Advice I wish I’d Had Before My First Baby

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This has been an exciting week for our family: Christmas, snow days, kids + Daddy home on vacation, beloved cousins coming to visit…and the imminent arrival of a new baby!

My sister is due to have her first baby any second now. Well, technically, she was due to have the baby a few days ago, but just as a watched pot never boils so, too, does a much-anticipated baby never arrives. At any rate, we’re all waiting on pins and needles waiting for this baby. And as I’ve been waiting on my pins and needles I’ve been doing some thinking about the journey my sister is about to embark on: childbirth and motherhood.

Like all type-A personality first-time mothers, I read every pregnancy book under the sun when I was expecting my first baby. Real life experience, however, has taught me a few lessons that none of the pregnancy books prepared me for. And in light of my own lightbulb moments, I am going to share the advice I wish I’d had before birthing my first baby:

Get the dang epidural.
Yes, it is medically-preferable to have a natural childbirth with no drugs entering your system. But it is also me-preferable to not endure 40+ hours of excruciating pain when there is a simple (and legal!) option available. I “went natural” for my first two births only to end up with emergency c-sections (and the epidurals that go with them) both times. Receiving pain medication/an epidural/help of any kind does not make you weak or inferior. Looking back, I wish that I would have been alright with accepting the aid of an epidural long before I was at my literal breaking point.

If you feed your baby formula, or choose disposable diapers over cloth, or co-sleep, or _____ you are not a bad mother.
Oh my goodness! Why is this still such an issue? Just do what’s right for you and your baby in your situation, and that will be what’s best for the only people that matter in that situation: you and your own baby. The end.

When you leave the hospital after childbirth you will still look pregnant.
This was a sore disappointment for me. It will take weeks, months, years, maybe never before you will look again like you did before you were pregnant. Just think of this as an excuse to go shopping for fun new clothes (even if they are a size or two up from where they used to be) and remind yourself that your body made a freaking human being and is pretty stinking incredible.

Breastfeeding will not always feel like H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
I remember those first days of breastfeeding were, in many ways, more painful than actually giving birth. I wondered how other “more experienced” moms could just stuff a baby under their shirt in public and continue a conversation while this same searing pain seized their body. Well, here’s their secret: It doesn’t always hurt (Can I get an amen?!). After a week or two your body will adjust and it will not feel like a thousand bees are stinging your most sensitive regions every time your baby has to eat.
*Sidenote* If you are experiencing extreme or prolonged pain, definitely ignore my blog and talk to your doctor instead!

Even when you screw up (which you will), you are still the best thing that’s ever happened to your kid.
You are a mom now, so own it. You do 99% of The Stuff with your ultimate aim being to do what’s best for your child. So what if you mess up now and then? We all do! It’s called being human! When you yell at your kid for leaving Legos on the stairs again or hide in the bathroom to check your email while your toddler roams the house moaning, “Mama? Mama? MAMA?” just cut yourself a little slack. Trust yourself. Apologize if you need to, give a hug, and move on.

Some day your baby will sleep.
This isn’t so much advice as just a bit of reassurance. You will reach levels of exhaustion that you didn’t know were possible to achieve. Hang on, Mama. Because some day. Some day, that baby will sleep. And it will be the best night of your life.

Forget About Cooking.
It is totally acceptable (and recommended) to eat a combination of frozen food, pre-made meals, cereal, and take-out for at least a year after your baby is born. Don’t stress out about making gourmet meals (or even decent meals, for that matter) for a good, long while.

Which brings me to my next point:

Seek and accept help.
I am still working on this one, but it’s a lesson that has sunk in more and more with each child. By baby #3 I finally came to the realization that no, I can NOT handle everything alone. In fact, I really should not even try to do everything alone. If someone offers to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, say yes. If you need someone to bring you a meal or run an errand for you, ask them. Find a friend, a family member, a mom down the street who you can call on, and do it. It takes a village, right?

Which brings me to my next point:

Find your tribe.
Life is not something you should go through alone–we were created for community, and at no point in my life has community been more critical than when I was a new mom. Find some other like-minded moms who are going through the same thing as you, some women who you can swap ideas and stories with. This can happen organically or through organizations (there are TONS of fantastic mom groups out there!). My motto: Stay connected to stay sane!

