Looking back on the baby years, mom of two Lindsey Mead shares what she wishes she'd known.
Twelve years ago I had a one-month old daughter. Those days, with my first newborn, seem like both moments ago and an entirely different lifetime. The truth is I found those days long and very difficult. And yet, now, all these years later, I would give almost anything to have them back. Perspective is a funny thing, lighting everything as it does with nostalgia, and smoothing over some of the jagged parts at the same time. With the panorama that time has provided, here's what I wish I had known then.
- The adage "the days are long and the years are short" is absolutely, painfully true. A day will come when you are nostalgic for the moment you're living right now. Right now, however, people reminding you of that will cause you irritation at best and anger at worst. Try to remember they mean well.
- Don't be afraid to ignore advice. I remember holding my colicky infant on one hip while I leafed through a book about how to make her sleep that told me what to do in 15 minute increments. I was reduced to tears almost immediately at my inability to force myself – or her – to bend to this incredibly specific schedule. So, with some willpower I still don't understand but for which I'm immensely grateful, I threw the book against the wall and didn't pick it up.
- Take a lot of pictures. Trust me: you'll be glad you did.
- You can worry about the weight later. It's the last thing you need to fret about right now when you have everything else in the world weighing on you.
- It is okay for the baby to cry a little. At 12 or 14 weeks, my pediatrician told me I could put Grace to bed at 7pm, shut the door, and go back in around 7am. I wasn't quite that draconian, but close. There were a few difficult nights of crying but after that...magic. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but it worked for us.
- Trust your instincts. Really. If you have to shut your eyes and go into a dark room to hear them, fine. But you know what to do. I promise.
- The parent-child bond is a relationship like all others. Some people look at their newborns and feel an instantaneous, overwhelming rush of adoration. Others take more time to fall in love with their babies. Both of these are fine, healthy, and normal. Furthermore, to my knowledge, they result in bonds of equal strength and power.
- A general schedule is probably a good idea, but don't drive yourself insane. By about 12 weeks most babies are napping approximately twice a day. I'm pretty sure this happens regardless of how hard the parents focus on establishing a schedule for a newborn.
- Leave the house every day. Even if it's just to go to store to buy eggs. Even if it's a walk around the block. No matter the weather, no matter what you're wearing, leave the house every single day.
- Forgive yourself. These are hard days. You won't feel good about yourself a lot of the time. I was so tired I felt like I had sand in my eyes for weeks on end. I couldn't "sleep when the baby sleeps" no matter how hard I tried. And I was mad at myself for not loving this experience of new motherhood, because everybody told me #1. Even so, despite pretty seriously difficult days those first months, I look back with affection and nostalgia. You will too.
Read more from Lindsey Mead at A Design So Vast.