5 things you can learn from a newborn
I gave birth a month ago. It seems like a hundred years ago since I was pregnant. Although I had 9 months to adjust to the idea of having a baby, becoming a parent, and surviving motherhood, seeing Emma-Chloe for the first time gave me the chills. I forgot all the first aid training, parenting classes, books I read and looked awkwardly at my baby, not knowing what to do. I must admit, I was pretty bummed out about my attitude and lack of skills at the beginning. I thought motherhood comes instinctively, or so I heard from experts, but for me, it was a struggle. Why? Because I am a perfectionist, and handling with pain from my C-section, lack of sleep, anxiety, issues with breastfeeding, unnecessary advice from everyone, made a huge dent in my perception as a newly mom.
After 6 days spent in the hospital, I came home with Emma and started crying. I was so happy with having her in my life, but at the same time, I was so afraid of messing things up. The first night was terrible, just as all parents warned me about. I didn’t sleep at all, she was agitated in her cot, and every sound made me jump out of my bed and check if she was comfortable. After a few days, I knew I needed to loosen up and take it easy. We are not born parents. All we can do is get to know our babies; they are just as afraid as we are.
This month taught me a few lessons. I still have a LOT to learn from my baby, and I am in no way an expert at this. I mean, who can trust a sleep deprived mom, right? Well, take this post as a diary of a newly mom, who’s universe changed the moment they put a newborn into her arms.
1.Forget about all your pre-parenting principles.
Before having Emma, I had strong opinions about what a parent should and shouldn’t do. How hard would it be to impose those principles to your child? Would a one-day-old change your foolproof methods of raising a baby? Well, as it turned out in my case, reading a million books on parenting won’t keep you from breaking every rule you support. Dealing with an individual child would make you realise you just need to do whatever works to keep your baby safe and yourself sane.
I was totally against co-sleeping, for example, because of its dangerous and bad habit outcomes. But, as I mentioned in my introduction, the first night we took Emma home, I didn’t sleep at all. We put the baby in her cot after her bath, feeding, and burping routine, she started feeling agitated, fussy and whining, so I was rushing back and forth between our bed and her cot, reassuring Emma of our love and affection. By morning I was feeling so tired, in terrible pain, and frustration. 24 hours later, out of sheer exhaustion, Emma was right beside me, and it felt much easier to comfort her through the night. I was so tired, I couldn’t care less of what all the books say. I just needed some sleep! What I noticed about co-sleeping, except being easier to feed the baby, comfort and rock her through the night, was the wonderful connection between me and Emma. I always put her at a safe distance from my side, but somehow she manages to gravitate towards me, and this made me avoid postpartum depression, and fall in love with my baby more and more.
Another principle I broke was using a pacifier. An unnecessary tool, in my opinion, which proved to be a godsend later on. Comforting baby Emma is one of my highest priorities, and after dealing with some stomach pain, nothing seemed to work. We tried rocking and cuddling, so my sister recommended using a pacifier. I honestly felt overcome by all the situation, so I accepted any help. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to satisfy my baby with a pacifier. After all, a pacifier is easier to break than a thumb-sucking habit.
There are so many examples of principles that flew out the window, such as rocking my baby to sleep, expressing after breastfeeding (because of low supply), using baby wipes, and much more to come. It is great to prepare mentally, physically, intellectually, before the baby arrives, but you need to learn each baby is unique, and not all the rules apply to everyone. It might be difficult to break some habits when the baby is older, but you also need to learn to let go and mold to your baby’s needs.
2. A newborn takes time. All of your time.
They say newborns sleep, poop, eat and repeat. For 9 months you imagined the transition between pregnancy and motherhood as smooth as possible, but let me disappoint you: it starts out messy. Babies are unexpectedly time-consuming. I mean, there is actually no time between sleeping cycles, especially when the baby is so tired but wouldn’t go to sleep for longer than 10 minutes. I can’t remember the last time I showered, or put on makeup. How can a tiny little person demand so much? Endless laundry, diaper changing, feeding, burping, rocking, takes the whole day. So forget about making plans and say goodbye to your friends for a while. Thank God for helpers around the house, otherwise, I would have become a cave woman. Welcome shopping online, welcome nanny, welcome grandparents who cook and clean.
What is the deal with leaving the house with a baby? Before having Emma, I needed around 2 hours to get ready for an event. Now, I am ready in half an hour, considering I am putting on some minimal makeup to cover my heavy under-eye bags, make the bottle, dress the baby, and call a cab. Entering motherhood is the biggest challenge the moment your baby is in your arms and it is important to adjust your expectations. Go easy on yourself, no one was born a parent!
3. You could have saved up half the money you spent on baby stuff.
I am a big planner and an even bigger spender. There, I said it. After finding out I was pregnant, I started making lists, doing my research on what a baby needs, on the latest baby gadget and must have. I ended up buying so many clothes from 0 to 6 months, two cots for both countries we live in, all baby essentials, and so on. I will write another post about what you need and don’t need in a nursery. What happened when Emma was here? I turned the cot into that chair where you dump everything. The baby outgrew her clothes so fast, I had to dress her more often during the day. I don’t want to talk about baby monitors, sleeping pads, toys, and the list can go on. A baby doesn’t need so many things, I came to this conclusion heartbroken ;)) You need the money to invest in her future, for sure. Or buy the best concealer ever, your choice.
4. You discover the world again through your baby’s eyes.
It might sound cliche and I remember reading about this, but a newborn doesn’t do much. So when Emma opened her eyes I was mesmerized. When she smiled, I thought I am in heaven. When she farted, it seemed precious. Every little reaction and connection with the environment and everyone surrounding my baby were proof we are doing something good. I am looking at Emma and her discoveries are mine as well. It sounds weird, but it is so true! You actually appreciate every milestone a baby goes through, and this makes the world more beautiful.
There is this need of wanting to stop the time, and I find myself staring at Emma’s sweet little face and trying not to blink and lose these precious moments which go by too fast. You discover so many hidden resources inside of you, such as patience, unending love, strength, and so much more, unearthed by a little bundle of joy. All of these help out the communication levels with your unspeaking baby on a non-verbal channel. Babies are able to tell you when they are hungry, tired, or want a hug. So you will become baby fluent in no time, even though at the beginning, you are so scared of that little needy person. Humanity is working on 80% nonverbal communication, just remember that.
You’ll forget about planning your near future, and enjoy the present. With a newborn, there is so much joy to discover the present, and go with the flow!
5. Your baby is unique and the external advice can not become a rule.
After I gave birth, there were so many friends and foreigners who felt it was their duty to share their stories, experiences, and advice as parents. It’s great to learn from others, and I feel blessed with wonderful people in my life to trust with my struggles as a newly mom. But never underestimate the power of your instincts. You are the only one who knows what’s best for your baby. You and your pediatrician, actually. No amount of research on Internet or books you read could replace the connection you have with your child, translated in needs and expectations. Take whatever is best from the pile of advice you get from others, and rely on your sixth sense when it comes to your baby. All the frustration you will gather at the beginning of motherhood can only grow more if you listen to everyone’s opinion regarding your choices of raising your baby. I can not tell you how many times I’ve heard complaints about some of my choices from people I don’t even know. Actually, I am getting ready a piece on “perfect” moms. You would love it! Leaving this aside, you are the best mom your baby needs. Trust that.
Photography by Madalina Vasile.