Don’t enjoy every moment.
People always say to enjoy every moment of motherhood, to love every second because before you know it the kids will be gone. Yes and no. Yes, motherhood offers countless moments to enjoy. Yes, you will blink and your baby will be starting kindergarten, then you’ll blink again and he’ll be moving out. But, no, don’t enjoy every moment. Motherhood is also full of unfathomable difficulties and tough choices and actual real pain. You don’t have to enjoy that. If you’re struggling, that is totally normal. Persevere through the difficult, and there will be new joys to find on the other side.

Laugh
On a daily basis I come across situations where I have the option of crying or laughing. The sensible option would probably be to cry, but whenever I’m with it enough to choose, I choose to laugh. You’re having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day? The kids team up together to utterly destroy your house while your back is turned? Your preschooler has a bathroom emergency in a public park with no restroom? Laugh, take a blackmail photo, and clean it up. LIKE A BOSS.

Pray
There is no problem too big, no sleepless night too long, no tantrum too loud that prayer can not help. Lean on prayer in the good times and the hard times alike, and I promise you it will work!

To my sister and all of the other mamas just starting out, congratulations! You’re about to embark on the greatest journey of your life. Embrace the ups and downs and the twists and turns. Enjoy the great moments and persevere through the difficult ones. You’re amazing, and you’ve got this!

Finally! What You ACTUALLY Need For A New Baby.

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Can I tell you a little secret? It’s absolutely amazing and I am so over the moon about it that I just might burst. Okay, are you ready?

I’m going to be an auntie!!!

Jon’s sister, Stefanie, is expecting her first precious bundle of joy (AKA my new niece/nephew and cousin to my babies) and I could not be more thrilled! I am so excited to walk alongside my dear sister-in-law as she prepares for this wonderful new journey.

Motherhood comes with many things: Love, joy, peace, patience…nausea, heartburn, stretch marks…and GIFTS!!! So, so many gifts. But how do you know which baby items are heroes…and which ones are zeroes? Well, my friends, you have come to the right place. After 3 kids I have zoned in on which baby items you should “Buy, buy, baby!”, and to which ones you should just say “Bye bye, Baby”. Read on for my how-to guide on filling your own (practical) baby registry!

Must Have
(Seriously, buy these things. You are going to use these things every day for the next few years, so buy stuff that you really love. They will basically be like your third arm so you want the best there is, right?)

