In 2001, I was a freshly-turned-twenty-one-year-old discharged from the hospital with a baby. My baby, I should add, in case you think I’m some kind of baby-stealer. Single-parenthood looming on the horizon, I’d moved back in with my parents, and now, having just expelled my firstborn from my uterus, I had no earthly idea what to do with him.
In a sense (despite all precipitating factors that, when lined up, make my life sound like a bad Country-Western song), it was fortunate. I hadn’t yet met The Internet, I had no mom-friends, and I only owned one book on child-rearing: Dr. Spock’s. I didn’t meet the Judgmental Parents Club until much later, and by that time, I knew enough to tune them out.
The first bit of advice I can give new parents is exactly what I took away from Dr. Spock: trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. I cannot imagine how hard it must be in the digital age; all of the information and judgment flying at you from all sides, but in the end, you need to trust that you know what’s best for your baby. Anyone who tells you that you’re doing it wrong can kiss off.
What took me nearly five years to learn is my second piece of advice for new parents, and it’s one that’s not often mentioned. Sure, you hear people say, “parenting is hard,” and other boring platitudes you can crochet on a pillow, but that’s not the whole picture. Parenting IS hard, that’s a given, but there’s no law that mandates you must love every second of it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t love every moment, age, or stage. Be wary of anyone who tells you stuff like, “enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s over too soon,” because that is a recipe for needless guilt.
I suffered terrible antenatal and postpartum depression with the pregnancies and births of my last two children. There were days I was so miserable that I could barely get my ass out of bed. Having antenatal depression wasn’t a sign that I was a bad mother or that I didn’t want my baby: it just meant that pregnancy made me feel like crap. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not glowing while pregnant. The only time I had any sort of “glow” about me was after I’d vomited.
Make yourself aware of the signs of postpartum depression. The more you know and all that After School Special stuff. If you’re feeling low at any point, tell someone. Get help. Don’t be too proud to admit that you’re struggling.
Try to remember that you matter, too. It’s too easy to put the needs of everyone else before your own, especially when you have a new baby. Sometimes, yes, parenthood calls for this, but that doesn’t mean that you should neglect yourself. Eventually, that catches up to you. Not all of us have the luxury of having a live-in housekeeper, nanny or personal chef (I certainly don’t) but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a break to be myself now and again. You won’t win Mother (or Father) of the Year by neglecting yourself. I know. I’ve tried.
Celebrate the good times and the bad. Try to remember that the worst days always end. Relax. Tune out unnecessary noise. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re struggling and need help: no one can do it all.
And if all that fails, there’s always vodka. Or cheese fries. Or both.
Becky Harks, known throughout the blogosphere as Aunt Becky, blogs at Mommy Wants Vodka and is the creator of Band Back Together, a user-submitted group support blog which recently won a 2011 Bloggie Award for Best Kept Secret. You can follow her on Twitter at @mommywantsvodka.
Donations to Postpartum Progress can be made here: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/
oh the mommy guilt can be BAD. and pregnancy. Pregnancy was horrible for me too. But I love my babies and even though I absolutely don't love every single minute of it that's ok. Thank you for your words. I know they'll help others.
Yes! Vodka and cheese fries!
I love this reminder that it's okay to take care of ourselves, too. That we MUST take care of ourselves if we're going to take care of anyone else with any sort of success.
Just love your honesty. Right now there is so much about being a mom that sucks, and so much that is awesome. But the stuff that sucks, sucks hard, and I can't escape it. Where's the pill for how to deal with your toddler?
I'm not really a vodka or a cheese fries person, but I'll take ice cream and prosecco. So glad to have you here today, Aunt Becky, and grateful for everything you do to help others, including moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, over at Band Back Together. Keep up the awesome work!!
"Trust yourself" — how many of us ever really get this as advise when we are a new parent? I think it is a phenomenal message.
take care of yourself and trust yourself. two of the most powerful pieces of advice a new mom can receive.
now…i heard something about vodka and cheese fries?
That definitely contributed to my PPD. I felt extreme guilt for not loving every moment of motherhood. After talking to other moms the first few months are hard and honestly kinda suck but I didn't know that and thought I was a bad mom for not feeling that "bliss" all the time. Durring pregnancy it is all "congratulations" & "enjoy every moment", etc. so you feel like crap when you are thinking "I don't like this right now"