Experiencing Motherhood for the First Time [And What I've Learned]

5 Days before my son was born in December 2009

As I'm nearing my due date and my body's activity is telling me that we're just about to have a baby, I can't help but think back to having my first baby.

I'm on my second, so I don't count myself any kind of expert, but I'm certainly experienced.

On one side, I don't have the worry and anxiety I had when expecting my son. I worried so much about wether or not I would be a good mom. Was I even capable of caring for another human being?

Aside from the worries, it was all pretty easy. I spent my entire pregnancy going out with friends, staying out late, working a full time job and I was never tired. I didn't even have contractions or anything coming up to my son's birth. When I went in at 39 weeks and they asked [well, suggested, he was a big baby] I induced, it was just a, "Well sure, I guess so" and we did it.

Now on the other side, five years later, I'm calm. I am completely peaceful about baby coming, I know every baby is different but I know I can care for her and I won't be a horrible mom.

But it hasn't been easy this time! For one, I'm five years older and I can tell how different it is for my body to do this. I certainly see the benefit to having children when you're much younger! I mean, I was 22 the first time around and I'm 28 this time, so by no means am I OLD. But it's most definitely a different experience body wise. I'm not working, I stay home with my son, homeschool and maintain the home. Which is a full time job in itself, but I can nap or rest when I need. Yet, I'm always exhausted, my back aches, I can't sleep, etc. And then, here we are at 36 weeks and I'm am totally aware of her impending arrival, on a couple of occasions I thought she might break my water. The contractions, I feel those this time and I don't like them. I don't expect to shrug and get induced this time, I worry about my water breaking at church (it's my biggest fear!) or in the store. It is completely different this time around! As far as birth goes, well, I'll let you know when we cross that bridge.

To keep my mind off all the kicking and feeling like I might get my water broken, I surf around the blog-o-sphere and read about other Moms.

I enjoy it. We all have different experiences and stories, it can be super reassuring to see that you're not the only one experiencing something, good or bad.

Personally, I never had the intention of being a "Mommy Blogger" but I love my children and despite how many things I make or cook, I have more stories about my children than any of that. So I guess I'm a mom blogger somedays.

I follow many little blogs, my list changes frequently. Err, some moms get sponsorships and the whole blog becomes a sale pitch, that's when I tune out. Good for you but I enjoyed your writings, I don't want to be sold stuff every post. I follow fashion blogs for that, ha.

I find it funny how long time or 2nd/3rd/4th/etc time Moms are the brutally honest ones. They don't hide behind an image of perfection, it's just poop. Spilt breast milk. Sleepless nights. It's raw and honest, I love it.

But then, you switch over to the expecting first timer and everything is perfection. I do say that sarcastically, because I can totally tell when they really have no idea. They'll post a picture of a chair and talk about how they plan to nurse and rock the baby before they put him down for the night... like the baby is going to magically go to sleep for the WHOLE night. And share the $40 custom organic bamboo onsie the baby will wear all day without spitting up or pooping all over it ten minutes after he's dressed. And don't forget how amazing it is to purchase that "must have" baby item, the completely over priced one that the baby will love [translation: hate and never use] for the mere six months he fits it.

Hehe, ya'll are so cute.

I get to laugh because I've been there. I never wasted money on trendy items or over priced baby clothes, but I was certainly naive enough to think my baby would come home, snuggle in his crib and let me sleep. We'd wake around 7, as the sun nudged our eyes open, I'd feed him and change him. We'd spend the day snuggling and relaxing bathed in a sparkling haze of fairy dust. It was going to be magical and so easy.

No. He woke up every 2 hours, fed like a monster, filled his diaper and started again. I nursed him, changed him and rocked him back to sleep, while crying. Crying because I was tired, crying because my body still ached from birth and crying because I had all kinds of nursing problems from raw, sore breasts and a struggling milk supply. [So I got less sleep, because once he emptied me out, I sat up with a breast pump try to encourage my body to make more milk!]

It does make me sad when I see the illusion of perfection broken and these Mom's just want to pull their hair out and run away in the first few weeks. I kind of wish I could just travel the world and give first time Mom's a hug, promise them everything will be okay and hold their babies while they got a nap.

Sadly, I don't have enough arms to hug that many moms or hold that many babies.

But I can share what I've learned and what I know from my own experience here.

It's not a warm hug, but it's the best I have to offer.

What I Learned

Your baby won't hate you. I see people say it all the time and I worried about it too. I never spent a lot of time around babies and for the most part, they never seemed to like me. I was very worried about how I would care for my son because I didn't seem to be a natural at it. I knew so many that had no problems holding and caring for someone else's baby. But when I held a baby, it was like they smelled my fear and immediately began crying, so for the most part I didn't hold babies. Now, if you hand me your infant, you might find me passed out on the couch with the baby on my chest because I love baby naps and I seem to have the magic power that puts babies to sleep.

