One thing at a time
Sometimes it can feel like you are getting nothing accomplished but it’s okay to take things slowly. For the first six weeks of my son’s life, every day was about trying one new thing. If we were going to the doctor, that was the only “big thing” happening that day. If I was meeting my friend for a coffee, it was the only activity scheduled. I cried one day because I had intended to make a big dinner, but all I was able to do was to peel one carrot. When it feels like nothing is getting accomplished, look down at the baby in your arms–there’s plenty happening even if ‘nothing’ is happening.
Breastfeeding is a workout and you need to replenish your liquids, but you’ll also have an insatiable hunger. A nice thing my partner did for me was to fill a drawer in the nursery full of granola bars, dried fruit and nuts. You’d be amazed at how much you chomp through at very odd hours.
Loss of Confidence
Becoming a mother for the first time is more overwhelming than you could ever imagine. At around month two, I was convinced the role was so demanding that I’d never ever be able to return to my professional life; I thought that in order to be a good mom, I wouldn’t be able to have the career I had envisioned for myself. Like so many phases, this one passes. How you feel three months in differs from how you feel ten months in. Try to step back and get some perspective. Talk to other moms, and if reassuring voices aren’t helping, just wait. Wait, and then wait a little bit longer. Sometimes the only way to see properly is to let the fog pass.
Lipstick is key
There were many days in the first year where I’d be walking to get a coffee in the morning–my shoes painted with splashes of spit-up, milk dripping down my chest, and chunks of sweet potato in my hair. I’d be wearing my mom’s gardening shoes, a giant sweatshirt and dirty leggings. All of this can be disguised with bright red lipstick. (Sometimes the little things can make you feel so much better.)
Farmer’s Market Dinners
Find a super relaxed way to hang out. I lived for the Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market on Thursday evenings last summer. Throw a blanket under your stroller, put $8 in your back pocket and you’ve got the easiest evening outing for you and your babe. You can feed and change them with ease, and you don’t need to stress about disturbing a restaurant with crying or projectile vomit (my son puked about twenty times a day in those first six months). Bonus: You don’t need to worry about arriving late.
Whether you go for a walk or make time for a bath, try to find thirty minutes a day for just you. Start this right from the beginning so that it becomes routine.
You don’t need it all…
A few weeks before my due date, during my nesting frenzy, I had a list of things that I absolutely needed to finish the nursery. One of them was “baby face cloths.” NO ONE needs baby face cloths. There is actually no difference between a regular face cloth and a baby one. The nursery doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need clothing that takes them from newborn to six months. You don’t even need a crib! If your baby arrived tomorrow, you’d be okay if all you had were some diapers and a small blankie. A lot of stuff will help make your life easier, but what the baby really needs is you. So don’t panic if you don’t have it all just yet.
…but you do need a buddy
Although you’ll have plenty of people who want to visit, being a mom to a newborn can be very isolating and lonely. It may not feel natural to befriend another mom just because she has a kid your age, but you will inevitably help each other out. Even if you don’t see each other regularly, it’s good to have at least one person to whom you can fire off a late-night Facebook message when you have a burning question, or just want some reassurance.
Motherhood is wild
Motherhood is wild, not wild like a raging party, but wild in the true sense of the word. Wild like the wet and tangled forests of Haida Gwaii: dark and foreboding in some patches, but brimming with life in every square inch. Just when you think you might be lost, something magical occurs–a showering of light will sparkle down from high above, a path will be revealed and a few footsteps will lead you to a space where the trees look entirely different, but equally as breathtaking.
Your world shrinks, but intensifies
If your social life was hectic before your baby, the change will be dramatic. You’ll likely see your family and your friends with kids more often, and certain relationships will become really strong, but others will inevitably fade. It’s not a bad thing, but it is astonishing how different your life will look. Find ways to keep those who matter close to you. Going to the latest trendy restaurant might not be easy, but inviting friends over for Saturday morning bagels and coffee is doable.
Your strength will astound you
Motherhood is often painted in pastel pinks and blues, and while those colours may suit rocking chair lullabies and quiet moments when Baby is asleep on your chest, motherhood (as a whole) is much more primal and raw. Sweat, blood, milk, shit, puke–it is hard and messy work. In those first six months, I felt like a farmer or tree planter; close to the earth and utterly exhausted from physical labour. Whenever my son went down for the night and I had the opportunity to have a hot shower, I would take pride in the fact that my arms and back hurt; they were signs of a hard day’s work. I have never felt as strong as I do right now; it’s a powerful feeling.