  • Carseat: They literally will not let you take your baby home from the hospital unless you have a carseat that passes their safety check. Buy one that is easy to install in your car and that fits in the stroller you want to use. Also, just in general make sure you like the way it looks because you’re going to see it approximately all of your waking moments for the next 2 years.
  • Crib: Eventually you will want your own bed, so that means baby must have their own bed. Buy one that is safe and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  • Portable Crib: This is one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that often, but it turns out I use all the time. When we go to grandparents’ houses or playdates or vacations or move and have to live in temporary housing for a month or two we always need a portable crib. You don’t need a particularly fancy portable crib, but it should be lightweight and not take up a ton of space when it’s folded up. Don’t worry about getting one with a bassinet or little toys hanging off the railing–as long as it will fit in your trunk and you can carry it one hand while you balance the baby in her carseat on the other hand, you’re golden.
  • Stroller: Oh my goodness, buy the best stroller your money can buy. You will use this thing every day, so you’d better love it. If you run, buy a jogging stroller. If you like space saving items, buy a Snap ‘n Go for your car seat and an umbrella stroller for when they’re older. If you like cute things, buy a cute stroller that makes you go “ooooooohhhhhhh” just because it’s so adorable. If you think you’ll have another baby in the not-so-distant future, buy a stroller that can be converted to a double. If you like all of those things, buy all of those strollers (I did).
    *P.S. If you live somewhere rainy (I’m looking at you, Seattle.) buy a rain cover to go with your stroller. Trust me, you’ll want to be able to get out of your house even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  • Baby Carrier/Sling: Some babies love to be held, and some moms just need to use their hands while holding their babies. There are oodles of baby carrier options, and you may want to try out a few before you settle on one (word to the wise: Just because you like a particular baby carrier does not mean your baby will like the same carrier). I have an Ergo that I have used for 7 years with 3 kids and it’s literally falling apart at the seams because I use it so much. Some people love their Moby wraps (How on earth do they put those things on?! I feel like I’d need to go back and get a Master’s Degree–or at least a Girl Scout badge–just to tie that thing on!). Some people love their Beco Gemini or their fancy-schmancy Tula…ya know, just get what you like.
  • Diapers and wipes: Babies poop. All the time. When Jacob was born we went through 110 diapers in the first week alone. Whether you decide to use cloth or disposable diapers, stock up ahead of time to save yourself some last minute runs to the drug store in the middle of the night when you’re already sleep-deprived and in super-good moods (I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened to us).
  • Diaper rash cream: Because babies poop. All the time. I like Butt Paste (yes, that’s its real name) and Vitamin A + D ointment (this stuff is also great for chafing if you’re running a marathon, btw.)
  • Snot sucker: Babies get stuffy noses and, unless you can teach a 2-month old how to blow politely into a tissue, you’re going to need a way to get those boogies out. This thing seems gross but it’s really not (even though Jon STILL refuses to be in the same room as me when I’m using it), but I assure you it is 100% necessary. Just buy it and try not to think about what you’re doing when you’re using it.
  • Nail Clippers: While I fully support using these early formative years to teach the value of a decent manicure, there’s another important reason why nail clippers are a new-baby essential. Your baby may seem all sweet and cuddly and innocent, but they aren’t always all that they seem. One night you will put your soft little baby to bed, and the next morning you will pick them up to discover that they have grown razor-sharp death talons at the ends of their fingers. Baby fingernails are sharper than steel, and they WILL cut you. I have the flesh wounds to prove it. Buy a pair of nail clippers that you can grip easily (because squirmy, angry babies will think you’re trying to cut their literal fingers off their hands when you go to use the nail clippers).
    *Pro tip: When your baby is small enough to not use her MMA skills to ward you off, just use your teeth to bite off those little finger nails. It’s a little gross, but not nearly as gross as most of the things you’ll do now that you’re a new mom. Mommy Nail Biting tends to be safer for all involved parties, and those soft little baby fingernails are tricky to get with traditional nail clippers.
  • Basic clothing: Turns out babies really don’t need that much in terms of clothing. A few onesies, a few sets of footie pajamas…maybe a couple of cute outfits if you’re feeling put together enough to leave your house. You should also buy a few sleep sacks because apparently blankets can cause serious harm to thrashing-in-the-night infants.  Other than that, though, you really don’t need to buy any clothing. Chances are your baby will outgrow or spit-upon any clothing you do buy them, anyway. Find some good deals at garage sales (or, better yet, bum baby clothes off your friends with kids a bit older than yours who are already trying to get rid of all their old baby clothes to make room for all the other kid crap they’ve acquired).
  • Baby feeding supplies: Dude, your kid has to eat. This is baby survival 101. If you’re breastfeeding (or thinking about breastfeeding, or once tried breastfeeding, or may possibly potentially probably try breastfeeding in the future), you probably qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance company–just call them and ask. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, however, you’ll also want some bottles for those times when you want to throw your baby at a sitter and get out of the house for a few hours alone. There are approximately 10.7 billion brands and styles of bottles available, however, so may the odds of selecting the perfect bottle that your baby will actually use be ever in your favor.
  • High chair: You have to have a safe place to put your child that is not your own lap during meals. How else will you ever eat? Eating is super important. You must have a place to offload the child. I have a cheap-o space saver high chair that you strap on to a regular chair and it does the trick.
  • Plastic bibs: Forget those cutesy cloth bibs. Buy something heavy duty and easy to rinse off in the kitchen sink because these things get DIRTY. I have used these Björn bibs for all of my kids and I swear by them.
  • Nursing pads: Fact: Your postpartum boobs will leak. Buy some disposable pads if you don’t want extra laundry (me) or some reusable ones (if you’re less lazy and more environmentally conscious).
  • Nursing clothing: See above ^. You don’t necessarily need nursing-specific clothing from a maternity store, but some v-neck or button down shirts with a sports bra (if you’re less endowed) or a nursing bra (if you’re more endowed) will do the trick.
  • Maxi pads: While we’re being truthful here, this one is super important. Your boobs won’t be the only thing…ahem…secreting extra fluids after childbirth. You need some heavy-duty maxi pads at home. We’re talking the Extra-super-all-night-MAXI maxi pads. Buy a few boxes and just stash them in your bathroom until you come home from the hospital. You’re welcome.
  • Mommy Undies: And, while we’re being super SUPER truthful here, buy yourself some granny panties. Buy them bigger than you think you’ll need (if you were a size 4 pre-baby…well, you won’t be any more. Sorry, the truth hurts.), and make sure they’re comfy. Again, you can thank me later.
  • Water bottles: If you are nursing a baby you will be thirsty. All. The. Time. I literally stash water bottles in every room of my house when I am nursing and I have Jon on-call to refill them. *Sidenote* Buy the kind that won’t spill if you bump them in a delirious state in the middle of the night.
  • Caffeine: There, I said it. New mom, you will be addicted to caffeine. This is a fact. Embrace it. And the 20 pounds that come with it.
  • Help: Please, friend, start looking for help now. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, babysitters, that nice elderly lady from the checkout line at the grocery store. I cannot stress this enough: you need a support network. You NEED people to help you when you’re in the trenches. Parenting is not something you can do alone, so start building that web of help now. Trust me.

