I remember those last few weeks of first-time pregnancy like yesterday — mostly, I was just freaked out. What the heck am I going to DO with a new baby?! I was the first of my friends to start a family and the internet hadn’t quite yet exploded with never-ending pregnancy and parenting insight and instructions back then (in the old fashioned days of 2010), so I was pretty much flying blind. I knew about the carseat and safety stuff, but it was the other stuff that worried me — the lifestyle change.
Here’s what I wish someone told me before my husband and I took home our first baby.
1) You won’t break them. Those first few days in the hospital were the most out-of-body experiences and I was scared to handle my own child for fear I’d dislocate her arm or leg or toe or head. Babies are so fragile — wrong. Babies are actually pretty solid despite their wrinkly faces and scrawny limbs. I watched the nurses handle my newborn like the bosses they are and took major notes — moving a baby’s arm into her onesie, a leg into the footie or her bum-bum into a diaper will not break her.
2) You might obsess over watching them breathe. That first night home was terrifying! Not because anything bad happened, but because I was oddly worried that if I didn’t watch my baby inhale and exhale (as she laid safely on her back, with no blankets, in her bassinet) she might stop breathing. At first I thought I was experiencing some kind of rare anxiety, but I’ve since been told by many friends that they felt the same thing with their new babies too. (Whew!)
3) You don’t need everything you’ve been told you need. I love a good, fun baby registry complete with crisp, white lace dust-ruffles for that perfect crib you scored at a discounted price because that chic baby store down the street was liquidating last year’s high-end designs at the exact time you started furnishing your nursery… but you really don’t need everything everyone makes you believe you do before baby arrives. What does a newborn truly need the first 3 months of life? Diapers. Clean onesies. Food (ie: milk). Swaddling blankets (see my #7 below). A safe place to sleep (bassinet or co-sleeper). Don’t fret if that dust-ruffle doesn’t arrive before you deliver. You don’t really need it anyway.
4) You might hate your spouse. (Don’t judge. I unabashedly tackle this in my book.) After bringing baby home, I found myself feeling oddly disconnected from my husband and even envious of him at times because he was so at-ease with our newborn before I found my own groove with her. Don’t ignore that a bundle of joy is in a fact a third person entering a two-person relationship and there might be some adjusting — it’s all normal.
5) You might not want to shower. This is a real thing. If I disappear in the bathroom the baby won’t know where I am, even though she’s happy and in her bassinet! So I finally got tough, turned on the hot water and rolled that bassinet into my bathroom…
6) You’ll be besties with your washing machine (and the smell of Dreft baby detergent). I used to think all those folks who warned me about how much laundry I’d be doing as a mom were just exaggerating… nope, they were right. Every time I turned around, I was at my dryer either tossing in another wet load or folding miniature leggings to be worn and quickly soiled again. A baby will dirty their clothes more times than you can say “Mama” in a minute. Those early days (with both my babies) were all about me and my bottle of Dreft — and to my shock it actually turned into a meaningful and beneficial experience. While bonding with our little ones may not always be instant (and trust me, it does NOT always happen immediately for everyone… people might not talk about it, but it’s true), a new survey shows that the smell of Dreft baby detergent can actually help us parents feel more bonded with our babies. I found the delicious scent of my baby’s clothes — that had been washed in Dreft — really put me at ease (especially when I was away from my baby, like when she was in a nap). I’m also guilty of washing my own clothes in Dreft back then if I was going on a work trip… you know, just to feel like I was near her when I wasn’t. Dreft is also hypoallergenic and the #1 pediatrician recommended baby detergent (why I used it back then and still do now at times).
7) You’ll need to swaddle like your life depends on it. Listen to experts who’ve figured everything out and follow directions closely. Learning to swaddle correctly will calm your baby and make your new-mom life easy-peasy (my favorite advice about this comes from Dr. Harvey Karp — his Happiest Baby series turned me into an instant baby whisperer). If your newborn isn’t getting calm after you swaddle, then you’re not doing it right….
8) You might get lonely. But there’s a sweet fresh baby in the house, how could you feel lonely?! Not having another like-minded adult to talk to for hours on end will challenge any mother’s sense of self. I quickly figured out that, if I just talked out-loud to my baby, the loneliness seemed a little less palpable. I’d ask what I should eat for breakfast, when we were going to load up the stroller and go for a walk, when I’d put her down for her nap — it made my day feel a little more alive, even though she wasn’t able to talk back.
9) Wrapping your mid-section will help you feel physically and mentally better. (Yes, I got this idea from celebrity mom Brooke Burke herself — when a mother with a body like that talks, I listen.) Using a postpartum tummy wrap for 40 days and nights (starting a few days post-delivery) made my insides feel more stable and helped me heal. Feeling physically better made me feel mentally stronger.
10) You will love them. Before having my first baby, I actually wondered if I’d love her the way that a mom should love her baby. I was never a naturally-maternal kind of woman (never even held a baby before I had my own) and I was freaked out during pregnancy. Guess what: I LOVED my baby. The bond you have with your newborn might not be instant, but it will come… I promise.
Known as ‘The FAB Mom’ on-air and online, Jill Simonian is a TV Personality and Author of The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby for first-time pregnant moms. Connect with Jill on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TheFABMom.com.