Letter to a New Mom: Unsolicited Advice From Someone Who Has Been There

Pffft.  Unsolicited advice — just what every new mom needs, am I right?  As if the poor gal isn’t the target of mountains of the stuff every.  single.  day (which is, in itself, a beautiful metaphor for the laundry that comes with motherhood).  My absolute favorite piece of advice I got as I neared motherhood myself came from a woman who happened to work at the same place I did.  She told me, with certain authority, that as soon as my baby was born, I would want to place a hard boiled egg in a baby sock and nail it above the baby’s nursery door.  This would prevent teething pain.

Of course it would.

Like I said, pffft.

The advice I am providing you, though, is different.  Of course.  My advice is golden, sure to calm, soothe, reassure, and provide confidence in this new role of a lifetime.  This advice is hard earned wisdom, yo, from someone who’s been at this thing since 2005 and whose motherhood carries several different descriptors to qualify it — grieving mom, biological mom, adoptive mom.  I dare say those things have earned me some serious mama street cred.

In the early hours of my labor with Donna.  We went to the local mall as it was cool.  I kept making Mary Tyler Dad take these photos of me with prophetic messages at Kohl's.  Sort of breaks my heart when I look at them now, but that's motherhood for you.
In the early hours of my labor with Donna. We went to the local mall as it was cool. I kept making Mary Tyler Dad take these photos of me with prophetic messages at Kohl’s. Sort of breaks my heart when I look at them now, but that’s motherhood for you.

Humor aside, I have learned a thing or two along the way with my own personal motherhood trials and triumphs.  I’ve also learned that giving advice has to be done with a grain of salt, as most of us don’t heed the advice we get — even the advice we seek out.  Given that what I offer you is unsolicited, well, I get that most new moms will have to come to this wisdom on their own.  That’s cool.  You’re missing out, but that’s cool.

Ha!  On to the advice . . .

  • You don’t need that thingamajig.  Seriously.  You don’t.  Whatever you see on the end caps at Buy Buy Baby (the most egregiously named retailer in the history of retailers), ignore it.  Step away, new mom.  That shit is nonsense.  Wipe warmers?  NO.  Individual plastic bags to encase a poopy diaper like the most unfortunate sausage ever?  NO.  A bottle cover shaped like a stuffed elephant/giraffe/monkey for $19.99?  HELL NO.  Your baby might have been born yesterday, but you weren’t.  Think about what your grandmother used to raise your mom.  Buy that.  You’re done and would have saved yourself a ton of money that you can put towards diapers and bibs, of which you will use way more than you could have ever possibly imagined.
  • Put the book and keyboard down.  I have never ever read a parenting book.  Sure, I own a few, and even use them on occasion, just as I do a very few parenting websites, but overall I find that outlets for baby information tend to breed hysteria and insecurity.  They are full of mysterious letters, acronyms, and abbreviations that clearly mean something to the regular consumers, but for us mere mortals, they are confusing and lead to a state of feeling out of the loop and dumb where our own baby is concerned.  Ask a trusted source instead — your own mom, a sister, close friend, trusted neighbor.  Ask a person whose parenting you admire and, if you need to, put that person on speed dial until you get your feet wet enough to start trusting your own instincts.
  • Some days will be overwhelming in a really bad way.  I guarantee that at some point you will be lying on a heap in the middle of your kitchen or bathroom, rocking your baby, covered in pee or poop or vomit, unshowered, wearing maternity clothing whose expiration date was 8-14 months ago, feeling about just as bad as you can ever remember feeling, but you will be holding a little one, too, who will most likely be wailing to add to the atmosphere.  It’s okay.  It will all be okay.  This too shall pass.  I promise.
  • Some days will be overwhelming in a really great way.  You cannot imagine the joy and love and wonder that will be heading your way, the magnitude of which you yourself have not known since your own childhood.  There are days ahead that will be etched in your memory forever.  Days so profound and perfect they will bring you comfort in your old age while you rock back and forth waiting for that baby, now grown and off in the world, to come visit you.  Your heart will burst at the smiles you will receive, the spontaneous sticky hugs, the homemade cards, the pride felt at watching this beautiful creature you tend to every day fly like a bird.
  • Build a village.  This parenting thing is hard.  You will need help.  I don’t care how Type A, organized, or overachieving you may be, you will still need help.  Find that help.  For some, that will be grandparents.  For others, friends.  Nannies and babysitters are part of this formula, too.  Be creative.  I have a mix of friends, neighbors, and school support.  Know that your village will evolve, too.  Each of my three children has benefited from a series of people outside our immediate family that helped in their day-to-day care when needed.  I am still working on a solution for my youngest at eight months, so know that it takes time and effort, too, this building of villages.  The flip side of this, too, is making yourself available to be a part of another mom’s village.
  • You will make mistakes.  This has to be understood.  You are not perfect.  Do not expect motherhood to be different than any other venture you have set out on.  Our kiddos are resilient.  They actually improve with our mistakes, I am convinced, as long as those mistakes are not the same ones over and over.  And when you make a mistake, own it, learn from it, integrate it.  Then, by all means, move the hell on.  Guilt is no one’s friend, especially to the new mother.
  • Stop comparing yourself and your child to those around you.  Yeah, this is not good.  And with this social media, Pinterest world we live in now, comparing ourselves has become something of a blood sport in motherhood.  You don’t have to engage in that shit.  You really don’t.  If Jenny puts a photo of homemade cupcakes in her newsfeed, give Jenny a cheer, but don’t you dare for even one moment think that Jenny’s cupcakes have any bearing on your life in any way, shape or form.  Truth.
  • Control is an illusion.  With my first child, I breastfed and made my own baby food using organic produce.  She was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died.  We do the best we can, but in no way are we in complete control of what happens to our children.  And rather than that putting you in a place of fear, I hope it liberates you.  Life happens, but only if you live it.
  • You have a strength that you never thought possible.  You are a mother now, dammit.  I can hear your ROAR from here, and I’m all the way in Chicago!  This mothering thing will challenge you like nothing else you have encountered.  You possess a strength and core of steel that you never realized because you never needed it before these moments.  Use that strength, trust that strength, and never, ever abuse that strength.  Our babies rely on us for everything.  E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  That is some powerful stuff, there, mama.  You got this.

So there it is, my unsolicited advice to new mothers!  Is it everything you thought it would be?  Better?  If so, spread the word and share it with the new moms in your life.  They won’t heed the advice, but chances are they will resent you for sending it to them, so there’s that.  Ha!

Got milk?
Got milk?

If you want more of this, I have invited all of ChicagoNow bloggers to do as I have done here today and write a letter to a new mom.  You know there are some words of wisdom to be found in this experiment.  You can find all the posts catalogued here.

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