Nice To Have
(Now that we’ve gotten through the absolutely necessary basics, here are a few extras that can fill out your registry. These things are good, but you can absolutely get by without them. You may use these things a lot…or you or your baby may hate them and you’ll want to throw them away after the first use. My advice? Bum some of these things off friends, find good deals at consignment sales or garage sales, or shop on Craigslist. A dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your baby’s college fund. Or wine. Both are equally necessary to modern child rearing.)

  • Diaper bag: Yes, you do need to have somewhere to stash a few baby basics when you leave the house. A larger purse or backpack (or gallon-size Ziploc bag) will work, but you can choose a cute diaper bag if you’d prefer. Just make sure it is durable, easy to clean, and super easy to carry (I prefer backpack straps or messenger styles).
  • Swaddle blankets: I buy the ones with Velcro because I can not for the life of me figure out how to mummify a squirmy baby.
  • Nursing cover: Because modesty. A blanket or  extra sweatshirt works just fine, but nursing covers are cute and convenient and make you feel like less of an exhibitionist in public.
  • Rocking chair or glider: You will spend many, many hours up with your baby in the middle of the night. Choose a chair for your nursery that is comfortable…maybe even comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
  • Changing table and changing pads: You can literally change your baby’s diaper anywhere: On the floor of your car, in the middle of a public restroom, on the grass in a park. You just might be more comfortable at home if you have a proper changing table (which, by the way, could be the top of a dresser or a guest bed). You may also want an extra changing pad to keep wherever you do your main “living” if it’s not on the same floor of your house as where baby sleeps.
  • Diaper pail: Any ordinary garbage can will work, but I really like this diaper pail because it uses regular old garbage bags that I can buy for approximately .002 cents/bag at Costco (forget the Diaper Genie…that thing will make you broke faster than a stock market crash!) and it keeps the stink mostly contained.
  • Baby swing: Some babies hate the swing, and some babies live in them. My oldest son practically lived in his swing for the first few months and I owe every moment of sleep that I actually got during those weeks to that precious piece of equipment. My youngest hated her swing and would scream any time I put her in it. Go figure. See if you can borrow a swing at first to see how your baby reacts–and if they like it, buy your own!
  • Rock ‘n Play: They didn’t have these when my first baby was born, but by baby #3 the rock ‘n play had established itself as a mommy necessity. It’s basically a sling that baby can sit in or sleep in, and it keeps them slightly upright which babies seem to prefer over being flat on their backs. As a bonus, you can keep this right by your bedside or easily move it throughout the day so baby can nap near you. Like the baby swing, this thing can be a lifesaver for mommies with babies who don’t want to sleep in their crib!
  • Baby bouncer: Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to put your baby while you’re cooking dinner or taking a shower (haha! This one is a joke, because you won’t actually have time to take a shower!), and most babies seem pretty happy in a bouncer.
  • Baby monitor: If you are a super sound sleeper or if you sleep far away from baby’s bedroom, it might give you peace of mind to have a baby monitor. You do NOT need a $400 video monitor that you can watch remotely with an app. Just the cheap-o one that beeps when your baby is screaming super loud will do just fine. In all honesty, though, by kid #3 I turned off the baby monitor and just relished in the momentary semi-silence while I tried to sleep.
  • Pacifiers: Some people swear by the binkie, but my kids never liked them. I have to warn you, though: pacifiers are a bit of a rabbit hole. If your kid likes them, you’ll end up having to play “Binkie Fairy” with them when they’re 2 years old and don’t want to give them up. You have been warned.
  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink does just fine until they can fit in the regular tub. Showers with Daddy are also favorable.
  • Baby toys: Seriously, though. My baby’s favorite toys are empty cardboard boxes and the dirty socks that are strewn about my house. If you want to buy your very own num-num Giraffe or super organic green learning toys, go for it. Just know that your little prince(ss) will nearly always go for your germ-infested car keys instead.
  • Baby Safety Gear: Yes, we want our babies to be safe. Obviously.  Do we need to buy all of the available safety products to keep them safe? Not necessarily. After 3 kids we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually more important to keep our stuff safe from our babies than to keep our babies safe from our stuff. So, we put a gate around our giant TV and a lock on our liquor cabinet. See? Everyone’s safe.
  • Smart Phone: Because you’ll be up at night…a lot. And you may need to keep up with celebrity gossip and Instagram feeds. Life goes on even when you have a baby, you know.

