6 Lessons I've learned in my first 6 months of motherhood
In just six short, super-fast months I totally understand why people say that being a mom is both the most challenging and the most rewarding job on earth. My emotional threshold has been pushed to the limits as has my physical stamina. I absolutely cannot believe that my son will be six months old in just a few days--the hours have passed like minutes, and after taking a few fleeting moments to reflect on what I've learned I think it's safe to say that they have been some of the most important lessons of my life.
I will likely never again get as much sleep as I did before becoming a mom. Tired takes on a new meaning when you become a parent. Having suffered from some degree of insomnia most of my life, I thought I'd handle the sleep deprivation in stride. Ha! It's totally different when you have to be turned on 24/7. If I thought I was exhausted when I was in college full-time, interning and working two part-time jobs, I was fooling myself. Even when my son sleeps through the night I find myself waking several times to take a look at the video monitor and lay as silently as possible while I listen for any possible baby noises. It's like a compulsion. And to think, one day I plan to be doing this with two kids!
My son will never be predictable. No matter how well I think I know him, I'll never know it all. After all, he is another human being. As soon as I think I have something figured out, he changes. The first six months are full of milestones and physical and mental developments, and with each one my child's temperament and behavior has altered ever so slightly. If I say he doesn't cry at church, he'll do it the very next week. True story. His reaction to a given situation may not be the same every time, even if it is the exact same situation. Of course, you will probably be able to guess what your child will do nine times out of ten, but you'll never get to 100 percent.
Not every baby grows at the same rate. I think every single mom worries about how well her child is growing. Regular growth means your child is thriving so it tends to be something we all think about at least occasionally. Months ago I had to accept that my child is tall and skinny and that his weight will likely always be low according to the pediatrician's growth chart. But, guess what? Just because he isn't in the 50th percentile, it doesn't mean that he's not healthy or growing at the right rate for him. Those charts are based on averages and just like most adults, most babies are not average. Make sure your pediatrician acknowledges this and doesn't try to make your child fit into some baby mold.
Making time for your spouse is not easy. It is so important to maintain your relationship with your spouse or significant other. The happiness of your entire family is affected by the quality of your relationship with each other. Even tiny babies can sense tension and stress so if there's a lack of care and attention between the two of you, your baby will probably notice, and his mood and behavior will inevitably be affected. Snuggle up and watch a movie, hold hands, go out to dinner, talk about your future together -- these things are crucial to the quality of your family life.
You don't have to respond immediatly to every cry. I adore my son, and I hate hearing him cry, but I've had to accept that sometimes babies just cry and there is nothing you can do once they are cleaned, fed, rested and cuddled. I've finally learned that when he whines in the middle of the night or while napping that I don't have to jump up and intrude. I sigh and moan all the time when I'm annoyed and frustrated -- babies cry instead, and they have to learn how to work things out independently. I'm not saying to ignore your newborn--don't do that!--but once your baby is a little older, start teaching him how to entertain himself and how to self-soothe. It'll be worth it down the line.
Worrying is pointless. Okay, I'm still working on this one, but it's true. No matter how much I worry, it will not change the outcome of a situation. Worrying will not give my child an immune system of steel. Worrying will not make him sleep longer. Worrying will not make him eat better. Worrying will most definitely not make him any happier. Worrying will not make more money appear in our bank accounts. Hopefully, one day soon I'll stop worrying so much and just enjoy my son.
Image via Shayne Rodriguez Thompson