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Challenge: Bringing Home Baby: What Do You Wish You’d Known?

Bringing Home Baby: The Bests and Worsts of the First Year

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I'm the mother of a one year old, and I think we all know what that means. Not to brag, but it means that I've successfully reared a child for over 365 days. That's like 100% + of 12 months. Given this impressive level of experience, I'd like to provide some words of wisdom to my soon-to-be mom friends as they embark on this, the most rewarding and challenging of roller coasters otherwise known as the first year of parenthood. Sure, my own baby is basically still a glorified (albeit cheerful) ham, and yeah, I couldn't figure out how to get him in or out of his carrier today without the assistance of a pit crew. But who's to say what constitutes being an expert, really?

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on what makes up the best and worst aspects of the first year of life with a baby.

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Best

Immediately losing 10 pounds post-delivery. I mean, when else can you achieve such magnificent results, unless you have Jillian Michaels standing over you with a bullwhip? (Answer: you may also achieve these results in a sauna if you're chock full of laxatives, but that's not medically advisable). Otherwise, never.

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Worst

Constipation. This is your enemy in a way that you can scarcely imagine prior to giving birth, especially if you have a C-section. Sure you've been clogged up before, perhaps following an overzealous rendezvous with a prime rib. But post-birth constipation can take you from behind, if you will, and not let go. It can make you wish you were still in labor, because at the end of labor you have a new child to look forward to, while at the end of constipation you have hemorrhoids to look forward to. The only saving grace here is that you can at least enjoy a daily sitz bath, which is like a spa in the same way that a prison cell is like a dorm room.

Best

Maternity leave. This is a glorious period when you are "free from all obligations" (except for the notable obligation of keeping a baby alive). Nonetheless, this period provides a respite from the daily grind, leaving you with enough stamina during the day to be beaten down by your infant ALL NIGHT LONG. It also gives you time for leisure activities, such as scouring the internet for ways to make your baby stop crying, and reading 1,000 online forums regarding the developmental milestones your baby is not meeting. Such a calming and restful time. Quite simply, it is THE BEST.

Worst

Finding day care. A question that many of us face with a new baby, beyond the obvious one of where in God's name did the belly button stump disappear to, is the question of who will watch our child if we're planning to go back to work. Grandparents? A nanny? A friendly pack of local wolves? The choices are endless. You're hard pressed to find a new parent who isn't anxious when it comes to making the proper choice in this all important matter. Make a bad decision and you will most definitely ruin your child for good. The emotional scars will be deeply etched, and you will have only yourself and that pack of wolves to blame. Make a good decision and acceptance into an Ivy League school is all but guaranteed. Your child will be socially advanced and physically fit, with better hair than his peers. He will probably be taller too, dramatically improving his chances of holding political office. Other than that, the stakes aren't very high.

Best

The smell of your newborn baby's head. Research shows that the scent of a newborn baby taps into the pleasure center of a woman's brain. It's such a sweet, sweet smell, and it's nature's way of helping the bonding along.

Worst

The smell under your newborn baby's neck. It's surprisingly terrible. I'm not totally sure what nature was thinking with this one. Seems to be a misstep.

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Best

The ability to dress up your baby in a variety of costumes. Ask yourself this: Is it even worth having a baby if you're not going to dress him up as a bear? I can't see a really compelling reason to have children if you're not planning on taking advantage of this opportunity. It's the best! (Note: If you prefer to dress your baby up as barnyard or aquatic animal, you'll reap the same benefits).

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Worst

You will spend a lot of money on clothes that your baby will only wear once. There is no getting around it, as the odds are 110% that your baby will either defecate all over her new clothes or, alternatively, control her bowels but then decide to grow 7 inches overnight. Don't hate the player, hate the game, you guys. Sometimes it's easier to just concede defeat right out of the gate.