Totally Unnecessary
(Just save us all some trouble and don’t waste your hard-earned maternity leave money on these things)

  • Wipe warmer: How cold do baby wipes get when they’re sitting in your presumably already-warm house? Suck it up, Kid. If cold wipes are the worst that life has dished out to you, you’ve got it pretty good.
  • Peepee teepee: This is an absurd little contraption to put on top of baby boys’ little…peepees…so they won’t…pee pee….on you while you’re changing their diaper. Guess what? Little boys will always pee pee on you, even if you have absurd little contraptions getting in the way of proper diaper changes. Just buy yourself some goggles and call it good.
  • Shopping cart cover: You really do not need to schlep extra stuff with you every time you leave your car. Plus, shopping carts aren’t that dirty anyway (Well, not compared to how dirty your baby already is if they’re rolling around on the floor and licking every single thing within their reach.). If you’re really worried about shopping sanitation, wipe down the cart with a baby wipe and put a blanket down on the seat. Done.
  • Tiny baby shoes: Newsflash: Babies don’t walk! Don’t buy those adorable size 0 TOMS, even if they’re sparkly and soooooo cute. They’re still $40 and your baby won’t wear them or care about them. I promise. Go to the Nordstrom’s cafe and buy yourself a mimosa instead.
  • Cutesy baby stuff in general: I bought my first baby a 0-3 month old bath robe. It came with slippers. It was soooooo cute! But guess how many times he wore the cute robe and slippers? Zero. Zero times. Do you know why? Because 0-3 month olds don’t wear robes and slippers. They just don’t. Even if they’re super cute.
  • Baby-specific versions of items that  you already have: Do you already have towels? Wash cloths? Combs? Then you don’t need baby towels, baby wash cloths, or baby combs. Turns out babies are just smaller humans who can use the same thins bigger humans use (for the most part). No rush to go out and buy a smaller version of something you already have so your baby can outgrow it before they even get to use it.

Now it’s your turn–Chime in here in the comments if you have any zero or hero baby products!

10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had My First Baby

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I have a lot of friends who have either recently had their first baby or are pregnant right now.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every pregnancy and newborn book I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what this whole baby thing would be like when it actually happened.  Now, 2 babies later, I am still learning about motherhood. Every. Single. Day. Only now it’s not from a book: it’s from the trenches.

Despite my best intentions to learn all that I could before I had my babies, there’s just so much more that I’ve learned from my on-the-job training than I ever could have gotten out of a book or a manual (if there were such a thing). I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way–tricks of the trade, if you will. Here are a few things I wish I would have known about before I had my first baby.

