First, let me say for the record that I know I’m a good mom. But there were plenty of expectations I set for myself during pregnancy that soon fell by the wayside. And even when I knew I was doing a “good” job, I still questioned whether I was doing things “right.” I’ve since learned that being an awesome mom (whose child is happy, loved and well cared for) can coexist with wondering “Am I doing it right?” approximately 95 percent of the time. That’s just how parenthood goes.
Here are five things I failed to do—or forgot to do—during the first few months, and somehow, my baby is totally fine.
1. Be in the moment
This sounds cheesy, but it’s a big one: I failed to feel overwhelmingly joyous and emotional in the moments after my son was born. It was a really fast, unmedicated birth (by accident, not by design). Perhaps if I’d had some drugs in my system, I would have felt appropriately teary or over the moon? Instead I was far too pragmatic and preoccupied, focused on what was really important: the snacks. My labour progressed so quickly that we didn’t need any of the delivery-room energy-boosters I’d packed (frozen strawberries, granola bars, Gatorade, mango Popsicles—the ridiculous list goes on). We left our house for the hospital at 12:30 a.m. and I was done pushing by 2:30 a.m. I didn’t even have my phone or my glasses with me (maybe that’s why the experience was a blur?).
While my husband held our newborn in his arms, in awe, I was telling my hard-at-work midwives that those Popsicles were probably just melting away, so we might as well enjoy them, and listing off produce options. I have very vague memories of holding my son for skin-to-skin time, but we didn’t capture the moment with high-quality photos, and I have no idea what his Apgar score was.
Luckily, both the baby and I were perfectly healthy, and the midwives sent us home by 5:30 a.m. It sort of felt like we’d been out at a really intense and weird all-night party: we snuck back in the door just before daylight, ate the leftover Chinese food we’d ordered an hour before my contractions started, and went to bed. (Oh and we’d somehow acquired an infant.)
I’m very glad my birth experience was such a swift and positive one, but I often wish we’d had more time to gather our thoughts, take it all in, and get that classic Facebook photo: the tired but happy new mom, hair brushed and cheeks rosy. If I get a do-over with a second child, I hope the momentousness of the occasion—and the miracle of birthing another person, who will grow into a funny little human with a personality of his own—will hit me a little harder. Next time, I want to appreciate the enormity of what just happened.
2. Document the cuteness
The second thing I failed to do was get cute newborn photos. OK, I did get professional photos, but in hindsight, they are in no way adorable (sorry, kid). When you deliver a scrawny seven-pounder, planning a photo session on day 10—before he had gained back his birth weight—turned out to be a terrible idea. Instead of treasuring those images, I look back at our newborn pictures and see a wrinkly, skinny little dude who looks more like ET than those peaceful and pudgy Anne Geddes babies. Consider scheduling your photo session for a few weeks later, when your baby has plumped up a bit.
3. Wear the baby
Inspired by all the effortlessly stylish baby-wearing moms on Instagram, I ordered one of the trendy fabric wraps and practised my technique before my due date. I also amassed two hand-me-down Mobys, a ring sling and a brand new Ergo—that’s five different baby-wearing options. I only used the fancy wrap once. Both my son and I got way too flustered and tangled every time we tried to get into the thing. His head seemed too floppy, and I felt self-conscious. The Ergo was more of a success for us, but by four months, he was over “being worn”—my squirmy infant simply didn’t want to be strapped to his mother. This, of course, made me feel like a terrible mom because all the other babies seemed to love it. Now I know that he’s a very active, independent little guy who was eager to explore. He crawled early and walked early, and being confined to a carrier just wasn’t his thing.
4. Sleep when the baby sleeps
Everyone tells you to sync your naps with your baby’s snooze schedule. I didn’t do this, and yet I survived. I’ve never been a good daytime napper and the sleep deprivation from feeding a newborn around the clock didn’t change that. While my baby slept, I liked to indulge in major luxuries, such as showering, changing into a sweatshirt without spit-up on the shoulder, typing an email with two hands, and microwaving a frozen burrito for lunch. If I was really lucky, I got to unload the dishwasher, too.
5. Keep a baby book
The blank scrapbook I bought on mat leave is still sitting on top of a dresser, gathering dust, almost two years later. I’ve shoved a few mementos (a hospital bracelet, an envelope with a lock of hair from my son’s first haircut) between the pages, but I haven’t printed out photos or pasted anything in, despite once editing an entire story about easy digital alternatives to the traditional first-year scrapbook. Sometimes I fantasize about taking a childless, workless staycation just to go to IKEA, organize closets and finally finish that damn scrapbook.
In the grand scheme of things, however, I don’t think my son cares about whether his baby book was completed, or forgotten entirely. He’d rather his mama use her spare time to take him to the park or get down on the floor and play trains. Readjusting my expectations to match my new, busy reality is one of the biggest lessons I’m learning as a new mom. Forget about those lofty parenting goals—my priorities are way different now, and it’s OK.
Is there anything you regret not doing during the first few months with your baby?