Becoming a mom has simultaneously been one of the most difficult and most fun things I've ever done. Isn't it funny how all the best things in life seem to work that way? And yes, parenting is no exception. I'm certainly not an expert mom, and I'm sure when the rest of our kids come along my world will be completely rocked again. BUT I've learned a lot this last year or so! We've done a lot of things that worked (binkys!), and a lot of things that totally didn't. Like teaching your baby that he has to be rocked to sleep for every single nap and bedtime otherwise forget sleeping, suckas! Oy. Here are some of the best things I learned that helped Christian and I survive, and ultimately thrive, in our first year as parents.
+ Don't read as much as you think you should
This is certainly not for everyone, but I'm going to be real and admit that I didn't read a single pregnancy or baby book before I had Nash, and since then I've only listened to HALF of one. Im ridiculous, I know. I did learn something very valuable in this though. You will have instincts as a parent, and especially as a mother. Even though you've never done it before, you will come to know your baby very quickly! Trust yourself, and don't turn to the books or internet for every little question or worry. First, it will make you second guess your instincts. Second, it will very likely worry you more than necessary, and no one needs more worry on top of having a new baby!
+ GO ON DATES WITHOUT THE BABY PERIOD END OF STORY I BEG YOU
This one has been HUGE for us, which is why I yell-typed it at you. I've said this before, but we were terrible about going out without Nash for about 11 months. We went on maybe 6 dates just by ourselves in that time period. Yikes. It got especially hard when we moved to Salt Lake, because we left all our siblings who were close and willing to help. I started losing my mind over this a few months ago, especially when I saw our relationship was suffering because of this, so I tracked down a couple teenagers in our area who I love (um, not an easy feat, let me tell you), and we've been going out every Friday night since. It is the best thing ever. I've found that it helps to have the date planned at the beginning of the week, so you can look forward to specifics everyday leading up to it, ie. "I can't wait to go see this movie with you on Friday" etc. Your relationship NEEDS to be taken care of when you have a new baby, and this is a vital step in doing that. And on that note........ make time for sex! Seriously! Just do it. (har har). I could go on about this, but at the risk of getting weird.... I won't. Seriously, just do it.
+ Have a sense of humor
At some point, you will be covered in poop, pee, spit up, AND boogers all at the same time. And it will probably be mingled with your own blood, sweat and tears. Parenting is a serious job, but it doesn't mean you can't laugh about it sometimes. You should! Through all the sleep-deprived delirium, the nonsense of changing yet another diaper, the mess of toys and onesies and books and burp cloths, you just gotta laugh. Parenting is serious, but it's also fun and amazing and should be treated as such. I mean look at your baby! They're so cute and tiny and wonderful and hilarious!
+ Remember that it takes a village
Don't be afraid to ask for help. This is one I've struggled with, but I know it's true. Some of you may live close to family, and it's so important to take advantage of that! Spend time with your parents, your siblings, your friends, whomever it may be. Ask for help! Don't feel silly if you have questions. If you need medication for more serious issues, talk to someone about it! Parenting was never meant to be done completely solo, and you will benefit so much from spending time with people you love, and reaching out when you need help. We don't have many close friends and we don't live near a ton of family, so I can speak from the other side. If you DO have these people close by, use them! I promise, they want to be there for you.
+ Take time for yourself, and DON'T feel bad about it!
It's so important to take care of yourself as you are making this huge adjustment to parenthood. If you aren't happy and functioning well, it's almost impossible for your baby or spouse to. For me, this was exercise and cooking. I love going to the gym, and in order to feel my happiest, I had to take that hour at least 4 times a week to exercise. Additionally, even though it was a pain to cook a meal every single night (yes! I did that! While we were in school and working full time!), it was so theraputic for me. Maybe for you it's photography, or watching a favorite show, bike rides, or regularly spending time with friends. Whatever it is, find it and make time for it, even if it's just an hour a week.