I think it's an experience you have to go through to really get an understanding. Unless you're neglectful or abusive, your child will love you. Don't take an infants constant crying or inability to be satisfied as a failure on your part. Your baby is, well, a baby! They can't communicate and they are trying to get a grasp onto this new world you just brought them into. You both just have to learn about each other day by day and before you know it, they'll cry and you'll know that specific cry means they're hungry or dirty.

It's okay to do things your way. There is, inevitably, a lot of pressure put on you when you become a mother the first time. Everyone wants to tell you how you MUST do things and it's hard not to cave. Before your baby even gets here there will be those trying to tell you how you must deliver, home birth!? All natural!? Cesarean!?

Will you breastfeed? You must breastfeed! You're selfish if you don't! You give your baby formula!? 

Diapers! Huggies are best! Pampers are best! Cloth diapers are best! Off brand are best! Don't you care about your baby!? 

Will you vaccinate!? Will you keep your child rear facing until they're 4? In a carseat until 8!? Will your son be circumcised!? Will your baby be dedicated!? BAPTIZED!?

Let me tell you this, whatever you decide will be best, because you're the child's mother [or father, Dads count too!]. Yes, there will be people who can show you all the statistics to prove their point... but then someone else can most likely show you statistics to prove their point over the others. Does your head hurt yet?

I'll tell you from my point of view, cloth diapers were never an option because I know myself. I hate cleaning and certainly hate laundry, I understand that from a natural or green viewpoint I'm just lazy. But I did what I knew I could handle and hearing stories of people leaving poopy diapers until the next day and washing loads five times to get them clean did not encourage me. But ultimately, it's up to you to decide if you can handle it. I have friends that cloth diapered all their children, no problem!

I wanted to breastfeed so badly and I tried my hardest, but for whatever reason, my milk just would not come in enough to satisfy my son. The sad thing is, a lot of mothers just made me feel horrible for something I couldn't control. They simply related to their experience where the milk just came right in and they had tons to pump, freeze and save. Not me, I'd pump, I'd feed my son, he'd be unsatisfied, I'd feed him what I pumped just hours before, he'd still be unsatisfied and so I'd supplement with formula. I still have Moms shake their heads and tell me I should never have used formula and just "powered" through. Maybe, maybe not. But I gave it my best for three months before my son just refused to latch, at all. The sight of boob just made him cry, so I put pride aside and took care of his needs. 

I can even say I have friends that had zero desire to breastfeed, so they didn't and guess what? Their children are just fine too.

The "Mommy Wars" will find you and there will always be that opinionated person to let you know that if you're not doing it their way then you're a failure. Don't let it get to you! Give it your best and everything will be fine.

I even get grilled today because we chose for me to stay home and now I'm homeschooling our son. I get questions about the money we don't have because I don't work, though if I did work, it wouldn't amount to much after I paid for daycare. But I'm also aware that not every Mom wants to stay home or can stay home, so why bother debating over it? With school it's all about socialization, is it a religious thing and what do I have against public school!? [The answer is nothing, I have nothing against public school.]

When it comes to making decisions for your kids, forget about other people's opinions, skip what is trendy for the moment and do what you decide is best. Sure, you might get side eye or even have the person that will never shut up about how much better their way is. But you'll be happier in the long run doing things your way.

Babies cry and they don't care if you get sleep/food/a shower. Something that somehow I was never warned about was crying... I mean, some one should have given me a heads up! Now this is one of those things that varies baby to baby, but the average baby wakes up every two hours to eat and at some point in between they may pee or poop.

When I say every two hours, I mean every two hours, day or night. If you can, take this one point of advice and sleep when the baby sleeps. It seems a little crazy at first because you'll want to clean or do something when baby is sleeping, but I highly suggest you catch all the naps you can those first weeks. Sleep deprivation is not good for anyone!

A baby won't care if you haven't showered in days, had a real meal or slept. Because a baby is a baby! They don't know, they don't understand and grounding them or taking away their toys won't affect them. Trust me, people have done it. I struggled really hard to hide my shock once when I pulled a toy out to make a 8 week old baby smile only to be quickly told by the mother that the baby couldn't have it because she was grounded for crying. [Oh... bite your tongue, bite your tongue, it's none of your business]

Heck, my son is 5 and still doesn't realize he should let his mother nap when she can. Even when his Dad is home, playing interference, he will find a way to sneak around Dad to ask me an important question about legos or see if I want to play iPad games with him.

Kids will be kids and babies will be babies.

