was pregnant for the first time, pretty much from the time I peed on the stick, I wanted to be ready. I wanted the nursery prepped and painted, I wanted my maternity wardrobe hanging in my closet, and I wanted to know exactly what was going to happen to my vagina. I spent a lot of time on the Internet reading up on what to expect now that I was expecting. I put a lot of time and energy into my baby registry, and made sure I had everything I could possibly need to make it through the next 18 years. So by the time I had that first contraction, I was totally ready.
Hahahahaa. Kidding! I, of course, had no clue.
So now, seven years and three babies later, I peruse the Babies R Us registries of people dear to me who are preparing for their first child and I wonder- what is it that we REALLY need? If I could actually have had a list of what I needed, what would it have looked like? What has actually helped me to (barely) survive becoming and being a Mom? And it seems to me- what I truly needed then, more than a bottle sanitizer or nipple cream or a baby carrier that came with its own INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO- was to sit down with ME, seven years later, and have a candid chat about what was to come, and how you can never be ready.
So here it is, the things you can't register for. A list written by me (now) to me (then) of the five things that I needed then, and I still desperately need now, maybe even more so. This is MY mommy survival guide:
1. Hot shoes: I don't want to alarm you, but at this point I have birthed three babies. My butt has been about 45 different sizes over the past eight years. My stomach muscles have PTSD, and gravity does strange and inhumane things to most parts of my body. But my feet have remained a consistent size 6.5 my entire adult life. So, while trying to squeeze myself into a too-small pair of old jeans may have the power to completely destroy my day (month), throwing on a pair of beautiful shoes will always have the ability to make me feel like a woman. And when you spend a large part of your day covered in baby poop, or your boobs are leaking, or its been a few days since you have seen the inside of your shower- feeling feminine can become really, really important.
2. Wine: Or beer, or chocolate, french fries, hot baths, or Tori Spelling. Every Mom needs a vice (or two), although they preferably should not be the type of vice that lands you in jail or makes you eat someone's face. You know that unbridled glee that your kid gets when you propose going out for ice cream? MY face looks like that as I open a bag of potato chips. Or a bottle of wine. And if I happen to have both, oye. A glass of wine and potato chips IN THE BATHTUB? THAT is the stuff heaven is made of. And while there are times that my head, my waistline or my IQ don't exactly appreciate my vices, the reality is I need them. I need to have a little thing at the end of the week or the end of the evening that gives me selfish joy. We all do. When you spend most of your waking hours making sure everyone else is happy, you have earned a little bit of happiness too. Trust me.
3. A cheer leading squad: It takes a village, people. We need support. We are not meant to do this alone, and when I try to be a hero and do it alone, I always eventually fall into an ugly, teary heap on the bathroom floor- or worse. A great husband (which I have) is a fabulous start, but it is not enough. I need other women. You know who understands how incredibly awful it is to clean projectile vomit out of a ceiling fan? Another Mom, because she has done it. She may even be doing it RIGHT NOW. I need people to tell me my shirt/skirt/life is on backwards. I needed people to hold my baby so I could shut the door like a respectable person and poop in peace. I need people to refill my wine glass. I will always need people to cheer me on as I navigate through the maze of tears, barf, poop, pee, mac and cheese, and Legos that is parenting a young child (or three). Which brings me to:
4. A babysitter: Sometimes, we all just have to put on pants and leave the house. If you try to assuage the constant guilt of being a working Mom by never leaving your children's side when you're not working, eventually your head will spin in full 360 degree circles and green vomit will spew from your nose. There is no prize awarded to people who have been able to never leave their babies. It has proved absolutely essential to my existence to occasionally have adult conversations that include liberal use of the f word and if at all possible, a liberal pour from the wine bottle. A marriage is important- go on a friggin date with your husband. And that cheer leading squad I mentioned? Go be with them. Let them cheer you on. Cheer for THEM, when they need it. And sometimes, its perfectly okay to hire a babysitter just so you can leave the house- even if you only get in your car and drive to the end of the street and curl up in the back seat to take a nap.
5. Perspective: It is so, so easy to get so wrapped up in my own little world that it honestly seems like a BIG DEAL when the baby dumps the family sized box of Cheerios in the toilet and then proceeds to eat it with a spoon. But it's not. Because every once in a while, life is going to remind me that the small things are never, in fact, big deals. Occasionally, life is even going to show me what a big dealis- and when it does, I will feel silly for yelling so loud that I lost my voice that time when both of my older children decided to drop trousers and poop in the backyard in full view of the (new) neighbors. There will be surgeries, there will be ER visits. There will be true emergencies and sadness and pain and scares- and these things will have a way of teaching in a big, big way what is truly important.
And let's please be clear- I don't mean to give the impression that I have a single actual THING figured out about how to do any of this. At the end of the craziest, loudest, smelliest day- all I know for sure is that with the help of these things, I have survived another one.
Liz is a writer, blogger, teller of stories, believer in truth, and mama to four. She shares her stories on lizpetrone.com and all over the internet. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.