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Best

As a new mom, you can wear whatever you want. WHATEVER you want. Vomit stained maternity pants? Of course. A shapeless mumu? No problem whatsoever. Sweatpants from 1987? Hell yes. Nobody will judge you. Ok people will probably judge you, but nobody will judge you OUT LOUD, and isn't that the only time it really counts?

Worst

You won't have the energy to pull together an attractive outfit, even on those rare occasions when you really want to dress up. As the months go by this can start to affect your ability to recognize yourself as a reasonably attractive individual. And if you weren't even attractive to start with, then man does this hurt! This can be especially tough if you're breastfeeding and need to be wearing something that is not only trendy but also allows you to pull out your boobs at a moment's notice.

Best

New parent camaraderie. Making friends with other new parents and being able to commiserate with them is priceless. Even if you already have amazing friends, you're going to want to add to your stockpile some parents with babies who were born within 2 months of your baby. Otherwise you won't be able to discuss the stumbling blocks of your child's particular developmental stage. You also won't be able to do head to head comparisons, which you'll definitely want to do in order to determine if your baby is superior to all the other loser babies. (Note: If your baby seems to be falling behind, just adjust his birth date so that he is "back on track").

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Worst

Mommy wars. I had heard the term before, of course, but this still surprised me. It turns out that moms whose parenting philosophies differ from one another can be downright vicious, especially on hot button topics like working vs. staying home, breast vs. bottle, and "crying it out." Stay clear of anything to do with these conversations, unless you enjoy a good old fashioned blood bath. The baby forums read like "Lord of the Flies" only with fewer tender parts. I've noticed that this phenomenon seems to be primarily on the internet, whereas in real life I haven't found moms to be so aggressive. Unless they're trying to beat you to a parking space at Target, in which case all bets are off.

Best

The first time your baby looks right at you and really knows it's you. It's an amazing feeling, and reminds me of a line from a Springsteen song, ("One day I looked straight at her and she looked straight back"). In that moment, it hits home that this child is yours and you are his in a way that nothing can replace. Please note that you may get confused at first, thinking your baby is in fact looking right at you, only to find that he is gazing adoringly at the decorative throw pillow just over your shoulder. You'll feel the difference when it's the real deal, and it's awesome. In the grand scheme of things that throw pillow has nothing on you.

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Worst

The anxiety that comes with worrying about keeping your baby healthy and safe. For that first month you pretty much want to hold a mirror under your baby's nose to make sure he's breathing, 24/7. I myself was obsessed with my son's airways and making sure they were free and clear at all times. This is not particularly practical, and makes it hard to accomplish other important tasks, like feeding your baby. Worry and new parenting go hand in hand, and sometimes its best to just accept that you're going to be a hypochondriacal lunatic for a few months.

Best

During those first few months, once you're out and about, you start to think that your portable little bundle is the best sidekick ever. You'll be carrying around your 8 pound sack of flour to dinners and bars, and thinking wow, my baby is the easiest baby ever! Look how he sleeps through everything and causes no commotion whatsoever! These are the glory days, and they're the best while they last. Enjoy them.

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Worst

Having your 8 pound sack of flour morph into a 20 pounder who's tougher to hold onto than a greased pig at a state fair. He will now grab everything in his reach and attempt to knock it over, and you're forced to recognize that he was just tricking you those first few months by "playing possum" so you would keep him.

The VERY Best

Every night, after you rock or nurse or cuddle your baby before bed, there is that brief instant when his head lies on your shoulder, heavy and asleep. Sometimes his hair will be a little damp, his forehead sweaty. He will feel so snug and perfect and you will want him to stay just like that, forever maybe. It's a fleeting moment. And in that moment you will think to yourself, I couldn't love anything more than I love this little person. And it wouldn't matter how many "worsts" you could come up with, because you could add them all up and they wouldn't outweigh this very best.

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Unless of course you have a poor dismount into the crib, bobbling and waking your baby and turning him into a screaming wildebeest. And you know right then and there that it is going to be a LONG night. That right there is the worst.

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