Before I even became pregnant, I was already envisioning what life would be like as a mom: lots of snuggles, walks, laughs, adventures and quality time spent together.
I wasn’t completely naïve – I knew parenthood would have its share of challenges, from breastfeeding to sleep deprivation to questioning my every decision, but I didn’t completely know what I was signing up for, either. You think you have an idea, and then you become a parent. Things get real.
I’ve learned some things along the way since giving birth to my beautiful daughter Hannah nine months ago, things that would have been helpful for me to know even before getting pregnant.
Here are the top five lessons I’ve learned so far as a first-time momma:
1. Find a community of support. This can come from a multitude of places. I have a wonderful husband and family, a great church community and group of friends, but one thing I was lacking was a support system from those knowledgeable on breastfeeding. I was looking for a group of people that could answer questions and help me troubleshoot. The local La Leche League chapter has been the most valuable resource, and I am thankful for the Facebook group to help answer questions, as well as the quick responses of leaders and their willingness to help. Had I been asking questions or attending meetings before having my daughter, I would have been much more prepared for the challenges and could have saved myself a good two months of frustration in the beginning. (Note that this is a closed group on Facebook; you have to put in a request to join.)
2. Buy used baby gear. Once you start preparing for baby’s arrival, you’ll likely encounter quite the sticker shock like I did. While most baby stores tend to carry pricy clothing, furniture, and other baby gear, you can easily come by these items used at a fraction of the price without sacrificing quality. Considering how quickly babies go through clothes, I would highly recommend checking out some local consignment stores like Mommy ‘n Me to Be and Once Upon a Child. I have found great deals on baby clothes, swaddling blankets and even maternity wear. These stores, Craigslist, or garage sales are great for finding used items like strollers, winter gear, or furniture such as a dresser, rocking chair, or changing table.
3. There is no right answer. Okay, sometimes the right answer might be pretty obvious, like not letting your three-month-old eat ice cream, but for the harder decisions, know that it is okay to follow your gut and not what some books or “experts” say. There is no “one size fits all” solution to anything baby related, whether it is their feeding or sleeping habits or anything in between. No two babies are the same, yet you’ll find dozens of books and articles trying to tell you how to raise a baby who sleeps through the night. Ha.
Ultimately, you need to look out for your child and do what you feel is right. Whether you’re letting baby cry it out or nursing to sleep, or whether you’re a babywearing momma or a stroller mom (or if you’re like me and do all of the above), there is no “perfect mom” camp to be in. I know sometimes it may feel that way. Don’t compare yourself to other moms; do what you feel is right. There’s a reason for the saying, “Momma knows best.”
4. Embrace each phase. In the thick of sleep-deprived, new-momma life, it’s easy to wish away time to when baby sleeps through the night. Or when your toddler is having a meltdown in the middle of Target and you just can’t wait for those terrible twos, threes, (and fours?) to be over. Each phase of parenthood is going to have its share of challenges, and I’m convinced that each one will somehow make us stronger in order to prepare us for the next. I am so not ready to deal with a mouthy teenager, but I’m sure I’ll be much more equipped to handle it 13 years from now.
With every age comes challenges, but each one will also be incredibly memorable and special as your child grows. Pretty soon you’ll be looking back and fondly remembering the nights you snuggled your baby in the middle of the night, kissed owies on your misbehaving toddler, or took your teenager shopping for her first bra. As cheesy as it sounds, allow yourself to fully embrace each phase your child experiences, letting yourself see the world through his or her eyes.
5. Motherhood is the hardest job and the greatest gift. Being a momma is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I am never off the clock, it demands 24/7 attention, and requires me to make stressful decisions. It plagues me with guilt that I might be doing something wrong or that I’m not doing the best job that I could.
It’s easy to get caught up in what we feel like we need or ought to be. I wonder if I am doing enough, being present enough, loving enough. And then my heart explodes, and I realize I am enough in my baby girl’s eyes. Being able to love and provide for her is the most wonderful, rewarding experience, and it fills my heart with so much joy.
Being a mother requires sacrifice and selflessness, and it is in this giving of yourself for your children that you receive the greatest gift of all: their love for you.
What lessons has motherhood taught you?
Meet Guest Blogger Kristin Schaaf
Kristin is a blessed wife to her husband David and first-time momma to her daughter Hannah, embracing the ups and downs of motherhood and the joys and challenges each day brings. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, writing, baking, and being involved in her church. Kristin shares her heart and experiences as a mother through letters to her daughter on her blog, Dear Baby with Love.