+ Communicate, communicate, communicate
Man we saw the good and bad sides of this! I'm sure not every couple is like this, but we've found that we needed to regularly check in on our relationship and talk about how we were doing. Talk about how you're feeling as a new parent. About your job. About your relationship. Ask questions like: Are we spending enough quality time together? Are we working on the things that matter most? How am I doing as a parent? How can I help you? These conversations have been so important for us over the last year, and when we ignored them or went a long time without discussing them, we felt it big time. Having a baby is a big adjustment, and it's easy to fall into your patterns and habits and suddenly, youve stopped communicating with your spouse. Don't let that happen! Remember you will feel happier and function better as a parent when your relationship is in a good place.
+ Have a schedule
This is another thing that may not work for everyone, but it helped us so much. Not everything will always be in your control, of course. BUT you can feed your baby and put him down at the same time every day, as often as possible. I'm of the opinion that even though babies are little, they are still people. And people tend to function well with a routine. We still do this, actually. It's hard to feel tied to the house sometimes, but sleep deprivation wreaks so much havoc. For us, having a schedule with Nash has helped him be a pretty good sleeper since day 1. This has been so good for him! And avoiding the crazy exhaustion as much as possible has been a HUGE help for me especially. If you are interested in doing this for your baby, I used the schedules from this website.
+ Shake up the routine
Alright, so this absolutely contradicts with my last point, but it's important too! Like I mentioned, it's really easy to fall into the routine of naps and feedings and baths and cleaning and diaper changes. It didn't bother me most of the time, because I'm a total sucker for schedules like that, obviously. And it's fun to just spend time with your little one doing those simple things! HOWEVER, there were some days when I started to feel a little stir crazy, and all it took were simple things like going out to dinner in the middle of the week instead of the weekend. A spontaneous walk. Lunch with a friend. Just do something a little out of the ordinary here and there to keep things exciting. Thankfully, when you've got a little one, it really doesn't take much :)
+ And above all.... Just reeellllaaaxxx
I'm actually amazed that this is something I learned because I didn't think I'd be capable of it AT. ALL. I'm a huge
planner. I like to feel like things are in my control. All I have to
say in regards to that and having a new baby is HA. HA. HA. You will no
longer have control over a lot of things in life, and the second you
start to get all wound up about stuff, it all goes majorly downhill. I
will never forget an especially poignant example of this: About 3 weeks after I had Nash, Christian was starting an internship. My mom had just left, and I was going to be majorly on my own. 13+ hours a day with a brand new baby. Christian was also stressed to the nines about this job; a lot was riding on his performance, and our nerves were both frayed at the thought. Things had been going really well until the night before this internship started, and then WHOA did the fit hit the shan. I don't remember all the specifics (thankfully!), but Nash slept terribly, which led to both Christian and I being up a large part of the night. I think we might have had an argument in there too (probably), and it's most likely I was crying at some point ha! The stress and the lack of sleep were just too much, and it was definitely the roughest night we had there at the beginning. I remember at one point I was sitting in the dark living room holding Nash for like the 12th time, probably only in my skivvies with spit up down my front, and the thought came to me so clearly: "Nash has had a rough night because we've been so stressed. He could feel it. We need to relax, and it will all be okay." I just KNEW that was what had happened, and let me tell you, I've seen it time and time again in the last year. I think Nash is especially sensitive to our emotions, and not every baby is like that, but they certainly feel it when a lot is going on for mom and dad. Now, you can't control everything. Life will get stressful sometimes. But if you can try your best to just relax and relinquish control where you can, I promise it will help so much!
You guys, being a parent is amazing. It's so fun. It's hard. It stretches you and shows you your strengths and weaknesses and everything in between. And gosh you will love your little baby more than you thought possible. There are so many amazing days, but there are a lot of hard days too. And hopefully some of the things I've had to learn over the last year aren't just for my own benefit, although heavens knows I need all the help I can get!