Before my son was mobile, I would sit him in his bouncer while I grabbed a quick shower. When he got older and didn't want to sit still, I just had to wake up before him and shower as fast as I could. Or I would let a little water collect in the tub and let him play at the other end while I showered. I can't do that now because I have a separate shower stall, bummer. [I mean with the next baby, showering with me has been off limits since he noticed my penis was missing... uhh, Mom never had one... no more showers for you.]

You NEED all these baby things. Yes and no? This is a hard one to call because there are so many cool baby things and many more new ones every year. There are so many new things just since my son was born five years ago, even I'm not sure what is necessary.

Everyone I know that had a swing, loved it because babies like the motion. But now there is this new, fancy device called a Mamaroo that almost simulates a car ride motion, I think, and I've heard mixed reactions. Personally, when I first heard of it, I thought I would have wanted it with my son because he loved car rides. But now I have friends that bought them and some of them hated them... so it's a mixed bag and at the price, it's hard to bite if you can't guarantee your baby would love it. This is one of those moments where a hand me down would rock or you can just decide if the item fits your budget.

I do suggest doing research and making sure items, trendy or practical, are safe. I don't recall the brand but I remember loving this super modern and expensive high chair. Seriously, it was like $600 so it was far out of my range but I loved it. Guess what got recalled? The fancy highchair [the minimalist stand couldn't support the seat and baby's weight, so it would FALL OVER, not worth it]. Yet, the second hand Graco chair a co-worker gave me was just fine. I mean, he ate in it and smeared food all over it, it served it's purpose.

Pretty much the only "new" thing I wanted this time was this awesome little tub that temperature controls water while providing clean water for rinsing: 4moms Infant Tub. I saw it at Target and immediately needed it. But I didn't get it. Someone saw it on my registry but instead bought a normal tub and with the money saved, bought towels, washcloths and a set of baby bath essentials. It was a gift, it was wonderful and thoughtful, so I kept it. I would even venture to say, it was smarter than my plan.

And then when it comes to clothes, the first year, heck, the first two, I say, just shop smart. A pair of baby leggings on etsy can range from $24-$50, for one pair! At GAP, $13-$25. At Target or Walmart, $3-$5. We don't really need to do the math here to tell you the better deal, right? Because babies grow out of them in a few months time anyway!

I'm not going to lie, I always bought baby pants at Walmart. Garanimals were cheap, but comfy for him and life went on. I have pants from Walmart now for baby girl. We don't care if we make top trendy baby on instagram, we're just happy we can afford groceries after I buy baby pants.

And your budget is definitely something to consider. I mean, if you don't have one, then buy all the expensive baby things you want! But I find myself a little sad and frustrated when I see a new mom crying about how hard it is on their finances to have a baby when just a few posts back she was going on about baby items they had to have that cost several hundred dollars or the large haul they splurged on at an expensive baby store! I don't want to keep saying GAP because I shop sales there sometimes and get baby items or kids things. It's okay to own nice baby things as long as you can afford them. But don't stress yourself, your spouse or your marriage over buying over the trendy baby things. It's just stuff in the end. [And your child will never look at you and tell you life would have been better if they had <insert expensive item> when they were six months old.]

Food for thought. While you're worrying about affording a trendy $400 stroller, expecting Mother's in parts of Africa are only worried about having enough water TO TAKE when it's time to deliver their babies. Yes, they have to take the water for the nurses to wash their hands, clean their newborn child and hope there is enough left to clean themselves. You can read about that here.

Just a little perspective.

So there it is...

My biggest fear is that I'm coming off as a "know it all" or something of that sort. I certainly don't know it all and this is all what I've learned from being a Mom for five years. It's what I have to offer, my experiences, my knowledge and my opinions. 

Keyword, opinions! 

I'm not saying any of this is the rules for being a mom, living on a budget, etc. Because as I stated many times over in this post, YOU have to decide what is best for you and yours. I didn't have a baby with colic, digestive issues or any kind of special need, so I would not dare to tell someone how to deal with those situations.

I find myself a little annoyed when I see articles shared that are "Rules for First Time Moms" or "10 Baby Items You Must Have or The Baby Will Die from Being Underprivileged." I'm exaggerating, but there are those out there that decide they know what's best. My favorite recently was a list of useless baby items, which mentioned the wipes warmer was unnecessary. The comments were nuts with Moms that loved the warmer and those that didn't, because they were all RIGHT and needed to prove it. Personally, I didn't like it, I felt like it dried my wipes out and my son never cared. But a friend's child would SHRIEK if touched with a cold wipe at night, she definitely needed it, for her sanity and the baby's. 

In conclusion, don't stress. Becoming a Mother is uncharted territory until you get there, some people are naturals, some people have to learn with each experience. Don't be afraid to be honest with other Moms and find people you can talk to, in real life or even online.

And if anyone offers to come over, spend time with baby and let you nap, do it! 

Naps are so precious.

- Amanda

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