What do I wish I had known when I brought my first baby home? That my world would be hit by a tidal wave and life would never be the same again. I only wish I’d known at the very beginning that my job was to ride the wave, not resist it, to feel every crest and trough, every bump and every thrill and try my best to remember it. I kept waiting for the lull in the surf, which never came.
Your world will be turned on its axis, night and days reversed, you will be bleary eyed/ topsy turvy -- don’t fight it -- give in to it, to this tiny little soul that completely changes your house, transforming life as you know it forever.
Let him. Don’t resist, let go of your to-do list, the thank-you letters, forget home-cooked meals or social engagements. Push delete / Clear your calendar/ Simplify. Take pressure off of yourself in thinking that you can do it all. You can’t! I remember telling my husband when my baby was 2 months old that I had not checked off one box on my to-do list -- to which he wisely asked, “What is more important than nurturing a soul?” I now know the answer. NOTHING.
The universe has a plan for new parents – to make us so exhausted that you only have energy to attend to your baby. It wreaks havoc on life as you know it – that little baby disrupts your circadian rhythms, going to sleep at night is no longer a respite, groundhog day has begun. Whether you have 8 weeks maternity leave, or a cascade of open-ended days, throw away your to-do list. When your baby sleeps, you sleep, snuggle him, cocoon.
Babies are some of the only creatures on earth born completely dependent on their parents. Give in to it, allow yourself to be in the vortex and experience being connected to another little being in such a profound way. Stare at the tiny fingers and toes, stroke their soft skin. Accept that you will spend many days never changing out of your pajamas. Cuddle, coo, connect; neuroscience tells us it builds our infants’ brains. We as parents are literally brain sculptors. We should think about that first several months with our baby as Dr. Harvey Karp refers to it, “the 4 th trimester.” We are still one.
I wish I had more compassion for my learning curve. You’ll fall madly in love with your baby before you really know who they are, or how to mother. It is a steep learning curve. You are going to make mistakes: have compassion for yourself, you are new at this. No parent ever completely knows what they are doing, even the experienced ones, so try hard not to judge yourself. If you had any expectations about how good you might be at first time parenting, or about how easily it would come to you – throw them out. That serves no one. You are learning together, and your connection is what matters.
Get to know this little soul that will be one of your favorite people on the planet earth! Introduce them to the wonders of earth, point out the trees, smell the air, inhale your baby’s delicious scent. I know this sounds nostalgic, but looking back, now with a grown son, I don’t remember the belated thank you letters, or the piles of laundry that sat too long, but I still do remember the stillness of nursing my child in the middle of the night, of sending him waves of unconditional love as if we were the only two people in the world. Because, for those magical nights, while we rode the waves, we were.
Top 5 Tips for: What I wish I had known before I brought my first baby home:
- Simplify: as much as possible clear your calendar, throw away your to-do list
- You can’t do it all, no one can
- You will be too tired to do anything but, feed, touch and love your baby. That is enough
- No new parent knows what they are doing -- try not to judge yourself
- You are learning together, and your connection is what matters