When you have a new baby, everyone swarms you with advice about how to care for your baby. Rarely do they ever have advice about how to take care of yourself. I haven’t been a mom for very long but I have learned a lot in this short time. April 25 marks 6 months since my baby girl, Harper, was born. When I imagined having my first baby, I never expected giving birth with a mask on with only my husband allowed as my in-room support person. And more importantly, I never imagined taking care of her without our village surrounding us. The past 6 months have been challenging to handle on our own, exhausting and simultaneously sweet but every day is teaching me so much about nurturing Harper and myself in this new life phase. Here are 11 new mom lessons from the first 6 months that I hope are helpful for every first time mom.
1. My baby’s mask won’t be secure until mine is
COVID has rattled travel plans but if you’ve ever been on a plane before the pandemic, you know the famous instructions every flight attendant shares, “Put your mask on before you help the person next to you.” This has never rang true as much as it has right now. Part of my role as Harper’s mom is to protect and nurture her–to make sure her mask is secure. But, I can’t show up for Harper as my best self until my own mask is secure. The most important part I want to note here is that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to securing your mask and it won’t look the same every day. Some days, all I need is a quiet, 10-minute shower. Other days I need to let out a good cry and journal for 5 minutes. Make time to secure your mask, mama.
2. Preserve their desire to explore, and yours too
When you become a new mom, who you are changes…rapidly. Me, personally, I went from being an early bird to a night owl–staying up till 1am became a breeze for me and I embraced it. I also rediscovered an appreciation for journaling. The Jenna I was before Harper is forever changed and I’m giving myself space to explore that. And I do the same for Harper. If she wants to sit up just to roll onto her stomach then to her back over and over, I give her the room to do it. As women, the world shuts down our exploration enough as we mature. I refuse to shut hers down or shut mine down in this new phase in my life.
3. The world won’t end if the routine is shaken up sometimes
If you’re new here, I’m really Type A; I LOVE a routine *fans self.* So setting a bedtime routine for Harper was easy for me. But, it didn’t always happen right on time every night. I was really intense about her routine until I realized that no one is going to be hurt if her routine is thrown off a bit sometimes. And it’s the same thing with my days. Nothing bad will happen to me or my family if I don’t execute my routine according to plan every single day. This is one of the new mom lessons in the first 6 months I really had to learn. You can breathe a little knowing that if everything on your to-do list isn’t complete by the end of the day, the clock will keep ticking and the world will keep spinning. And you’ll keep going, too.
4. It’s okay to cry
One thing I love about kids is that they’re not afraid to be expressive and communicate their feelings. We should be the same way. I’ll always let Harper know it’s okay to cry, and I regularly remind myself of that as well.
5. Your baby can inherit more than just your DNA
I suffer from postpartum anxiety, but that’s a story for another post that I’ll share later. To help me cope with it, I found a therapist who said something I play repeatedly in my head: “Anxious parents have anxious kids.” My daughter is my motivation to succeed and show up as my best, whole self. So, knowing how my anxiety can impact her is enough to make me do everything I can to manage it. I don’t want Harper to experience an anxious mama because she’ll inherit it and anxiety can be a crippling feeling she shouldn’t have. To any mom reading this, don’t be afraid to seek help. Whatever you’re dealing with, tend to it with as much rigor as you tend to your baby. Do it for your own healing and for your baby’s future.
This is also one of the new mom lessons from the first 6 months that’s really important for me. I’m actively working on my postpartum anxiety and will share more about my story soon.
6. The way I hold my child accountable starts with me
Before we had Harper I asked my husband D, “will we want Harper to make her bed every day?” To which he responded, “yeah.” Then I laughed and reminded him that we don’t make our bed every day soooo, we should start. I plan to keep this same energy as I’m raising her. Anything I will hold her accountable for–even if it’s as simple as making her bed every morning–I have to hold myself accountable for, too.
7. Take lots of photos of your baby, and yourself
Any new mom with a camera phone will admit that 90% of their camera roll consists of pictures of their child. But I’m willing to bet they typically don’t include themselves in those photos. When Harper hit 5 and a half months, I told myself, for every picture I take of Harper, I’m going to take one of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking them so they can be shared; I’m taking them so they can be remembered.
Before I got pregnant, I was convinced that I wasn’t in shape. Then I had Harper and looked back at old pictures of myself and regretted not viewing my body, skin, hair–everything–more fondly. But looking back at those photos reminded me of the woman I was before I became a mom. A woman that I’ll never get back. And 20 years from now, I want to look back at the woman I currently am and think of her fondly. The difference is, I’ll think of her not because of how she looked, but because of who she became.
8. There’s no such thing as too many onesies
Buy a lot. A LOT. Then copy and paste that advice and apply it to something you love. For me, it was shoes. There’s no such thing as too many onesies or shoes.
9. Carve out physical space for the baby and yourself
Setting up Harper’s nursery was one of my favorite pregnancy activities. Carving out space and decorating a room for someone I never met was so much fun. One thing I didn’t do, though, was carve out physical space for myself. I’m sure you’ve seen videos online of moms hiding in the bathroom or closet clinging for 5 minutes alone. While I don’t have a physical space for myself, my shower has become it for me. I shower at night when Harper goes to bed so I’m uninterrupted and before I get in, I light a candle then throw in a shower steamer to help me relax. I carve space for myself. Even though it lasts all of 10 minutes, it’s 10 minutes I guarantee I’ll need every single day.
10. Your baby needs your help and you give it without hesitation, ask for it the same way
As women, we try to do it all and we don’t ask for help because: 1. We’ve got it it, 2. We believe it’ll be done better if we do it ourselves (and yeah, that’s usually true), 3. We don’t want to burden anyone. Guess what. Not asking for help is hurting one person: you. Then the stress that’s built up from you trying to do it all starts to pour over into other parts of your life from relationships to your mental health. It’s not worth it. Outsource what you can afford to outsource (safely, of course because…COVID), delegate, lean on your village, seek out mom groups online. Ask for help as graciously as you give it to your baby.
11. Celebrate your baby’s milestones and celebrate yourself for getting them there
As moms, we can be really hard on ourselves–we leave no space for error. And if we do make a mistake or do something wrong, we come down hard on ourselves. But we should celebrate all the good that we do every single day. Harper is 6 months, which is a big milestone when you have a baby. They’re expressive, responsive, exploratory, trying solids and halfway to turning one. You celebrate every step along that journey but I encourage you to also celebrate yourself. A lot of work went into getting your baby right where they are–pause to really acknowledge that because it’s no small feat. You did it, sis. I salute you.
To my fellow moms, what are new mom lessons from the first 6 months of being a new mom? Drop them in the comments.