Anyway, here are some things I've learned in my first year of parenting. Please know I am not telling you to do the same things. If anything, maybe do the opposite. But here's what I did to survive and what worked for this family of crazies.
1. You might not IMMEDIATELY have an overwhelming rush of emotions when you meet your kid for the first time.
Anyway, when Riley was born I expected to be an emotional mess. Yet, I wasn't. What was wrong with me? Didn't I love her?! Wasn't I so excited she was finally here?! To be honest, something that people might not tell you, is that childbirth is a BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL. Just kidding, I'm assuming you've heard the horror stories. It IS a big deal, and at least for me, I was a bit too overwhelmed to really feel much immediately after she was safely in my arms. Or maybe that was the epidural LOL #momjokes.
Honestly, I mostly felt relief that everything went well. Greg on the other hand, total crybaby. Again, I wondered what was wrong with me. How was my (self-proclaimed) badass of a husband the one breaking down, while I hadn't even shed a tear? Fear not, friends - over the next few days, after things calmed down a bit, I was able to finally be hit with that overwhelming love everyone talks about. And man, was it intense and one of the most beautiful emotions I've ever felt in my life. My point is, don't beat yourself up if you're not a huge blubbery mess right away - give yourself time to decompress.
2. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Unless the baby is sleeping on you. Then you're screwed.
- That's unsafe
- She will never sleep on her own
- Sleep training is going to be HELL
- Haven't you heard that that's really unsafe?
Now, I'm not discrediting any of those theories, because I'm sure they're all true in certain circumstances. But listen, I was trying to survive. So I did what I needed and what I was comfortable with. And ya know what? She's been sleeping in her crib since she was 3 months old, wouldn't want to sleep in bed with me even if I wanted her to (and I do! Love me child, love me!!) and is a seemingly normal child otherwise. Summary: I didn't ruin her. And I cherish every single second she let me cuddle her. Except for the ones where my bladder almost exploded. Definitely not those.
My point is - no matter which camp you fall into -YOU DO YOU, BOO!
3. Give. Yourself. Time.
A few days later, I saw this picture of myself and cringed. GOOD LORD WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME I LOOKED LIKE THAT?! Why do I have a FUPA?! (If you don't know what that is, like my dear best friend Jen, google it. But not at work. You're welcome). Was I seriously being critical of my body? Umm, hello Casey, you birthed a human less than 72 hours prior, give yourself a break. Luckily I was too busy changing my clothes four times a day and cooking dinner with one hand to really care much. Eventually, Greg DID manage to take a good picture of me (pictured right) - and this one reflected how I really felt two months postpartum: feeling more comfortable in my own skin AND as a new mom. You may feel that way right away, or it may take longer, but again, give yourself time. And grace. Motherhood takes A WHOLE LOTTA GRACE.
4. But also, know when it's time to throw in the towel.
Until it wasn't.
Flash forward to the day I had to fly solo with her from Georgia to New York. I planned to get up early to pump before we left, so that I could easily feed her a bottle on the (two hour) drive from Fort Benning to the airport. Except, on this day of all days, my pump decided to stop working. In a bit of a frenzy, I grabbed a backup case of formula and we hit the road, hoping she could last until we made it. And she did not. A meltdown ensued, we couldn't stop because we were running close on time, and desperate times called for desperate measures. So, I gave her a bottle of formula. And she loved it. Too much.
She loved it so much that over the next month, she slowly started refusing me and settling only for a bottle. Major hit to the mom ego. I fought it for over a month, still breastfeeding when she would let me, but those times became fewer and far between. It finally got to the point where the only person benefiting from my attempts, was very clearly me. After a heart-to-heart with Greg, we decided it was okay to throw in the towel and switch exclusively to formula.
Never in a million years did I expect for the transition to happen so soon, if at all, but after I finally put aside my pride, I realized it was best for our family. I let myself feel sad about it, and eventually moved on. Listen, society today makes it ROUGH to do just about anything, and breastfeeding is a major hot-button topic. I am finally comfortable with my decision, and I'm grateful for it! My little peanut finally got out from being under the tenth percentile in weight, and began putting on some pounds, sleeping better, and just being an overall happier baby. Props to the mamas who stick with it for the long haul, and props to the mamas who know they want to formula feed from the beginning. You know what's best for your babe - don't let anyone tell you differently. And if they do, you let me know, I got your back.
5. Become an Artisan of Multitasking.
Also, let's all appreciate my bald spots. Postpartum hair loss is REAL. I previously thought it entailed extra clumpage in your shower drain and that would be that. NOPE. Turns out you get to look like Danny Devito for a few solid months. Score.
6. Try to smile even when you really don't want to.
Looking back, I'm happy I was able to grin and bare it, because even though there was a huge hole where Greg should have been, we survived and actually ended up having a blast 99% of the time. I'm proud that Riley can look back at these pictures and see that we still lived life to the fullest, despite not being a complete family at the time.
7. But sometimes say 'fuck this shit' and give up for a bit.
8. Sometimes, survival mode is necessary.
The picture on the right is from an extremely fussy day where Riley wanted nothing to do with anything that wasn't my chest. We were at the height of our sleep training, and people told me to avoid putting her in the baby carrier during nap time. HOWEVER, there were things that had to be done, and a limited amount of time to do them, so I gave up and strapped on the Ergo and went about my merry way. She slept, I managed to get things done and eat one warm meal (while standing), nobody had to listen to a baby screaming. Everybody won.
My point: parenthood is often messy, a bit stressful, and at times, scary. At some point, you will need to revert to survival mode, and that's totally fine.
9. Speaking of sleep. training. it sucks. but this too, shall pass.
Also, it helps to have several mom friends that you can text at 3am in an attempt to not fall asleep feeding your child for the MILLIONTH!! TIME!! WHYDOTHEYEATSOMUCH.
10. You might not always get the perfect picture
11. Help will come in ways you may not have expected
12. If nobody has told you today, you're a great mom.
I was sitting on the couch, holding my poor stuffed-up baby when my mother-in-law (who I am so lucky to say is the most angelic woman on this planet) patted me on the shoulder and said, "You're doing so well, Casey. You are such a good mom". I held back the tears and thanked her. Until that point, and to nobody's fault, I hadn't yet had someone tell me that. I'm sure she still has no idea how much those words meant to me, but I will never forget them.
Sometimes we just need to hear that we're doing a good job. And you are. I promise.