1. Let go of your plans/hopes/desires/dreams for your baby’s birth.

Birth and Coming Home 070This photo is from my first son’s birth. You may notice that I’m lying on an operating table. That was so not the plan. I went into both of my births planning on having natural childbirth experiences with no drugs and minimal interventions. For our first child, I planned an out-of-hospital birth with midwives–I didn’t even want a doctor in the room! Long story short, I’ve had two emergency C-Sections. I’m 0-for-2 in the “having birth go your way” department. But here’s the thing: it’s OK. I had a really hard time dealing with my first C-Section–I felt like my body had failed me in this most basic function. Then I realized that my baby’s birth was not in my control. I did everything I could to get him out safely and, in the end, that meant we had to cut him out at a moment’s notice. And he was perfect and healthy and wonderful. Even though things didn’t go how I would have liked them to go, they went how they needed to go. With our second birth I let go of a lot of my expectations and, even though the outcome ended up being the same (BUMMER!) I was fine with it. Even though the birth itself wasn’t all that different, my attitude about it was–and that made a world of difference! When it comes to babies being born, expect the unexpected. Hold your plans in an open hand, not a closed fist, and be willing to go with the flow.

2. Having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank.
It’s true: having a baby is expensive. Really expensive. But there is hope! There are lots of great ways to save money on baby expenses.

  • The first thing I would suggest all moms do is sign up for Amazon Mom. It’s a great program run through Amazon.com that gives you free 2-day shipping on everything you buy on Amazon, plus it gives you discounts on baby essentials. It’s free to sign up and it saves you trips to the store (which, for a new mom, is as good as money in her pocket!).
  • You can also try your hand at couponing to save money on diapers and wipes. I was pretty diligent about couponing with my first baby and we saved about 50% on diapers that way. If you want to learn the ropes, there are some great tutorials online that can show you how to get the most bang for your buck (or clip?).
  • Take advantage of free/cheap resources and activities in your community–library story times, parks, community play areas (I love the Shoreline “indoor playground”  for all of you Seattleites), beaches, hikes, farms, public swimming pools, and outdoor concerts to name a few.
  • Make your own baby food (see my post for making your own baby rice cereal here).
  • Only buy what you need. You could spend a LOT of money on baby gear, but you really don’t need all of it. See my list of the essentials and my favorite products for more details.

3. “You can do anything, but you shouldn’t do everything”.
I saw this quote recently, and it rang really true with me. Choose what you want to focus on, and go for it–but don’t expect that you’ll be able to do everything that you want to do. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to do everything that you need to do once your baby arrives! Don’t try to be Super-Mom who does everything has it all together all the time–even moms who look like they have it all together really don’t. And that’s fine. That’s called being a mom. If you have piles of dirty laundry, a dish full of sinks, and a child crying at your feet as you’re making dinner, that’s normal. Do the best you can with each day, and call it good.

Along with this, know that it’s OK (no, necessary) to have help sometimes. Allow your friends, family, and community to help with meals, cleaning, babysitting–whatever you need that will free you up to focus on adjusting to life with your new baby. Once you have a baby, you’ll know where that phrase “it takes a village…” came from!

4. It’s OK to put a crying baby down.

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Whenever my first baby would cry, I did whatever I could to make him happy–right away. I had this weird feeling of abandonment  if I heard him crying and wasn’t instantly there to soothe him. But then, one day, I couldn’t get to him right away–and he was fine! In fact, he calmed down on his own, went back to sleep, and didn’t seem bothered in the least. Then I realized, it’s OK to let baby be on his own a bit. Now, with 2 little ones, I’ve learned that it’s actually necessary to put down a crying baby sometimes–and he’s always just fine. An added perk: baby will learn how to calm down and entertain himself if you aren’t doting on him every moment of every day–a valuable life lesson, indeed!  If you need to put down your baby so you can go to the bathroom or even take a quick shower, he’ll survive the 5 minute interlude. You both might even enjoy it!

5. Choose the advice you’ll take 
It never ceases to amaze me how every living, breathing person has advice on child-rearing. People with babies, people without babies, old people, young people, you name it–they all seem to know the only right way to do things with a baby. And they’ll tell you. Especially if you’re doing it wrong. I have found that the best response is usually just to smile, say “Thank you”, and then keep doing what you were doing.
As this baby’s parent, you know them better than anyone else. You know what they like, what drives them crazy, how they respond to different situations, even what bodily functions they’ve performed in the last 24 hours. You are your own baby’s expert. So, even when you get good advice from someone else, check it against what you–your baby’s expert–knows about your baby. What’s worked for someone else and their baby may not work for you.

