I feel every morning while I’m sipping my coffee and scrolling through my social media feeds I see, at minimum, one article for new parents written from the perspective of someone further along on their parenting journey. The advice is genuinely well intended, but often the author has been out of the “trenches” for several years. Honestly, I love these pieces of wisdom. I’ve always been a big fan of having mentors! So, today, I wanted to offer my two cents on raising babies and young children. I consider myself still in the trenches, but just a different part of the trenches. I’m in a season with more ups than downs, less physical demands, but many hard choices and moments scattered throughout.
In case you’re new around here, I’ll tell you a little about first year of being a family of three. My husband was an officer in the Navy, and we were relocated across the country when I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first child. I was filled with excitement, so the move to Indiana didn’t feel daunting to me. I had one friend on an online message board, so I felt like I’d be good. I was blessed with a free YMCA gym membership, because of an agreement they’d made for military families who lived too far from base to use their facilities. I felt optimistic that I’d make friends at the gym or church. Our son arrived, nearly two weeks past his due date, the last day of August in 2012. The year has importance, because it was one of the hottest years in Indiana. No family came to support us or bring us meals, but I was overwhelmingly blessed by my friend Susan. She brought me lasagna, and garbage bags full of clothes. During labor, she acted as my virtual doula, allowing me to text her through my every feeling, painful or otherwise.
I hadn’t read any parenting books, because parenting felt like something I should be able to do instinctively. I didn’t know there were different kinds of “parents” you could choose to be. I remember going to a mom and baby group a couple weeks after Liam was born, and being asked if I was utilizing attachment parenting. I literally had no idea what this meant, I assumed yes, because he was always attached to me.
Last night I was awake almost all night with that same boy, he’s five now, and was having continuous nose bleeds. He reminded me of his baby years, helplessly trying to stop the blood from gushing from his left nostril. He will be in Kindergarten this fall, and his younger brother will head off to a half day preschool. The seasons of our life are shifting, so I thought I’d use this time to share my “advice” FWIW to anyone with a new baby.
- Snuggle as often as possible. I know you probably already know this, but I don’t want you to forget it. Delegate when you can in the area of home management, order take out, and just be. You will never have the ability to binge watch every episode of Army Wives while nursing a baby again. There are going to be days you look around your house and think “Damn, I should put this baby down and do something productive.” Netflix might even passively aggressively judge you and ask if you’re still watching. Click that yes button and carry on.
- Stop using search engines. I can’t tell you how many health conditions I diagnosed my son with when he was a baby. Search engines and new babies are not a good combo. Search Engines never come back and say, “everything is fine, this is totally age appropriate.”
- I’m giving you permission now to use formula, if you want. Sometimes, that is what you need: permission. I nursed my babies and I was a pretty passionate nurser, but that all changed when I realized how unkind people were being to my friends who chose to use formula. THEY ARE FEEDING THEIR BABY. That is a great first start to life. My husband is the best person I know, and he grew up drinking formula. He is also a genius, so formula on.
- Do things that make you happy, too! Wear makeup, buy a cute outfit you feel confident in, invest in that gym membership with two hours of daily childcare.
- Make friends IRL- There is definitely a need for online forums, but nothing can compare to the quality relationships you can form offline. This may require you inviting people to come over or meet at a park, but I promise you it will be worth it. The internet only shows the highlight reel of other’s lives, new parents do not need a highlight reel. They need the companionship of someone dealing with blow out diapers, nursing discomfort, padsicles, and exhaustion. Meet each other right you are and build a friendship that evolves alongside you.
- Buy a shirt you feel really good in. Literally no explanation needed.
These are my biggest tips, and below you’ll find a list of my favorite shows on Netflix to binge during the early months/years. If I can encourage you to do anything, it would be savor it all. Savor the way they smell, their little grunty pig noises, and cup their petite feet in your hands. My son learned to tie his shoes this week, and it made me sappy to think of the tiny toes he had just years ago. Above all, I want to encourage you not to let anyone make you feel inadequate for your baby. I know you’re doing a fabulous job, raising your smallest loved ones.
Share your advice for new mamas!
Bonus content- Netflix binge recommendations. Friday Night Lights, Orange is the New Black, and Army Wives. Ya’ll are welcome.