When I was pregnant with my son, I was bombarded with unwanted advice. It seems everyone has their two cents to offer when you’re pregnant. Something about that ballooning belly is like a homing beacon for armchair experts. I received a lot of the same advice: sleep when the baby sleeps, make Daddy change the diapers, buy lots of onesies. But there was a surprising amount of advice I didn’t receive that would have really helped me out along the way.
Here are 8 things I wish someone had told me before I had a baby:
1. Learn to forgive yourself—because you're going to make a lot of mistakes.
It’s important to be kind to yourself and remember that you’re new at this. It will get easier in time, and you can’t hold a grudge against yourself for not being Supermom right out the gate.
2. For the love of all that is holy, eat something!
Tell everyone around you to feed you. Hang a sign on the door that says visitors aren’t welcome without a lasagna offering. I know it’s easy to forget to eat when you have a newborn, but you’ll be in much better shape to care for that baby if you have a full belly.
3. Give your body time to heal.
So you’ve had your six week visit and the doc says you’re all good? Time for some sex and Insanity workout, right? I’m sorry, but six weeks doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of time your body needs to heal completely. If you feel like getting frisky and exercising, go for it, but don’t beat yourself up if you need more time. Between pregnancy and birth and this new life you’re caring for, it’s OK to cut yourself some slack. A slim post-baby bod is nowhere near as important as the work you’re doing already.
4. Use your words.
Even the most connected couples get thrown for a loop when a baby enters the picture. Communicate your needs to your partner without beating around the bush. If you need a break, tell him so. If you need food, tell him so. If you want him to change this diaper, tell him so. Don’t marinate in resentment because he doesn’t do it without you having to ask. Speak up!
5. Ask for help.
Being a new parent is hard. I mean really hard. There is no shame in asking for help from friends and family. Whether you need help with dinner or cleaning or simply need someone to hold the baby while you shower, just ask. Lots of folks will want to help you out but don’t know how, or don’t want to be intrusive. Also, always accept help when it's offered.
6. Let go of expectations.
Before having kids, we all have grand ideas about the things we absolutely will and absolutely will NOT do as parents. We imagine the kind of supermoms we’ll be and feel a preemptive swell of pride. Then you actually have kids and it’s pure chaos. Don’t beat yourself up for not making organic baby food from scratch. You’re doing the best you can.
7. Take daily showers.
You might think you don’t have time for a shower every day when you find yourself in the frantic mess that is life with a newborn. But trust me, you do. Make an effort to take daily showers, it does wonders for making a new mom feel human again.
8. Be mindful of your emotional state.
It’s totally normal to have ups and downs and mood swings and weepiness in those first few weeks. But if your emotional state starts feeling consistently out of whack, tell your partner and your doctor. Postpartum depression doesn’t always look exactly like the amped up “baby blues” you read about in What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Don’t be ashamed to talk to someone if you’re unsure if how you’re feeling is “normal.”