So, this year will be my first Mother's Day, and like many first-time Moms, I'm feeling pretty "Go me!" about the whole thing. I mean, I'm a freakin' Mom. A MOM. With two babies that are my own, that will one day call me Mommy, you know, when they can speak. Really?! Really?! It's funny how it still feels almost surreal, how I still sometimes wonder when their Mom is coming to get them. Oh wait, that's me! So weird.
It's been an amazing nine months, full of incredible milestones and teary-eyed challenges, heart-swelling moments and anxiety-inducing self-doubt. For first-time Moms, this year is like baby boot camp, prepping us for a lifetime of all-consuming love and all-consuming hard work. With every day, you learn something new about your little one, watch some new development or discovery, and along the way, discover new things about yourself as well. With that in mind, here are a few things I learned as a first-time Mom...
No, none of us are totally "chill." I've been neurotic my whole life, but when I got pregnant, it's like this state of calm came over me. I was convinced that I'd turned a page, that I would now be Zen forever. But, noooooo. When they were waking up every hour around the 4-month mark, when they got their first fevers, when my boy had massive projectile vomit after eating egg yolks, old crazy me was back in full effect. I was reading stupid advice on the Internet, obsessing over what was wrong, running off to the health food store, convinced there must be some secret remedy I was missing. In these moments, I would get so disappointed in myself, embarrassed that I was calling the doctor for the umpteenth time in two weeks. But then I realized, who gives a crap? Sure, it's great if you can be chill and relax about most stuff, but when your child is sick, damn straight you're going to be a little crazy. It's called being a first-time Mom, and we're all, ALL, at least a little crazy.
You will never really sleep again. I love to sleep, I do. I love Sunday afternoon naps, and snoozing on the couch, and getting into bed at the end of a long day. But, since having the little guys, sleep just ain't what it used to be. Even if they sleep through the whole night, I don't. Baby makes a little sigh, I'm up. Baby starts babbling at 5:00 in the morning for no reason, I'm up. Dog makes noise that I don't recognize so must be coming from the babies' room, I'm up. Baby has a fever and I'm worried about him, I'm up...every hour, checking the monitor. And forget about sleeping in -- my husband offered to take over on Mother's Day morning, but I know that I'll be up as soon as I hear their first squeal, so that's not happening.
Just when you think you've got this baby thing under control, they throw you a curve ball. Call it Murphy's Law or tempting fate or whatever. As soon as you start to think, "I got this," your baby gets teeth or an ear infection or wants to crawl or wants Mommy ALL THE TIME and alas, your finely-tuned system goes all screwy once again. From what I can tell, the only thing you can do is just accept that things are going to keep changing on you, and be prepared to roll with the punches. I think I went through the first six months of their lives thinking, "Finally, we've turned a corner, everything's clicking into place!" only to find myself totally baffled by middle-of-the-night wakings or hunger strikes or crying jags for no apparent reason.
Things change so quickly when it comes to milestones too. It's a little bit crazy-making, but I find that just when I start to worry that maybe my little ones aren't going to really roll or crawl for a long time or maybe aren't ready for finger foods, bam, they roll or crawl or daintily pick up a chunk of banana before shoving it in their mouth. And all of these things just sort of happened, suddenly, out of nowhere, without warning. My babies just keep proving to me that things can and do literally change overnight.
Don't underestimate your baby. As I've said before, babyhood is not a race, and I feel very strongly that every baby develops at his or her own pace. That being said, I do think that I've overlooked some things that my babies were capable of because I thought, "Oh, their twins and their boys, so they'll probably be behind." You know what they say about assumptions, right? I've only recently realized that I need to give my babies more credit, that they are more aware than I realized. As I mentioned in another post, I was trying to teach my babies sign language, but I wasn't all that consistent about it. The only sign I regularly did was "all done" which basically looks a little bit like jazz hands. Well, a few weeks ago, one of my boys started doing "jazz hands" whenever he saw a bottle or food coming, and then started doing it whenever I came over to get him out of his crib as well. At first, I was like, "Ugh, Mommy fail! If I'd only been consistent with the other signs, he wouldn't be using this same one for everything." But, then I realized that, regardless of what sign he was using, he was trying to communicate with me, signaling to me, "I want, I want, I want." So, I thought, hey, maybe I should try and teach him and his brother a couple of other gestures like waving bye-bye and clapping. And they're doing it! I mean, they're not always doing it at the appropriate times like, say, when someone is actually going bye-bye, but they're getting there.
It's hard to be consistent about all of your parenting philosophies. At least, this is what I've found, and maybe it's because I have twins, I don't know. Look at what happened to all my grand plans to practice sign language! I constantly feel like I'm not reading to them as much as I always thought I would, I'm not making ALL of my own baby food from scratch, and I've started turning on the TV in front of them and watching an entire hour-long show while they play. I had higher hopes for myself, but then I got busy with the business of being their Mom. Hey, I'll admit, the more active they've become, the harder it is to stick to some of my "rules."
You can simultaneously be obsessively in love with your kids, and really need a break from them. I'm totally crazy about my little guys, and find that I'm enjoying them more and more the older they get. But sometimes, many times, Mama needs a break. At first, I felt guilty about it, like if I loved my babies enough, I wouldn't feel like I needed time away from them. But, the truth is, babies are hard work, and most Moms really need a couple of hours to regroup and just feel whole again. Running out for a pedicure or to go shopping or to have lunch with a friend revives me and gives me new energy so I can give my babies my best self.
Neither you or your home look nearly as good as they used to and that's okay. I'm sorry, but I just don't have the energy to maintain myself or my home the way that I did before the babies. Many moms do and that's amazing, but even they leave the house with mashed avocado on their shirts, or have toys lying all over the house. I'll admit, I used to knock myself about it, but now I just own it. Sure, I'd like to look better and I'm working on it; I'm trying to organize our baby stuff better so it's not quite so cluttered. But, I'm done stressing about it -- nothing about me is perfect.
There's no right or wrong way to raise babies. In the last nine months, I've met so many kickass Moms, both of single babies and of twins, and I can honestly say, I'm impressed with every one of them. Some of them practice attachment parenting (which, from what I've seen, is loving and low-key and takes a lot of thoughtfulness -- it's not freakish!), some believe in teaching your baby to self-soothe (I'm one of them), many breastfeed and many don't, some work full-time, some stay-at-home. I can honestly, honestly say that when I look at all of their beautiful, thriving babies, not one Mommy is better than the other, or doing better for their baby than another. I'm no expert, just an observer, and that's just what I see. Which brings me to my next point...
You're an awesome Mom! Has anyone told you that? Because if not, let me tell you, you are. How do I know? Because you're on a parenting site, reading about being a Mom -- clearly, this is something you care about. More than that though, if you're like most first-time Moms, you love your babies and you're running yourself ragged trying to take the very best care of them that you can. Sure, there's going to be some study or some super-parent that will make you feel like you're doing it all wrong. Let me tell you, you're not. It's too bad your little one can't speak yet, because I guarantee that your baby would probably tell you how lucky he or she is to have you. Whenever I need a little reminder, I watch this commercial, like, five times in a row:
Happy First Mother's Day!
What are some lessons you've learned as a first-time Mom?
has been sky-diving, white-water rafting, scuba diving, and has seen brown bears up-close in the Alaskan wilderness. And yet, what she finds most exciting is a DVR box packed with shows, and hours of free time to watch them.