6. Laugh at yourself
You will have days as a parent that just make you want to cry. Or scream. Or throw a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. And, sometimes, that’s OK. We all need to cry and scream and throw a fit every now and then. But you can also choose to just laugh at the situation and say “oh well, these crazy kids have done it again!”.

For instance: The other day I was trying to cook dinner and my boys both decided this would be a great time to test Mom. With a pot boiling over on the stove, the baby started screaming. When I picked him up, I noticed that he had poop squishing all the way up his back and out the neck of his onesie. I ran upstairs to change him and when I came back downstairs, my 2 year old had flung half of the contents of his rice box (a sensory activity) across the floor. I could have cried or yelled or run away to a nice quiet closet, but I just had to laugh at myself and the “situation” that is my life. This is my lot now, and it’s actually kinda funny. Three years ago, I never would have imagined that this is how a typical Thursday afternoon would look for me. But it is, and I embrace it! If I don’t laugh at myself every so often I could end up resenting the way things are, and I never want that to happen. So bring on the messy, the loud, the annoying, the embarrassing: I will just laugh at you!

7. Sleep. And don’t expect to feel rested for the next 20 years.

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You’ve heard it before: sleep when the baby sleeps. That worked for the first few weeks for me, but then I realized that “when the baby sleeps” happened to be the only time I could take a shower or eat a meal or pay the bills. Rest is still really important, though. I’m not good at taking naps during the day, but I can usually fall asleep pretty quickly at night time. As a result, I have to be pretty diligent about setting a bedtime for myself each night and sticking to it–even if I really want to stay up late doing important things like watching TV or checking my friends’ status updates on Facebook. But the sad reality is that even if you do go to bed on time and try to take naps when the baby’s sleeping, you’ll probably never really feel rested as long as there are people who call you “Mom” or “Dad” living under your roof. Kids are exhausting and you’ll probably never get enough rest to make up for the energy output they require. Oh well, can’t blame a girl for trying!

8. Document important information and events.
When your baby rolls over for the first time, or gets her first tooth, or says his first word, it feels like the most earth-shattering event. You know that you’ll remember it forever! But you won’t. My oldest son is only 2 1/2, and I already can’t remember a single stat or milestone from his babyhood. Maybe I just have a terrible memory, or maybe my brain is just a pile of mush after chasing two little boys around every day, but the fact remains that I just don’t remember those all-important details.
Do whatever works for you to record your child’s life. Some people like hanging a calendar by baby’s changing table so they can write interesting little facts about baby for each day of their first year. You could buy a baby memory book from the store, jot notes down in a notebook, or even pull out your smart phone (yes, there’s an app for that).

9. Avoid burn out: take time for yourself.

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It’s easy for a mom to get sucked in to the 24/7 nature of parenting. But if you don’t take a little break every now and then, you might just break! Exercise. Get Grandma and Grandpa to come over and watch the baby so you can go out on a date with your husband. Grab some girlfriends and get a pedicure on the weekend while Daddy is playing with Baby. Hire a babysitter and go to a coffee shop so you can lose yourself in a good book for an hour. Maybe even train for a half-marathon on the weekends (see photo above. Bonus: you get an extra member of the cheering section when baby comes to watch your race!). If you need to, schedule these “breaks” into your schedule (and make sure your husband has them in his calendar, too!). I have found that when I take good care of myself, I’m able to take better care of everyone else.

10. Be present and enjoy the ride.
Parenting can be very challenging, demanding, draining. It’s tempting to check out with a smartphone or your laptop while the kids run around at your feet. But blink, and you’ll wonder where the time has gone. Trust me, you won’t want to miss those moments–no matter how mundane or trying they seem in the moment.

Most days I go to bed and think, “What did I do today?”. When I see the list of things that didn’t get done and the piles of things that need to be dealt with it can be a bit disheartening. But the reality is, I did a lot today. I snuggled my babies, I kissed a boo-boo, I cleaned up poo-poo (I cleaned up lots of poo-poo). I read some stories, I played make-believe, I disciplined, I prayed, I disciplined some more. I ran through a park, I bathed tiny bodies, I sang lullabies, I said “I love you!”. I did a lot today–and I want to savor every moment of it.

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