It’s been 5 months of motherhood, and I can’t decide if it’s flown by or if I feel like I’m still drinking from a fire hose. It depends on the day you ask. In five months time, I’ve learned so much about being a mom and about myself. I’ve fallen in love so much with this tiny human that it is genuinely tough to describe. Here are 12 things I’ve learned, and I hope they inspire any new mom out there. After all, we’re all in this together.
1. Sleep deprivation is real
You hear the stories, but you don’t get it until you’re in it. The lack of sleep with a newborn is hard. Some days you’re struggling to put one foot in front of the other. The first two months, Emilia was up every 2 hours (almost every day). Finding a rhythm where you can catch a 4-6 hour stretch of sleep is key to survival. If you can nap, sleep when the baby sleeps. If not, go to bed early and let your partner cover the 8p – 12a shift so you can get some shuteye. After 2.5 months of literally no sleep, my body started to shut down. On the flip side, it’s amazing how your body adjusts. I haven’t slept more than 5.5 hours straight in 6 months, and I feel OK now. Weird, right?
2. However, your baby’s smile, coo or giggle will erase exhaustion… temporarily
Some nights are… hard! After Emilia hit her first 8 hour stretch of sleep [which I wasted btw making sure she was still breathing every 30 minutes after the first 4 hours… sigh], she regressed. We suddenly went back to up every 2, 3 or 4 hours and it’s hard to handle that once you’re out of it.
It’s funny because, in the middle of the night, I would get so frustrated. Why won’t you sleep? How many lunges do I need to do while making a shush noise until you pass out? I’d be so tired and annoyed. Then the sun would rise (or we’d wake up before it) and Emilia would smile from ear to ear when she saw my face. Exhaustion and annoyance erased. ‘Gooooood morning!’ I greet her. Giggles and cuddles immediately ensue. It’s refreshing to have someone that can have that kind of effect on you.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work
Being a new mom has made me really appreciate Matt. It’s also helped me to bite my tongue when he does something that frustrates me. There’s something about ‘surviving in the trenches’ together that softens you. I look at Matt in a new light now and appreciate him more. I’m grateful for everything he does to keep us going, and I’ve also [finally] realized that we have different strengths. He’s great at so many things – particularly laundry, restocking all baby supplies and cleaning all the bottles. I’m more of an ‘in the moment’ person and I let things sit. Without him, our house would be a disaster zone. Without me, Emmie would be reeeeeal hungry, ha!
4. ‘Me time’ is crucial
‘Me time’ might be the toughest part of motherhood. You have a teeny human that’s relying on you 24/7. Unless you schedule it, finding time for yourself is impossible. I also struggled with feeling guilty at first. Why is mom guilt a thing? And why do we put that pressure on ourselves? Determine what ‘one thing’ makes you feel most like yourself and stick to it. The first 2 months, I showered every single morning. That was the one thing I wanted before Matt went to work and we stuck with it.
5. Ask for help
This is closely related to #4. You have to ask for what you need. People don’t know unless you ask. You’d be surprised at how much people want to help you. This has always been something that’s hard for me to do. I’m superwoman – I can accomplish it all. In the past, I used to push my body until I’d literally collapse on the couch [Matt’s least favorite quality about me]. Motherhood has taught me not to do that. If I collapse, my family will not function. That’s no longer an option. Being clear with family & friends about what I need has been refreshing. It’s also made me a happier person.
6. Pause to soak in a moment every day
The hours can be long, but the days and eventually weeks fly by. You think you’ll remember it all and then you don’t. I see Ava, Emilia’s new baby cousin who’s 6 weeks behind her, and I think, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe Emmie was that little.’ I try my best to soak in the newborn moments by taking daily pictures & videos. I also have fallen in love with our bedtime routine for this reason. Every night, I rock Emilia to sleep and when her eyes doze, I soak it all in. Features, mannerisms and tiny little parts.
7. Keep a journal or keepsake book so you don’t forget anything
On that note, do something to keep track of it. Text yourself, write in a notebook, take pictures on your phone. It doesn’t need to be something grand. I keep a journal that I plan to give to Emilia when she’s 18 with all of her ‘first’ and most special moments. Most days, I scribble the title and then I go back and write when I have time.
8. Breastfeeding is intense
Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Period. I’m a pretty determined, Type-A person and this one got me good. You can’t control your body in terms of production. Also, we put way too much pressure on moms to breastfeed. It still shocks me how so many people ask if you’re breastfeeding, how it’s going, how much you produce – it’s so personal! I did the math and producing all of Emilia’s milk was a 24 hour commitment each week. Do you know how many things you can do in 24 hours?
On the flip side, as her mom, I want to provide her with the best nutrients possible and have pressure to continue breastfeeding. Being back to work, and finding a place to pump every 3 hours is a whole other element. I choose not to even think about the amount of time I’ve spent planning out how and where I’ll pump around my workload and client meetings. It is safe to say I will be so happy when I’m done with breastfeeding. I plan to share more on this at a later date because it’s such a hot topic for me!
9. Nothing can replace Mom
Wow, I underestimated this one. Matt and I like to joke that we’re an ‘equal opportunity household.’ We don’t have clear gender roles outside of I prefer to cook in exchange for him taking the trash out to the alley, ha! Before we had Emilia, I expected we’d continue to divide and conquer. Then she arrived and I realized when girlfriend wants mom, there is no changing that. Don’t get me wrong – she is CRAZY about her Dad. It’s adorable how her face lights up and she bashfully giggles every time she sees him. However, if she’s not feeling well, it’s all mama. It’s a privilege, but one that I was not expecting. [Cue find ‘me time’ again]
10. You’ll find a whole new meaning to life in Motherhood
I’ve always been passionate about life. I love learning new things. My family and friends bring me so much joy. Work fuels so much of my happiness. Having Emilia trumps all of that. It has given me a whole new meaning to life. Matt & I are currently her world. We have the privilege of teaching her everything she needs to know to be the best human she can be. That’s an amazing job, and I’m beyond grateful to have it. I’ve always heard that having a baby changes your life, but it’s changed mine for the better in so many ways. Like I mentioned before, the best part is that she’s taught me to slow down, relax and savor the moment.
11. It’s OK to be lame
I’ve struggled with this one to be honest. I typically pride myself in how I can handle it all, but something’s had to give while I start my own business and accept the sleep deprivation. Some of my friends are great at scheduling to get together, and right now, unless it’s brunch or lunch, I have no interest in going. I want to be home for bedtime. I want to sit on the couch and sip the 1 beer I can manage while chatting with Matt and be in bed by 9. That’s OK. That’s my new normal, and it won’t be like this forever.
12. Everything is temporary
Some of the days are hard, but the thing is none of it lasts. The best moments don’t last nor do the worst moments. Once you find a routine, it’ll change almost instantly. That’s the new lesson of ebbing and flowing in life. It’s softened me as a human, which I love. It’s also taught me to enjoy all the moments and how to let go of the rough ones.
Affectionately known to her friends as Millennial Martha for her love of DIY and decorating, Jen can’t help but pour her heart + soul into everything she touches. She’s loved to entertain since acquiring a table and chairs, and giving gifts is one of her favorite hobbies. Jen is the creator of Girl Meets Party. Her dream is to share her passions with the world in hopes to inspire others by making the seemingly unattainable attainable.